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GODS AND MONSTERS: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
The movie opens in 1957. Hollywood director James Whale (Ian McKellen) has been out of the movie industry for some 20 years. These days, he is tended by his fiercely protective housekeeper, Hanna (Lynn Redgrave), and he is fascinated by the newly hired gardener, Clayton Boone (Brendan Fraser), a handsome drifter who loves Whale's stories of the old days. During long visits with Whale, the younger man triggers painful memories in flashback for the old man. Remembering his losses, both professional and personal, Whale plunges into melancholy.

"I saw Gods And Monsters at its first market screening in Cannes in 1998. It was in the dingy Olympia cineplex that opens only at festival time and collects dust and must for the other 11 & 1/2 months of the year. I mention this only because I'm sure James Whale would appreciate the humour in how such humble international debuts can lead to acclaim and an Academy Award (for Best Adapted Screenplay) 18 months later.

Gods And Monsters is one of the finest biopics to be made with movies themselves as the backdrop. In this case it's the short and brilliant career of English director James Whale (Ian McKellen) whose credits include Frankenstein (1931), The Old Dark House (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935), Show Boat (1936) and The Man In The Iron Mask (1939) before a slide into an obscurity that ended with his death (possibly suicide) by drowning in 1957. Based on Christopher Bram's book Father Of Frankenstein, Gods and Monsters throws the fictional character of gardener Clay Boone (Brendan Fraser) into the last days of Whale's life and emerges with a beautiful portrait of an artist and his sort-of latter day muse.

Whale's career slump had more to do with his open homosexuality than the failure of any films and the gay subtext is subtly played as square jawed and none-too-bright Clay makes the connection while tending the stately old homo's stately old home. As this odd couple strike up a friendship Whale regales Clay with stories of his Hollywood heyday, leading to some stunning recreations of filming on the set of Bride Of Frankenstein.

What's so delightful in these flashbacks is the interplay between Whale and stars Elsa Lanchester (also British and of the "luvvy" thespian school) and Boris Karloff, for whom this horror thing was a jolly good laugh, eh what. In between the memories and present-day scenes that also feature a wonderful Lynn Redgrave as Whale's severe house keeper, there are many poetic moments as the faltering mind of the aged director drifts into hallucination. Whale, magnificently interpreted by McKellen, has his rightful position restored by this film that was clearly a labour of love for writer/director Bill Condon. His audio commentary and the Making of… featurette add some poignant footnotes to the film and the life of an extraordinary talent who wasn't allowed to fly far enough. Highly recommended viewing."
Richard Kuipers

Published April 5, 2001

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Read our interviews with BRENDAN FRASER and BILL CONDON

See our MOVIE REVIEW

GODS AND MONSTERS (M)
(UK)

CAST: Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave

DIRECTOR: Bill Condon

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: The AV Channel

DVD RELEASE: December 5, 2000

SPECIAL FEATURES:
Widescreen
Director's commentary
The Making of Gods And Monsters hosted by Clive Barker
Production notes
Biographies







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