Mr. Stitch, which was released as a tv movie in the US and seen cinematically in some other parts of the world, is Roger Avarys take on the Frankenstein story. It is intriguing to wonder what someone like Roger Avary, who seems versed in modern gangster chic, is likely to do with the Frankenstein story, which seems at about 180 degrees remove from Tarantino territory. As a variety of films, usually tv movies, have attempted to do the likes of Dr Franken (1981), Frankenstein (tv mini-series, 2004), Frankenstein Reborn (2005) and Frankenstein (tv mini-series, 2007) Avary sets out to modernise the Frankenstein story. Where most other versions of the Frankenstein story quickly head into horror territory with the monster escaping and threatening its creator, before bringing both to their doom, Roger Avary takes Mr. Stitch closer to the philosophical questions that occupy Mary Shelleys novel. The first half of Mr. Stitch contains some intriguing scenes where Avary focuses on the creatures growing self-awareness and questioning of its creator. Here Avary dispenses with any horror movie affect or classical mad scientist laboratory setting almost the entire first half of Mr. Stitch literally takes place on a blank stage and concerns the creatures growing self-awareness. (By comparison, this aspect is usually granted only one or two scenes in other films and not that much more in Mary Shelleys book).
Roger Avary certainly adds some interesting twists to the story the creature being born with no sex organs and composed of parts taken half from men and half from women and it having to choose a masculine identity; it starting to regain memories from its host parts (an aspect that perhaps could have been developed further); while the memory flashbacks offer a unique take on why the creature develops an obsessive relationship with Elizabeth. There is also a scene where the creature, with very postmodern effect, compares himself by reading the Frankenstein novel (1818).
Roger Avary has cast his equivalent of the Frankenstein monster with Wil Wheaton. Wil Wheaton, best known as the precocious Wesley Crusher on the first few seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94), is not exactly the figure one thinks of when it comes to the Frankenstein monster. This is traditionally a part that has been cast with tall or physically bulky actors Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Lon Chaney Jr, Glenn Strange, Dave Prowse, Randy Quaid etc with the costume often tweaked to make them seem larger still. On the other hand, Wil Wheaton is of slim build and not at all bulky, which certainly makes for a different creature. Cult makeup artist Tom Savini conducts a superb and visually striking makeup job that turns every inch of Wil Wheatons skin into something like a patchwork jigsaw puzzle with each piece a different colour.
What is unique about Mr. Stitch is Roger Avarys production design scheme. It is as though the standard Frankenstein laboratory has been relocated on the prison set for George Lucass THX 1138 (1971), situated in a shadowless void of blinding white-on-white. The only things that fill this space are peculiar objects that seem like laboratory equipment designed by an abstract artist a tv camera that is a giant floating eyeball; an eye-shaped door; Wil Wheatons black oval-shaped fold-up bed; instruments and clipboards constructed like pieces of surreal vacuform art; another laboratory where we see removed hearts, lungs and spinal columns, all breathing and pulsating while attached to wires, even a brain sitting in a dish and still attached to an open skull.
In the end, Mr. Stitch is a film that is more ambitious than one that fully succeeds. On the minus side, all the arty abstraction tends to work against the film. It is 45 minutes (half the running time) before we get out of the laboratory into the outside world and at such length the white visual scheme becomes monotonous George Lucas by contrast gave us less than 10 minutes of whiteness in THX 1138. The conversations that take place there have a nicely cool disquiet but these become tiring. Once we do get outside, Roger Avary abruptly throws in a series of car chases. These consist of some not very well directed scenes with Wil Wheaton being chased by guards in dune buggies, which come with silly effects such as animated skulls appearing in the dust cloud of an explosion. The reconciliation with Elizabeth is not granted the time it needs, before Roger Avary wraps the film up with a variation on the standard scene where the laboratory is blown up although here the monster uncaps a vial of germ warfare bugs and takes the military that are backing the experiment down with him. Here we see that the villain has been updated from being a scientist defying divine provenance to the contemporary bogeyman of a corrupt military conspiracy.
Full film available online here:-