I was a boy, I used to love Saturday afternoons. I'd always get up early
to watch countless
hours of horror and science fiction films
that were shown on the afternoon TV matinees. While my favorite movies
were the ones that featured large rubber-suited monsters, like Godzilla,
there was another type of movie I liked. I called it the "man monster" movie.
One of my favorites was Frankenstein, with Boris Karloff as the
monster. I don't think that in my wildest childhood imagination I could
a more tortured creature than the monster. After viewing Gods and
I know where that tortured soul may have come from.
and Monsters (1998)
Starring: Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser,
and Lynn Redgrave
and Monsters is a speculative look at the final days of James Whale
(Ian McKellen), the director of Frankenstein and Bride of
Whale was an openly gay man in the then hush-hush days of Hollywood homosexuality.
The movie finds him recovering from a mild stroke, which has not affected
his ability to walk or think. However, he is struggling with bouts of
nostalgia and hallucinations from his service in World War I. Having been
retired from filmmaking for fifteen years, Whale has taken up painting.
young yardskeeper named Clay Boone (Brendan Fraser) has been hired by
Whale's housekeeper (Lynn Redgrave.) Whale finds Boone attractive and
asks him to model for one of his drawings. Boone hesitantly agrees and
so begins a somewhat odd relationship between the two men, one gay and
Whale takes the opportunity to exorcize some of his inner demons by confiding
in Boone. Boone likes to listen to the old man's stories, having no prior
knowledge of who Whale really is (or was.) The dialogue between the two
men enables the audience to get to know the man that created the look
of the Frankenstein monster and the Hollywood out of which it was born.
Film fans get a behind-the-scenes look at the Bride
of Frankenstein set
and a feel for the psychology behind the portrayal of the monster in Whale's
movies. The main focus of the film, however, is not on the movies but
rather on the monster that can dwell within someone who slowly losing
their only link to the past. Memories are all that Whale has left. His
stroke has caused them to come rushing back to meet him for the last time
as his brain erupts into an electrical storm of confusion.
The script, while based on Whale's life and acheivements, is only speculating
about the relationship between Whale and Boone. All that is really known
about Whale's last days is how he ended up -- drowned in the swimming
pool he hadn't used for years.
Director Bill Condon has a fine pallette to draw from as he sketches
in the details of those final days. Ian McKellen is wonderful as Whale.
His depiction of Whale as a man slowly coming apart at the seams is priceless
and deserving of the Best Actor nomination. Lynn Redgrave, also an Academy
Award nominee, is fun-to-watch as the doting Hanna. Brendan Fraser, usually
associated with drek like George of the Jungle or Encino
Man, is the real
surprise here, though. He holds his own with the great McKellen with no
visible strain. His performance is an eye-opener. Hopefully, this will
lead to better roles for him in the future.
Although overlooked as a Best Picture nominee by the Academy, Gods
and Monsters is a haunting and moving depiction of a man's painful conflict
with his inner demons and vices.
Betts, who plays Boris Karloff, is sometimes credited for playing "Elder" Karloff,
due to a trademark on the Boris Karloff name. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)