Review – It’s NOT Pronounced “Fronkensteen” (“I, Frankenstein”)

Open a blender and pour in the plots for “Constantine“, “Van Helsing“, and “Demon Knight”. Lovingly garnish with Mary Shelly’s novel “Frankenstein” and hit puree. Although written and directed by Stuart Beattie – one of the scribes who penned “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” – its origins are actually based on the graphic novel and original screenplay by Kevin Grevioux.

200 years ago, Dr. Victor Frankenstein created his creature (Aaron Eckhart, looking damn ripped and buff here, not to mention all sewn to pieces) who, not possessing a soul, goes nuts and kills the doctors wife out of anger for being “born”. The doctor dies while tracking him down in the Arctic, but the story apparently doesn’t end there as it does in the book. The creature is discovered by two warring factions: the good and angelic Gargoyles who can turn from humanoid to huge flying stone creatures at will and are governed by the Archangels in Heaven and her majesty, Lenore (Miranda Otto) on Earth. The Gargoyles hold up in a magnificent cathedral in the heart of London while down the street is the lair of their arch-enemies, the Demons. They’re led by head demon Charles Wessex (aka Prince Naberius) and played by “Pirates of the Caribbean” squid-face himself, Bill Nighy.

The creature is stronger than any human, can withstand high-falls, punches, and anything that would normally kill you or me. He also doesn’t age and carries an inner rage inside of him that is unquenchable, which translated means, he’s pretty much pissed-off at life 24/7/365.

Anyway, the creature is captured by the Gargoyles after he’s attacked and almost captured by the Demons, renamed “Adam” by Lenore, and set free as Adam just wants to left alone and not under their protection against the Demons, although they have no idea WHY they want him so badly. Adam leaves and continues on a murderous rampage to kill as many Demons as he finds throughout the years until we fast-forward to present day London. His killing has brought him to the Lenore’s council and capture as Adam is just too reckless to be kept on the streets with humans around.

Meanwhile, down the street, we learn about Naberius’ nefarious and evil plans: he needs either Adam or Dr. Frankenstein’s book/journal on how he made the creature to give to his naive scientist, Terra Wade (Yvonne Strahovski). She wants to conduct experiments with reanimated corpses (for the greater good of mankind), but needs either Adam or the book’s vital information. Little does she know about her employers ulterior motives! She has no idea he’s head honcho Demon #1, hell-bent on world domination. During a daring raid, the Demons attack the cathedral stronghold and allow Adam to escape, but not without Lenore getting captured and ransomed for THE book. Adam, taking matters in his own pieced-together hands, gets the book back after Lenore is rescued, and in turn discovers tens of thousands of hidden corpses waiting to be “reborn” ala the Frankenstein method (thanks to a 21st Century assist)! Uh-oh!!

Terra is show the truth by Adam, but as bad luck would have it, she’s forced to continue the fateful resurrection of the bodies against her will. The Demons go to war with the Gargoyles at the same time in a climatic showdown at Naberius’ institute. What’s pretty cool is that when the Demons are killed, they are forever sent to Hell in a shaft of fire and ash, but when a Gargoyle is killed, they are sent to Heaven in a glorious shaft of blue light. Nice!

Suffering from cartoon-y dialogue and some goofy plot holes, this wasn’t the ridiculous high-SPFX budget, no-plot movie I was expecting like “R.I.P.’D”. Yes, it was a little on the silly side, but the action and the story was just believable enough to make it entertaining and not laughable. Based on a graphic novel, you can practically SEE the panels as Beattie crafted this movie nicely, but I think he was SO careful and focused in directing his first U.S. movie (his only other movie was “Tomorrow, When the War Began”, a do-nothing 2010 Australian film) that he forgot to work on the dialogue part. Still, it was far better than the other fantasy/sci-fi/horror films being churned out today that rely solely on the SPFX and not the story. The production values are quite good with excellent cinematography by Ross Emery.

 Don’t be surprised to see a sequel in the future as the ending sets one up with Adam, blessed silver-sticks in his hands, standing alone on top a building, waiting for the next wave of Demons to make their move, much like Batman or Blade would do. Can you imagine those three partying together? Now, there’s a movie!

Frankenstein (1931)

Oh, yeah, this is THE one.

Accept no substitutes. The 1931 Universal Pictures/James Whale directed/Boris Karloff starring movie that launched the entire “Universal Monsters” empire. It blew my mind back in high school when I first read the book by Mary Woolstonecraft Shelly, that this story was written by a chick… and only 16-years-old!

First it was a 1927 stage play by Peggy Webling, then adapted for the screen by Francis Edward Faragoh and Garrett Fort. The story had been  re-worked and re-tooled from the book, since the creature in the book is very intelligent, the story told in reverse order and it is considerably different. In any case, the 1931 audience ate this movie up with a mighty big spoon and asked for seconds. And thirds.

Colin Clive plays brilliant but mad scientist, Dr. Heinrich “Henry” Frankenstein who, along with his hunchback assistant (no, not Igor!) Fritz (Dwight Frye), dig up fresh buried corpses to assemble a whole one. The good doctor’s fiancee, Elizabeth (Mae Clarke), is worried that her soon-to-be-husband may be taking his work a little too seriously. Oh? Ya think?

Of course, his wacky experiments with reviving the dead actually work (who knew?) and after screaming his excitement (“It’s alive! It’s ALIVE!!”), the creature is securely locked away in the laboratories dungeon, just in case… after all, have you SEEN this guy? Bradley Cooper, he’s not! Anyway, the creature gets out and wreaks havoc on the town while the unsuspecting doctor is preparing for his upcoming nuptials.

The creature goes nuts (and who can blame him) with the entire village after him with torches and pitchforks. He grabs his creator and drags him to the old windmill where the climatic “burning of the windmill” scene ends the film, but not the legacy. “Frankenstein” spawned five sequels and had the creature return in many other movies, TV shows, parodies, and even commercials.

And this movie even faced censorship! Two scenes were originally cut and were recently restored back. The scene in which the creature throws a little girl into a lake and accidentally drowns her had been cut for awhile along with a controversial line uttered by Colin Clive. The original line recorded was: “It’s alive! It’s alive! In the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!”. The second half, “In the name of God! etc”, had been dubbed over by thunder-clasps for decades.

This movie was a ginormous hit for Universal and still holds up today, without being dated or silly in its acting or cheap production values. And let’s not forget the single biggest contribution to the movie monster industry, Mr. Jack Pierce. He single-handily redefined the special effect movie monster make-up with his experimentation of cotton and collodion (liquid plastic) for years to come. He created the famous Frankenstein “look” of the flat-top skull, extended forehead, and neck bolts, not to mention make-up creations for “The Wolf Man“, “The Mummy“, and others.

Here’s a tasty tidbit: Bela Lugosi, who played the iconic Dracula all his life, was originally chosen to play Dr. Frankenstein at first, then the creature! But he turned the role down saying, “I was a star in my country, I will not be a scarecrow over here!”. Smart move, pal.

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