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Frankenstein
Reviewed by Joe Crowe, © 2004

Format: TV
By:   John Shiban (writer) and Marcus Nispel (director)
Genre:   Action - horror
Released:   Premiered October 10, 2004.
Review Date:   October 22, 2004
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

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 drippy gunk.

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 place.

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, people!

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, Ah gar-on-tee!"

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.

What's the matter with you people? RevolutionSF humor editor Joe Crowe was joking! Don't you know a joke when you hear one? HA-HA-HA-HA! Get me out of here! Open this damn door or I'll kick your rotten heads in! Mommy!

 
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