Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (film)

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Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Mary shelleys frankenstein ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by
Based on Frankenstein
by Mary Shelley
Produced by
Cinematography Roger Pratt
Edited byAndrew Marcus
Music by Patrick Doyle
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release dates
Running time
123 minutes [2]
Budget$45 million [4]
Box office$112 million [4]

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a 1994 science fiction horror film directed by Kenneth Branagh who also stars as Victor Frankenstein, with Robert De Niro portraying Frankenstein's monster (called The Creation in the film), and co-stars Tom Hulce, Helena Bonham Carter, Ian Holm, John Cleese, Richard Briers and Aidan Quinn. Considered the most faithful film adaptation of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus , despite several differences and additions in plot from the novel, the film follows a medical student named Victor Frankenstein who creates new life in the form of a monster composed of various corpses' body parts. [6]


Mary Shelley's Frankenstein premiered at the London Film Festival, and was released theatrically on November 4, 1994, by TriStar Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics, grossing $112 million worldwide on a budget of $45 million, deeming it less successful than the previous Francis Ford Coppola-produced horror adaptation, Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).


In 1794, Captain Walton leads a troubled expedition to reach the North Pole. While their ship is trapped in the ice of the Arctic Sea, the crew hears a frightening noise and witnesses a mysterious figure killing their sled dogs before vanishing. The crew rescues a man, Victor Frankenstein, who had fallen in the Arctic waters. When Walton tells Victor of his determination to continue the expedition, Victor replies, "Do you share my madness?" He proceeds to tell Walton and the crew his life story, presented in flashback.

Victor grows up in Geneva with his adopted sister, Elizabeth Lavenza, the love of his life. Before he leaves for the University of Ingolstadt, Victor's mother dies giving birth to his brother William. Devastated by her loss, Victor vows on his mother's grave that he will find a way to conquer death. Victor and his friend Henry Clerval study under Shmael Augustus Waldman, a professor whose notes contain information on how to create life; Waldman warns Victor not to use them, lest he create an "abomination".

While performing vaccinations, Waldman is murdered by a patient, who is later hanged in the village square. Using the killer's body, a leg from a fellow student who died of cholera, and Waldman's brain, Victor builds a creature based on the professor's notes. He is so obsessed with his work that he drives Elizabeth away when she comes to take him away from Ingolstadt, which is being quarantined amid a cholera epidemic. Victor finally gives his creation life, but he is horrified by the creature's hideous appearance and tries to kill him. Frightened and confused, the creature steals Victor's coat and flees the laboratory, and is later driven away by the townspeople when he tries to steal food.

The creature finds shelter in a family's barn and stays there for months without their knowledge, gradually learning to read and speak by watching them. He attempts to earn their trust by anonymously bringing them food, and eventually converses with the elderly, blind patriarch after murdering an abusive debt collector. When the blind man's family returns, however, they are terrified of the creature and chase him away. The creature finds Victor's journal in his coat and learns of the circumstances of his creation. Upon returning to the farmhouse, he discovers the family has abandoned it, leaving him all alone once again. He burns down the farm and vows revenge on Victor for bringing him into a world that hates him.

Victor returns to Geneva to marry Elizabeth, only to find that his younger brother William has been murdered. The Frankensteins' servant Justine is blamed for the crime and hanged, but Victor knows the creature is responsible. The creature abducts Victor and demands that he make a female companion for him, promising to leave his creator in peace in return. Victor begins gathering the tools he used to create life, but when the creature insists that he use Justine's body to make the companion, a disgusted Victor breaks his promise. The creature exacts his revenge on Victor's wedding night by breaking into Elizabeth's bridal suite and ripping her heart out.

Desperate with grief, Victor races home to bring Elizabeth back to life. He stitches Elizabeth's head onto Justine's body and reanimates her as a disfigured, mindless shadow of her former self. The creature appears, demanding Elizabeth as his bride. Victor and the creature fight for Elizabeth's affections, but Elizabeth, horrified by her own reflection, commits suicide by setting herself on fire. Both Victor and the creature escape as the mansion burns down.

The story returns to the Arctic. Victor tells Walton that he has been pursuing his creation for months to kill him. Soon after relating his story, Victor dies of pneumonia. Walton discovers the creature weeping over Victor's body, having lost the only family he has ever known. The crew prepares a funeral pyre, but the ceremony is interrupted when the ice around the ship cracks. Walton invites the creature to stay with the ship, but the creature insists on remaining with the pyre. He takes the torch and burns himself alive with Victor's body. Walton, having seen the consequences of Victor's obsession, orders the ship to return home.



The film had its world premiere on November 3, 1994 at the London Film Festival before opening in the United Kingdom and United States on November 4. [1]


Frank Darabont

Original screenwriter Steph Lady, who sold the script to Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope, said "the film was a shocking disappointment; a misshapen monster born of Kenneth Branagh's runaway ego. He took a poignant, thought-provoking tragedy and turned it into a heavy metal monster movie. The casting of Robert De Niro as the monster was beyond inexplicable." Frank Darabont, who did a second draft, later called the film "the best script I ever wrote and the worst movie I've ever seen". He elaborated:

There's a weird doppelgänger effect when I watch the movie. It's kind of like the movie I wrote, but not at all like the movie I wrote. It has no patience for subtlety. It has no patience for quiet moments. It has no patience period. It's big and loud and blunt and rephrased by the director at every possible turn. Cumulatively, the effect was a totally different movie. I don't know why Branagh needed to make this big, loud film ... the material was subtle. Shelley's book was way out there in a lot of ways, but it's also very subtle. I don't know why it had to be this operatic attempt at filmmaking. Shelley's book is not operatic, it whispers at you a lot. The movie was a bad one. That was my Waterloo. That's where I really got my ass kicked most as a screenwriter ... [Branagh] really took the brunt of the blame for that film, which was appropriate. That movie was his vision entirely. If you love that movie you can throw all your roses at Ken Branagh's feet. If you hated it, throw your spears there too, because that was his movie. [8]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes the film had an approval rating of 42% based on 53 reviews. The site's consensus was: "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is ambitious and visually striking, but the overwrought tone and lack of scares make for a tonally inconsistent experience". [9]

Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four, writing: "I admired the scenes with De Niro [as the Creature] so much I'm tempted to give Mary Shelley's Frankenstein a favorable verdict. But it's a near miss. The Creature is on target, but the rest of the film is so frantic, so manic, it doesn't pause to be sure its effects are registered". [10] Janet Maslin wrote: "Branagh is in over his head. He displays neither the technical finesse to handle a big, visually ambitious film nor the insight to develop a stirring new version of this story. Instead, this is a bland, no-fault Frankenstein for the '90s, short on villainy but loaded with the tragically misunderstood. Even the Creature (Robert De Niro), an aesthetically challenged loner with a father who rejected him, would make a dandy guest on any daytime television talk show". [11]

Conversely, James Berardinelli of gave the film three out of four stars: "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein may not be the definitive version of the 1818 novel, and the director likely attempted more than is practical for a two-hour film, but overambition is preferable to the alternative, especially if it results—as in this case—in something more substantial than Hollywood's typical, fitfully entertaining fluff". [12]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B−" on an A+ to F scale. [13]

Box office

In the U.S. and Canada, the film grossed $22,006,296, with the opening weekend of $11,212,889 making up more than half of its total. The film opened the same day in the United Kingdom and Ireland and grossed £2 million in its opening week from 320 screens. [14] Outside the U.S., it grossed $90 million, bringing the worldwide gross to $112 million. [15] [16]

Year-end lists


Academy Awards Best Makeup Daniel Parker, Paul Engelen, Carol Hemming Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Production Design Tim Harvey Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Horror/Thriller Film Nominated
Best Actor Kenneth Branagh Nominated
Best Actress Helena Bonham Carter Nominated
Best Make-up Daniel Parker, Paul EngelenNominated
Best Music Patrick Doyle Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Robert De Niro Nominated
Best Writing Steph Lady, Frank Darabont Nominated

Video game

A video game adaptation based on the film was released on numerous home video game consoles in 1994. A themed pinball machine was released in 1995 by Sega Pinball; it is one of the machines included in the video pinball simulator The Pinball Arcade .

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Frankenstein</i> (1931 film) 1931 film

Frankenstein is a 1931 American pre-Code science fiction horror film directed by James Whale, produced by Carl Laemmle Jr., and adapted from a 1927 play by Peggy Webling, which in turn was based on Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. The Webling play was adapted by John L. Balderston and the screenplay written by Francis Edward Faragoh and Garrett Fort, with uncredited contributions from Robert Florey and John Russell.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frankenstein's monster</span> 1818 fictional character by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein's monster or Frankenstein's creature, often referred to as simply "Frankenstein", is a fictional character who first appeared in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Shelley's title thus compares the monster's creator, Victor Frankenstein, to the mythological character Prometheus, who fashioned humans out of clay and gave them fire.

<i>The Curse of Frankenstein</i> 1957 horror film by Hammer Film Productions

The Curse of Frankenstein is a 1957 British horror film by Hammer Film Productions, loosely based on the 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley. It was Hammer's first colour horror film, and the first of their Frankenstein series. Its worldwide success led to several sequels, and it was also followed by new versions of Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959), establishing "Hammer Horror" as a distinctive brand of Gothic cinema.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Victor Frankenstein</span> Character from Mary Shelleys 1818 novel "Frankenstein"

Victor Frankenstein is a fictional character and the main protagonist and title character in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.. He is an Italian-Swiss scientist who, after studying chemical processes and the decay of living things, gains an insight into the creation of life and gives life to his own creature. Victor later regrets meddling with nature through his creation, as he inadvertently endangers his own life and the lives of his family and friends when the creature seeks revenge against him. He is first introduced in the novel when he is seeking to catch the monster near the North Pole and is saved from near death by Robert Walton and his crew.

Dr. Waldman is a fictional character who appears in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus and in its subsequent film versions. He is a professor at Ingolstadt University who specializes in chemistry and is a mentor of Victor Frankenstein.

<i>Frankenstein Unbound</i> 1990 film by Roger Corman

Frankenstein Unbound is a 1990 science fiction horror film based on Brian Aldiss' 1973 novel of the same name, starring John Hurt, Raul Julia, Bridget Fonda, Jason Patric, and Nick Brimble. The film is co-written and directed by Roger Corman, returning to the director's chair after a hiatus of almost twenty years. This is his final directorial effort to date, for which he was paid $1 million to direct.

<i>Frankenstein: The True Story</i> 1973 film by Jack Smight

Frankenstein: The True Story is a 1973 British television movie loosely based on the 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley. It was directed by Jack Smight, and the screenplay was written by novelist Christopher Isherwood and his longtime partner Don Bachardy.

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Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, and the famous character of Frankenstein's monster, have influenced popular culture for at least a century. The work has inspired numerous films, television programs, video games and derivative works. The character of the monster remains one of the most recognized icons in horror fiction.

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<i>Mary Shelleys Frankenstein</i> (pinball)

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<i>Frankenstein – A New Musical</i>

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<i>Frankenstein</i> 1818 novel by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is an 1818 novel written by English author Mary Shelley. Frankenstein tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was 18, and the first edition was published anonymously in London on 1 January 1818, when she was 20. Her name first appeared in the second edition, which was published in Paris in 1821.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elizabeth Lavenza</span> Fictional character

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