I fondly remember renting “Meet Rockula and Frankenstone” quite often from our local videos store when I was a kid, and thankfully the movie genuinely holds up. Like all great comedy series, the Flintstones have had their share of crossovers, and this time they have the misfortune of meeting Dracula and Frankenstone. Or their stone age counterparts, as it were. While it’s not raucously funny as when Abbot and Costello met them, it’s a darn good short movie with the Flintstones doing what they do best.
The mythical Doctor Frankenstein spent years perfecting his monster which was tragically chased in to the maniacal doctor’s castle for all eternity. Hoping to escape the hatred from the villagers, the doctor travels to Hollywood in hopes of finding a way to perfect a formula. They accidentally cross paths with Alvin and the Chipmunks who are performing at a theme park very similar to Universal and Disney. While there they accidentally interrupt the Doctor who is performing experiments on his monster.
Director Ron William Neill’s “Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman” is a sequel to “The Wolfman” and a prequel to “Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” One of the many future crossovers for monsters, Neill’s movie is often incoherent, but at least delivers on the promise of the wolf man meeting Frankenstein. They only do battle for about four minutes in the finale, but technically they cross paths, so your expectations should be low for this sequel. The reasoning for bringing the characters together stretches all ideas of logic and suspension of disbelief. So “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” is really a process of asking the audience to willingly ignore its inconsistencies and wait for the monsters to meet up and fight.
It’s surprising how quickly “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” becomes a vanity project for director Kenneth Branagh. Rather than a tale of a monster wreaking havoc on his master, the film feels more like Jane Austen co-starring the monster who is kind of a nuisance and then becomes a threat to his creator. I’ve rarely seen Frankenstein movies where the creature is the third banana, but lo and behold Branagh pulls it off in what is more a film about Victor Frankenstein having a lover’s spat with his wife, who discovers her husband has committed some evil selfish acts. To his credit though, Victor Frankenstein is no hero. He’s selfish, self-centered, and has a God complex, but Branagh is very obsessed with chewing the scenery. So much so that he even manages to outdo Robert DeNiro.
“I Frankenstein” is so hopelessly convoluted that rather than watching the action unfold and allowing the audience to go along for the ride, the writers do nothing but explain. Characters walk from one room to another to explain things, and then explain the explanation. “We’re the Order of the Gargoyles and here’s why. You’ll be called Adam, and here’s why. These are our weapons that can defeat demons, we’ll explain why. Our ranks are falling but demons are more powerful than ever, and we’ll explain why.” Considering the heroes do nothing but talk, it’s a wonder they’re losing the battle of good and evil. And how original that Frankenstein is re-named Adam? I wish Hollywood would put that creaky cliché to bed.
It’s too bad the writers didn’t have the balls to re-name the monster Frank. Or Victor. Hell, Shelley would have been gutsy. After the usual events of the Mary Shelley novel, Frankenstein is attacked in a graveyard when he attempts to bury the body of his creator. Managing to barely survive, he’s taken in by the Order of the Gargoyle, a group of knights hired by the Queen to fight demons. For whatever reason, they’re gargoyles that can masquerade as human beings, and can revert to their beastial form to fight evil. On the other side, there’s a group of demons intent on capturing Frankenstein because he holds the key to immortality. No wait, he holds the key to building another Frankenstein body, as the demons plans to build an army of clones that can be possessed by demons.
Frankenstein is an anti-hero for the sake of being an anti-hero, torn between two fractions of the war. You know he’s an angry monster because he dons heavy eyeliner for a majority of the film, and despite his brute strength battles with swords like a horror version of “Crouching Tiger.” You figure a movie with gargoyles and demons and Frankenstein would be amazing, but in reality it’s unbearable. It’s droning, tedious, and incredibly boring, and not a single character is engaging. They bring in strong performers like Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski and Miranda Otto, all of whom do nothing but look half asleep most of the time, while they drone on and on with clunky exposition.
In the first half there’s a massive battle between the demons and Gargoyles, and granted it would all be so amazing, if I knew who any of these characters were. We learn nothing about the heroes or villains in the film. Director and co-writer Stuart Beattie stuffs the screen with so many sub-plots and supporting characters all of whom have zero depth to them. They’re just cannon fodder we’re told to root for. “I Frankenstein” is much like the “Underworld” and “Resident Evil” movies. It’s all flash, explosions, and absolutely zero substance. “I Frankenstein” is an absolutely terrible attempt to turn a Gothic literary character in to a superhero, and here’s hoping there’s no follow-up to the amazingly dull adventures of Frankenstein’s Monster.
I honestly can’t think of a better film where the opposite spectrum of film come together so seamlessly, it’s absolutely flawless. Abbott and Costello were always that comedy pairing that could walk in to any situation and find themselves in peril, but teaming them with Universal monsters is a gamble. It’s one that thankfully pays off in to one of the funniest horror comedies of all time. While I tend to like “Hold that Ghost” a little more, “Meet Frankenstein” is spectacular just the same.
It’s tough to imagine a better horror comedy for fans of golden age horror. Director Mel Brooks concocts a formula that’s almost impossible to duplicate, playing brilliant comedy with deadpan dramatic sincerity, and implements a wide cast of amazing comedy actors to perform what is a demented twist on “Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.” One of my favorite memories about “Young Frankenstein” was when I was a kid and my mom brought home the VHS to watch for the night. For all intents and purposes, the movie looked like a horror film, and I went in to it convinced of the idea. Mid-way I was laughing so hard, it was impossible to hear the dialogue.
Mel Brooks’ horror comedy classic completely and utterly challenged any and all norms and perceptions of formula comedy that I had when I was a kid. It was a black and white movie that was a comedy and though the film bordered on absolutely insane in the comedy meter, the cast in the film played everything with a straight face. Particularly Gene Wilder whose entire performance is deadpan and dramatic in spite of the fact he’s probably the funniest character in the film.