Anchor Bay // 1984 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky (Retired) // September 20th, 2002
"And so, the Frankenstein myth created by Mary Shelley was not a fable." -- News reporter
Meet the new Victor Frankenstein (Jean Rochefort). Hiding in France under the name Lafaurie, this soft-spoken scientist with a penchant for cardigans is following in the footsteps of his legendary ancestor. His monster, Frank ('60s movie and pop icon Eddy Mitchell), is programmed by computer, taught how to use a fork and drive a car, and is eager to please and impatient with rudeness. Apart from a few scars, he is a pretty decent guy. But he is lonely.
Victor's girlfriend Elisabeth (Fiona Gélin) has a little trouble coping at first, but quickly volunteers to help round up strippers to assemble into a bride for Frank. But love finds its own way, even in the unlikeliest of circumstances...
Part James Whale, part Flesh for Frankenstein, with a dash of sentimentality, Frankenstein 90 at first appears to be the kind of campy farce that the French either do very well or very badly. I was expecting the latter: a tedious and unfunny exercise in sick humor. But then I found myself smiling, occasionally laughing, and ultimately charmed.
A lot of the film's appeal can be credited to the cast, particularly Jean Rochefort as the eternally befuddled Frankenstein, in one scene paying for a bootleg head in a cooler with the same sad expression one might have buying a carton of milk late night at the gas station. Eddy Mitchell gives the monster a guileless flair without generating cheap pity for Frank. The script itself is witty and surprisingly low-key, allowing the gags to fit in with the action rather than distract from it, and keeping the focus squarely on the characters.
Even with its share of death and mayhem (as any horror comedy must have), the film never takes itself too seriously. But best of all, it avoids broad gestures and never stoops or insults its audience's intelligence. Director Alain Jessua spices up the low budget affair with a strong sense of color and a few artsy touches, but mostly allows the characters to develop at their pace amongst the gorgeous French scenery.
In an effort to market Frankenstein 90 as a gross-out comedy that has been done far too often, Anchor Bay does not seem to have a clue what to do with this film, implying in its packaging that this is the sort of "rude" French comedy that made me initially dread watching it. And apart from a relatively clean anamorphic print and monaural soundtrack, there is nothing in the way of extras. Not even a trailer. A gentle and entertaining romantic comedy, Frankenstein 90 is most surprising because it is not what you expect from this often remade tale. The story of Mary Shelley's monster could not have happened to a nicer bunch of people.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Not Rated