When certain stories become public domain, you just have to expect that there will be a lot of people creating their own “unique” versions of the same tale all in the name of making a few bucks. When it comes to adaptations of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, I think we can all agree every attempt to tell the story has not been in the name of preserving the art. What I do find surprising: despite all the attempts to bring the story to the screen, there still isn’t a version that I can say is a perfect retelling of the tale, though each may have its pros, for the most part it just never seems to translate well.
In 2004 there was a TV mini-series that attempted to bring the classic horror story to life, and the one aspect that seemed to work best is that finally we get a relatively accurate adaption from the original source material. For those who have read the material, you know that there is much more to the story than its fantastical elements of the macabre. Staying true to the source material is one thing, but what really got to me about this take on the story is that it played out more as a Gothic love story and seemed to completely lose its horror element. This is kind of a problem considering Frankenstein is considered one of the most beloved horror stories of all time.
Playing Victor Frankenstein this time around is Alec Newman; he manages to balance the part of obsessed (mad) doctor while also being a man who is simply in love. With the mini-series running over 200 minutes, plenty of time is given to the story, and we get to see the gradual obsession Frankenstein has with death and giving the dead life again. While Frankenstein for the most part is a character you can get behind, he still has his defining moment where he crosses the line of madness and obsession and does indeed become the villain.
This brings me to The Creature (Luke Goss); gone are the days of seeing the green painted face with the bolts in the head. As the story has come along through the years, we’ve been getting more “realistic” versions of The Creature that was constructed from the body parts of multiple bodies. Sadly the version in this film has drifted away from visually being a monster, but instead is a handsome fellow, with perfect teeth and simply just pale skin. I understand budget constraints can limit your vision with creating a horrific figure, but with this story it’s kind of critical for him to look so different, since he is supposed to be a figure that just doesn’t belong.
What is also missing here is there is no atmosphere to this series whatsoever. Instead of giving the ominous tone that goes hand in hand with gothic horror, instead the visuals are more what you’d expect from a Jane Austin story. If someone watched this and they went in with no idea what the story was about, they would mistake this for a silly romance spectacle. Which goes back to this version of The Creature; he’s not the revenge-fueled being who demands an explanation for his existence, but instead we get an EMO version who just wants to cry all the time.
It’s kind of amazing how a story can remain so true to the source material but manage to feel so different. Perhaps the intention was to appeal to an audience that had no desire to watch horror, but in that case why bother retelling one of the most famous horror tales ever told? I have a hard time even considering this horror; instead it’s just an odd romance where The Creature is simply the third wheel, and out of jealousy he just wants to break up Victor and his beloved wife-to-be Elizabeth (Nicole Lewis). The relationship between Victor and Elizabeth is definitely the film’s strongest point, but it’s not enough for me to say this series won me over.
Frankenstein is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 26 mbps. As I mentioned above the mini-series is lacking a lot in the way of atmosphere. The daytime footage looks good but a little soft, which is something that could have been an aesthetic choice. The night and dark footage is where this transfer suffers. There is a lot of digital noise, and the black levels are simply not clear at all. Not a lot of detail is captured here; I’m not sure if this is the fault of how the series was shot or simply how it was transferred and compressed.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is what you would expect from a made-for-TV mini-series for this time. Thankfully all the dialog is clear throughout, but everything else is a bit lackluster here. Sound can do a great deal for creating atmosphere, and with suspense and horror it is a crucial component. While a nice dynamic surround mix could have helped the experience, what we’re given his is sufficient for the casual viewer.
There are no special features.
Considering how many versions of the story have been made over the years, it’s kind of surprising there hasn’t been a version that has come close to making an impact as the old black and white versions with Boris Karloff. If you are a student looking for a fairly faithful version of the book, then this Blu-ray is worth checking out. It’s not a bad version by any means, but it’s hard to recommend this over the many other versions that have come before it.
Film: 2.5 Video: 2.5 Audio: 2.5 Extras: 0 overall: 2.5