This unfairly maligned adaptation of the classic novel has some unintentionally campy moments but generally succeeds as a lavishly mounted horror drama. Following Mary Shelley's novella more closely than previous FRANKENSTEIN pictures (in contrast to producer Francis Ford Coppola's other
horror epic, the misleadlingly titled BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA), Kenneth Branagh's film features himself as the idealistic Dr. Frankenstein, Helena Bonham Carter as his hapless fiancee, and Robert De Niro as an existentially troubled monster.
It's ironic that many critics applauded the visual vitality and broad cinematic strokes that director Branagh brought to Shakespeare in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, but roundly trashed him for going over the top in a monster movie. Branagh wanted his version of the oft-filmed tale to be seen as more
than a simple genre flick--going so far as to expunge the word "monster" from the text--and unfortunately, his lofty aspirations invited ridicule in the context of a story whose camp connotations are now inescapable. But the grand emotions and romantic philosophizing of Mary Shelley's novel make
it perfectly suited to a florid approach, and if Branagh occasionally loses control of the material, he largely succeeds in bringing an engaging visual excitement to the story. Still, casting John Cleese here was a big mistake: Monty Python's trademark drollery is never far from the viewer's mind
during his brief turn.
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