A group of Texas filmmakers produced this faithful adaptation of Frankenstein and a half-shoestring budget. Syd Lance directs a script by writer/producer Judith B. Shields. The film falls short of commercial standards, but is still an ambitious effort with impressive results. It is a serious adaptation intended neither to amuse nor really to scare but to tell the classic story as faithfully as possible.
Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
It is a huge challenge to make a feature-length film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that is faithful to the novel. The plot of the novel is long and ponderous. One frequently hears that it never has been done by any film, but in fact it has. The film is VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (but has been retitled TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN). That film is slow and ponderous, but it is very much Mary Shelley’s story. Now the new film Frankenstein’s Monster is arguably the second most faithful adaptation of the novel. That in itself would make the film remarkable. But what is as remarkable is that the film was made with $6000 and a lot of volunteer work. To attempt so difficult a goal with so little funding is highly ambitious, particularly for filmmakers with little experience.
To accommodate the low budget some Texan filmmakers shot the film in fourteen areas in and around Houston and Galveston. That meant moving the setting from Switzerland to what the alert eye will catch as Texas. Arctic scenes are moved to warm waters. An original score was written for the film. A prosthetic monster makeup was designed but accidentally lost so a novel and original approach was used to make the monster demonic. This Frankenstein monster steams. But since the idea was to make a “steampunk” version of Frankenstein, having the monster himself give off steam seems oddly appropriate. Where here the energy comes from is left to the imagination. This is also the first time in memory the Frankenstein monster is bearded. On a $6000 budget they were not paying the actor enough to get him to shave his beard off.
As this is a semi-amateur film several small problems are obvious. There are times when the sound drops, sometimes mid-sentence. There are times when the lips of the actors are not in sync with the words on the soundtrack. Some of the dialog is awkward and not what the character would say. The character William is killed but the actor still moves. An effect for lightning is singularly unconvincing and the monster’s “steaming” is present in some scenes and not others. When the monster is not steaming (and even when he is) he does not appear monstrous. The script leaves some loose ends including a subplot of a student jealous of Frankenstein.
How and even if this film is going to be made available to the public remains to be seen. However, it should be of interest to fans of the horror film and perhaps even those interested in English literature. The filmmakers have attempted an adaptation of Frankenstein accurate to the novel, a feat rarely ever attempted. And it has worked as well as it has in spite of or because it was made on a mouse of a budget. The result is only semi-successful, but as good as the film is impressive. I rate Frankenstein’s Monster a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2013 Mark R. Leeper