In October 2004, two completely different TV-movies called
Frankenstein aired, the first on the Hallmark Channel,
and another on USA a few days later.
I realized after watching them both that Young Frankenstein
is the still best Frankenstein movie ever. It just makes me
laugh and laugh and laugh. That has nothing to do with this
review. But that movie is super good and funny.
The Hallmark Frankenstein,which is not super good
and funny, is a very earnest re-creation of the book, this time
with Duke Leto and Paul Atreides. William "Leto" Hurt
came with his A-game, another pasty white guy performance. I
could almost hear him say "I was in The Big Chill. Doing
these spacey movies offends my actor's sensibility. Can I cash
the check today?"
He said to Muad'dib (not Kyle Maclachlan, the new one): "This
. . . is wrong." And I felt it. So I changed the channel. There
was nothing technically lacking with it, but I read the book
and I've seen painstaking re-creations of it before. No need
to go again.
The USA Frankenstein is a different beast, Frankenstein
by way of Streets of San Francisco, with a twist of
Seven. Like USA's The
4400, it's a TV-movie aspiring to be a series.
Parker Posey and Adam Goldberg are two odd choices as the
main characters,a couple of world-weary cops. Posey is hilarious
in Best in Show and disturbing in The House of
Yes. Adam Goldberg is in everything, but I remember him
best as Chandler's creepy roommate on Friends (not
Joey, another one). My point is it's weird to see them pulling
shotguns out of a car trunk and blowing away bad guys. But it
works. Posey especially; she channels Sigourney Weaver in Aliens
throughout, gritty and scowling.
The film is directed by Marcus Nispel of the new Texas
Chainsaw Massacre. It's written by John Shiban, who wrote
about a zillion X-Files episodes (and a few hundred
thousand of Enterprise.) The whole movie shows equal
parts of their previous work: There are gooey body parts and
In the movie, the Doc Frankenstein from Mary Shelley's novel
is a wackjob who made the first monster with lightning bolts
and the "It's alive!" and such, but instead of learning his
lesson, he kept on making monsters, and experimented on himself,
too. The monster pronounces it "Fronk-en-shteen," and that's
what made me think of Young Frankenstein in the first
So the doc is still alive, and he's whomped him up a batch of
enhanced freakazoids. One of them is killing the others, and
the good first monster aims to stop him and evil Doc, who has
a cover story as a respected doctor. And thus is immune from
being smacked around by good guys.
I like the "Frankenstein's monster as cultured good guy" idea.
But then, outside the original book and the old Universal movies,
my exposure to the monster is 1970s Marvel comics. He met Spider-Man,
For some reason, the movie is set in New Orleans. But it's
not the fun New Orleans with the walking around outside with
a mixed drink and truck-stop girls flashing their boobs. It's
the grimy, sweaty New Orleans, where the dank insides of old
buildings are the only thing saving you from the rain or the
500 percent humidity. I've been to both. In the latter one,
my wife contracted something I can only describe as "Gutter
Rash." (On her ankle. She's fine now. Thanks for asking.)
Shiban didn't include any New Orleansy stuff. I was hoping
for the monster to talk to Posey over a bowl of jambalaya. Or
for evil Doc Frankenstein to say "Ah gonna gut you like a catfish,
But hey, you might be asking, what about the Frankenstein
of the title? I'd talk more about him if he was actually in
the movie. He's an imposing giant, played by Vincent Perez,
who was The Crow: City of Angels. But he's in MAYBE
10 minutes of this two-hour movie. He busted through a wall
at the movie's climax, and I thought that was cool. That scene
lasted about seven seconds.
USA's Frankenstein was pretty fun. I'd watch a series.
But it could've used more monster. And some crawfish etouffee.