Creator David Wickes puts forth a vigorous-if-pretty-pretty period adaptation of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, suggesting that the Monster, as he’s known here, is Victor Frankenstein’s alter ego and that they share the same pains. The florid direction and overdone thesping do the work in; it’s time to give the much-used Shelley book — subject of countless film versions since a 1910 16 -minute silent — a long rest.
Patrick Bergin’s Frankenstein, a soft-looking dandy, builds the Monster (Randy Quaid) out of himself by some mumbo-jumbo method in his splendidly antiquated lab. There’s no cemetery, no Igor, no body parts; this one’s a genuine original, if premature, Monster.
The creature escapes to find nothing but trouble out there, while Victor, in semi-love with cousin Elizabeth (Fiona Gillies) and ailing from cholera, goes home to Geneva to recuperate.
Whenever the Monster suffers a blow — and he endures an awful lot — Victor feels it, and when the Monster’s near, Victor’s aware of it.
The Monster threatens to destroy Victor and Elizabeth on their wedding night, demanding that Victor build him a woman; the second creature’s sickening dissolution involves bloody lumps of her body going down the drain.
Bergin doesn’t do much convincing as the in-love Victor, but Quaid’s Bigfoot account of the sensitive, inwardly powerful Monster (designed imaginatively by Mark Coulier) suffices. Gillies’s Elizabeth doesn’t seem much in love with Frankenstein, and Elizabeth’s friend Justine, played by Jacinta Mulcahy, veers from tense to overwrought.
Sir John Mills turns in a strong perf as a blind man who befriends the creature. Lambert Wilson as the poet Cherval looks, instead of sincere, silly. Ronald Leigh Hunt as Victor’s father is a strong entry.
Jack Conroy’s reliable lensing gives the telefilm a becomingly crisp look, and designer William Alexander makes the most of lovely Polish forests, fields, buildings and villages. The excellent Arctic sequences, which begin and close the telepic, were filmed beautifully at Pinewood Studios.
John Cameron’s score is terrif until it lays on a pretentious chorale during the program’s final segs.
Wickes’ unrelenting teleplay is briefer than the four-hour 1973 NBC version with David McCallum as Frankenstein and Michael Sarrazin as the creature. Best of any TVersions was the late-night entry earlier that same year dreamt up by Dan Curtis for ABC, with Robert Foxworth as the creator and Bo Svenson as his creation.