Frankenstein: The True Story

Film buffs tend to have obsessions. We fuss and fawn over particular actors and directors while attempting to see everything they ever appeared in or produced. One of my own personal obsessions isn’t an actor or a director but it’s a tale I enjoy seeing reimagined over and over again in different languages and in various settings. That tale is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus and I’ve seen it retold in many movies of varying quality but I never get tired of it. One of my favorite adaptations of Frankenstein happens to be the 1973 telefilm FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY. This lush production runs more than 3 hours long and features a stellar cast of talented players including Michael Sarrazin, Leonard Whiting, James Mason, David McCallum, Jane Seymour, Nicola Pagett, Agnes Moorehead, Ralph Richardson, John Gielguld, and Margret Leighton. It was directed by Jack Smight (HARPER, KALEIDOSCOPE, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, DAMNATION ALLEY, etc.) and based on a script written by the acclaimed British author Christopher Isherwood along with his partner Don Bachardy. Isherwood and Bachardy took creative liberties with the source material but their teleplay still managed to retain many of the timeless elements that have made Shelley’s story capable of capturing the imagination of readers like myself for nearly 200 years.

This two-part telefilm begins with young Dr. Frankenstein (Leonard Whitney ) witnessing the accidental drowning death of his brother. During the subsequent funeral, Frankenstein becomes so frustrated with the priest’s prayers that he storms out of the church while asking aloud, “Death, peace, God’s will! And all of us listening with pious faces. Why God’s will? Any fool with a sword or gun can give death. Why can’t we give life?” Afterward he commits himself to finding a scientific means of creating life and returns to the hospital where he was educated. While there he meets Dr. Clerval (David McCallum) who shares his enthusiasms and the two men begin to successfully conduct experiments that animate dead insects and severed limbs. This eventually leads them to assemble a man out of body parts they’ve gathered but before they can reanimate the stitched together corpse, Dr. Clerval dies leaving Frankenstein to continue without him. With the help of solar power, Frankenstein creates the new “Adam.” At first he’s delighted by the attractive facade and child-like personality of the creature he’s born but things soon take a turn for the worst when it becomes apparent that the life giving process is reversing itself. The creature’s appearance eventually begins to decay and turn monstrous. He also becomes more aggressive and violent.

Continue reading: “Telefilm Time Machine – Frankenstein: The True Story (1973)” at Turner Classic Movies official blog: The Movie Morlocks