GODS AND MONSTERS
Gods and Monsters is directed and written by Bill Condon. In between a host of undistinguished tv movies, Condon had previously directed two theatrical films, neither of which impressed the Southern Gothic horror film Sister Sister (1987) and Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995), a disappointing sequel to Clive Barkers Candyman (1992). (In an interesting touch, Clive Barker, who himself came out of the closet a couple of years earlier, takes an executive producer role here). Subsequent to Gods and Monsters, Bill Condon found his feet as a director in a big way and went onto a variety of other works, usually biopics like Kinsey (2004) and Dreamgirls (2006). Condon went onto make the The Twilight Saga two-parter Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011), Breaking Dawn Part Two (2012), The Fifth Estate (2013) and Mr. Holmes (2015) and Beauty and the Beast (2017).
Gods and Monsters is an exceptional film and one that left audiences everywhere moved. Rather than a mere examination of James Whales life, the film is an extraordinary study in friendship. That the central friendship is one that grows between an aging gay man and a virile but homophobic young man is also crucial to the film. Unlike perhaps too many gay-themed films coming out at the moment, this is a film that is about homosexuality dramatically rather than a film that tries to politicise its sexuality. Bill Condon has a great deal of affection for both characters he, for instance, does not caricature either Boones homophobia or his lack of intelligence in any way, something that would have been easy to do. Condon uses scenes from Bride of Frankenstein to hauntingly echo Whales life particularly the final scene that contrasts the classic encounter between the blind man and the monster, both aching for friendship, and the friendship between Whale and Boone. Condon also demonstrates a great sense of humour Ian McKellens line in front of Princess Margaret, He hasnt met a princess before only old queens, brings the house down. Nor is Condon afraid to be indiscreet about Hollywood names George Cukor and Ernest Thesiger are shamelessly outed and the film is not too complimentary about Boris Karloffs intellectual endowment. The only slightly false note the film hits is its portrait of Princess Margaret her portrayal as a giddy and gauche adolescent is impossible to buy in light of the decorum and composure with which the Royal Family usually conducts itself.
The film is served by an exceptional cast. At the screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival I attended, people came out muttering about Ian McKellens performance being worthy of award nominations and indeed, he was nominated at both that years Academy and Golden Globe Awards. There is greatness to the part just watching McKellens sly conniving in getting Brendan Fraser to strip for him and the hungriness out of the corner of his eye is a delight. (Interestingly enough, less than a month after the release of Gods and Monsters, Ian McKellen appeared in another film Apt Pupil (1998), which also had people talking award nominations. There are a surprising number of similarities between McKellens roles in Gods and Monsters and Apt Pupil in both, he plays an aging man living alone who befriends a much younger boy and in the course of the friendship shadows of their past and the events of one of the World Wars hangs over and dominates events). Brendan Fraser, getting away from comedic casting as a likeable lunkhead in recent films around this time, is extremely good in the part of Boone. The real scene stealer is Lynn Redgrave, who was unrecognisable as the maid until one read the end credits. Her expressions of disgust and scenes trying to euphemistically word around mentioning the term homosexuality to Boone are hysterical.
(Winner in this sites Top 10 Films of 1998 list. Winner for Best Actor (Ian McKellen) and Best Actress (Vanessa Redgrave) and Nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Brendan Fraser) at this sites Best of 1998 Awards).