Review Date: July 11, 2004
Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 8/6/2002
MSRP: $19.95 (box set)
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: Yes
You've got to love the quirkiness of French cinema. No matter what the genre, or how grave the subject matter, French films all seem to have a carefree eccentricity that set them apart from Hollywood movies. A film that fits the typical French film mold to a T is the bizarre and lightly toned 1984 film, Frankenstein 90
. This little known film has been brought back to life on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay, but was this a film worth resurrecting, or was it better left back on the laboratory floor?
The film begins as a shadowed man creeps into a Human Biology Center. His purpose, limb snatching. He quickly grabs numerous well kept, but severed, appendages and exits the facility. Since this is a Frankenstein movie, it is obvious that the shadowed man is none other than Victor Frankenstein (Jean Rochefort
), and it turns out he also works at the center. He is using the limbs to create (you guessed it) a hulking, manmade being, which he shall name after himself, of course. One problem stands in the way of Victor's creation however, Franky lacks a head. Luckily, a friend is able to provide Vic with a spare head, stolen from a car wreck, and Frankenstein (Eddie Mitchell
) is born.
Victor's creation is not quite flawless however, as Frankenstein not only has noticeable scars from where his appendages were attached, but he also has uncontrollable strength and a slight glitch in speech whenever he gets excited. Victor attempts to teach Franky the basics, from eating with cutlery to driving a car (let's see Karloff do that!) and Frankenstein soon becomes like a son figure for the aging Victor. One concept the massive monster can't quite comprehend is love, and when he witnesses Victor doing the dirty, his questioning about love soon becomes an obsession.
After Frankenstein nearly rapes Victor's lover, Elizabeth (Fiona Gélin
), and then offs a couple of strippers, Victor finally breaks down and decides to make a Frankenstein v2.0, but this time in the form of a woman. The woman, Adelaide (Herma Vos
), has been programmed to love whoever loves her, and a love between her and Frank blossoms, as Frankenstein finally learns about love. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and the police chase Frankenstein all the way back to the mansion of the original Frankenstein experiment from years past. Frankenstein, along with Victor, Elizabeth, and Adelaide, end up on a journey and a resolution unlike any Frankenstein film prior.
Let it be known right now, that Frankenstein 90
is not in the least bit scary. Consider it more a black comedy with the traditional French flair for love. The film can at times be considered a quirky love story, and that is part of the appeal of the film. It takes the time told story of the clumsy and bulky monster, and gives it a modern spin. Rest assured that there is no other Frankenstein story quite like this one. Whether that is a compliment or a negative quality is debatable.
The film does have a storyline that is at times amusingly refreshing, but other times inflated and slow moving. The direction is by the numbers, simply a point and shoot affair, which somewhat lessens the potential impact the film could have had. As a result, some of the lengthier exposition and conversation sequences can at times appear overlong and ill conceived. Had this been shot with the stylistic vision present in many other French works, then this could have gotten its themes through much more influentially.
The acting, unlike the directing, is no slouch however. Jean Rochefort plays Victor amusingly, as both a loner and a serious man trying to keep all the chaos under control. Eddie Mitchell is equally convincing as Frankenstein, giving the beast a humane element, and a hidden charm. Frankenstein's character is at times humorous, and at times emotional, and Mitchell is able to balance those attributes admirably. The chemistry between Frank and Vic can be described as perhaps a morbid teaming of Laurel and Hardy. Fiona Gélin plays the typical girlfriend role with conviction, and is given a chance to shine near the end. Overall, this is a fine cast that adds an enthusiasm and soul to the film's obscure story.
The film is refreshingly witty at times, with some inspired elements, such as when Victor takes Frankenstein to a theater to watch an old Frankenstein film or when Frankenstein tries to court his first woman (think Of Mice and Men
with a twist). As mentioned earlier, the story is original and that is the main draw this production has to offer. This is by no means a great film, but its quirkiness and originality make this a movie that should appeal to Frankenstein fans, as well as those interested in French cinema.
Anchor Bay presents the film in its original 1.66:1 widescreen ratio, enhanced for widescreen televisions. For a low budget French film made nearly 20 years ago, this is a fine transfer. The print is clear with accurate and at times vibrant colors, like the green liquid present in the laboratory sequences. There are several dark portions to the film, and thankfully the blacks are solid and deep. Flesh tones appear slightly over saturated at times, but are generally well done. There is some grain present, with the occasional blemish, but there is no artifacting to be found. Because of the film's age, the overall transfer appears somewhat washed out, but such a fault is towards the print itself, not the transfer itself. This is another fine transfer to an obscure film from the good folks at Anchor Bay.
Presented in French Dolby Mono with English subtitles, this is a typical mono track. There is little range and the overall sound is flat. Voices and ambient sound are presented clearly and are what one would expect from a mono track. The charming musical score is presented clearly too, never impeding on the dialogue. Overall nothing to be excited about, but given the obscurity of the film, such a track is what is to be expected.
Aside from Anchor Bay's typically classic animated menus, there are no supplements included on this disc. It would have been nice to at least have a trailer, but fans should be happy enough that the film has been released on DVD at all.
is a quirky little comedic love story with energetic performances from all of its leads. It can lag in some places, and there is little in the way of visual style, but its literate screenplay make this a decent movie. There are no supplements, and the audio a measly mono, but the visual transfer is clear and nicely done, making this a respectable DVD. Fans of obscure French cinema and Frankenstein should enjoy the film for what it is, but most others may be turned off from the films quirkiness and lack of horror elements.
Movie - C
Image Quality - B
Sound - C
Supplements - N/A
- Running Time - 1 hour 3 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- French mono
- English subtitles