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After the Fall of the Hammer:
Frankenstein films from the early 1970s to the 1990s


Terror of Frankenstein (1976)

A widely ignored entry in the Frankenstein filmography, this Irish-Swedish production directed by Calvin Floyd, is probably the one adaptation of Shelley’s novel that can honestly claim to be faithful to the original. From its beginning in an Arctic setting, it manages to incorporate the narrative framework, where Frankenstein recounts his story to Robert Walton, and then further on quite closely follows the course of the novel.


Not quite the most impressing Frankenstein: Leon Vitali


Due to its limited duration of 90 minutes, naturally the filmmakers had to cut out several subplots, most prominently the framing of Justine for William’s murder. In general, the narrative progresses quite quickly, often leaving those viewers unfamiliar with the novel longing for more explanation or simply more time to work things out.

Quite atypically for a 1970s horror movie, Terror of Frankenstein focuses on the characters’ psychological development rather than on action and bloodshed. There are no gory images, no gratuitous nudity, and no horse-coach chases. Even the re-animation sequence is extremely low-key: Leon Vitali’s Victor Frankenstein has no fancy laboratory equipment, no gigantic machinery, just a kite attached to a wire during a thunderstorm.

The Monster is also far from previous incarnations such as Karloff's or Christopher Lee's. Per Oscarsson actually looks like a re-animated corpse, and his whole appearance is rather that of an evil, psychotic mass murderer, than that of a freak made up from body parts. Of course this fits perfectly with his character, the rejected, angst-filled, yet violent creature. He speaks like a literate man (although with a horrible Swedish accent) and his actions are the direct consequences of how he is treated by his creator and society.
Per Oscarsson as the Monster that is able to read
...with a Swedish accent

The film’s strongest assets are surely the beautiful period costumes and realistic settings, combined with an eerie atmosphere and a mostly cold, snowy landscape. This time Victor Frankenstein and his creature are definitely alone, a fact that is emphasized by the sparse use of extras and background characters (probably due to budget limitations).

The film's best bit: Stacy Dorning as Elizabeth
On the contrary, the movie lacks tension and frightening horror elements. Thanks to the slow pace, theatrical dialogue and a complete absence of climactic story telling, the film mostly appears dull and boring. This might prove that Mary Shelley’s novel simply does not translate well to the screen, when it is not adapted to certain cinematic requirements. It also shows that Shelley’s novel can be an excellent starting point to come up with various new interpretations and adaptations, as it is usually handled by filmmakers. However, this versions completely fails to create an entertaining adaptation, mostly because it just translates the novel page by page into a screenplay.

Cast & Crew:  
Victor Frankenstein Leon Vitali
Henry Clerval Nicholas Clay
Monster Per Oscarsson
Elizabeth Stacy Dorning
Screenplay Calvin and
Yvonne Floyd
Producer Calvin Floyd
Director Calvin Floyd


Frankenstein (1984)

Another such minor Frankenstein film is a 1984 British made-for-television version, directed by James Ormerod. Obviously filmed on an extremely low budget on videotape rather than film stock, the movie’s only strength is its first rate cast, including Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame as Elizabeth, David Warner as the creature, John Gielgud as DeLacey and Robert Powell as Victor Frankenstein. Relying mostly on dialogue, the movie appears very stagey and unspectacular in its cinematography. Despite the budgetary restrictions costumes and settings are rather convincing, but surely not enough to make for exciting entertainment.
Victor Frankenstein, king of hair (Robert Powell)


Princess Leia or Elizabeth (Carrie Fisher)?
At a length of approximately 90 minutes, Frankenstein basically follows the original novel, including its depiction of the creature as a pitiful victim rather than blood-thirsty monster. However, the movie heavily condenses the story and diverts from its literary source in several occasions: In the movie Clerval assists Frankenstein in making his creature, which is also done at his castle rather than in Ingolstadt. Awakened by Frankenstein, the creature flees and is taken in by an old, blind man named DeLacey, who decides to teach the monster how to speak and read. This scene clearly draws its influences from a similar scene in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein, even copying whole parts of its dialogue. Later the old man is murdered by two villagers, who are then killed in revenge by the monster.

 There is also a change in the circumstances of Justine’s death: Whereas in the novel the creature frames her for William’s murder and she is sentenced to death, in this movie version the frightened Justine runs away from the monster and plunges to death from a mountain cliff. Screenwriter Victor Gialanella  also abridges the whole ending of the story, probably also due to budgetary and run-time reasons, which made it impossible to include the Arctic setting of the original ending : When Victor refuses to create a mate for the creature using Justine’s body, the monsters sneaks to the lab and strangles Elizabeth. Victor discovers his dead bride and finally realizes his fatal mistake: The only solution is to kill the monster. He proclaims to the monster, “You, who have no soul, will rest in peace. I am damned forever!” and destroys the laboratory burning both the monster and himself.

Burnt face victim or Frankenstein's creature? (David Warner)
 This film is surely only for Frankenstein completists or scholars, but even they will have to admit that it is so terribly unspectacular and boring that it is no wonder the film is unavailable on DVD. The only chance to catch a glimpse of it is on youtube, where a rather worn-out VHS-copy can be watched split into eight parts.

Cast & Crew:  
Victor Frankenstein Robert Powell
Henry Clerval Terence Alexander
Monster David Warner
Elizabeth Carrie Fisher
DeLacey John Gielgud
Screenplay Victor Gialanella
Director James Ormerod

Flesh for Frankenstein Young Frankenstein

© 1999-2010 Andreas Rohrmoser