Frankenstein: The True Story: Review

Frankenstein trueDirected by Jack Smight

Out from Second Sight on DVD March 10

1970s gothic television nostalgia.

You have to wonder about the reasoning behind calling any fiction a ‘true’ story. Yet here we have the 1973 two-part miniseries, Frankenstein: The True Story – the latest, at the time, in a long line of adaptations of Mary Shelley’s original classic novel. And it wouldn’t be the last, the most recent being I, Frankenstein, which also played fast and loose with the source material.

In a very abrupt first scene, we’re introduced to Victor Frankenstein (Romeo and Juliet’s Leonard Whiting) and his fiancée Elizabeth (Nicola Pagett from Upstairs, Downstairs), who both witness the sudden drowning of Victor’s brother. Thus begins his search for a way to bring the dead back to life, which brings him into the orbit of Dr Henry Clerval (erstwhile Man from U.N.C.L.E. David McCallum) who has been using solar energy to do exactly that.

When a mining accident presents them with enough body parts, they set to work creating a new Adam in the form of Michael Sarrazin’s monster – who looks anything but, and is even given Clerval’s brain after that man’s death. Victor’s attempts to integrate his creation into society fall short, however, when the process starts to reverse itself. And poking about in his business is Dr Polidori (the wonderful James Mason, here channelling Dr No with those fake hands), who Clerval stole the process from in the first place. You should know the drill by now, and although there are a few diversions along the way, the ultimate outcome in the snow is no less tragic.

The host of famous names lending support – including Jane Seymour (as a barking mad Eve to Sarrazin’s Adam), Tom Baker, Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud – in addition to lavish production designs, do take the edge off the slow unfurling of the plot (altogether, this is 181 minutes long) and the silly effects; check out the lightning strike on the ship. Plus there’s an introduction included from Mason, where he visits Mary Shelley’s grave. It’s just a shame the epilogue from the script wasn’t included, which hinted at the monster surviving, as the ending is just as abrupt as the beginning. It’s of its time, definitely, but I guess that’s part of its charm – and it is at least trying to do something different with the legend.

Verdict: True lies. 7/10

Paul Kane

Click here to order Frankenstein: The True Story from


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