Frankenstein (1994 film)

Frankenstein (1994 film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kenneth Branagh[1]
Produced by Francis Ford Coppola
Written by Novel:
Mary Shelley
Steph Lady
Frank Darabont
Based on Frankenstein by
Mary Shelley
Starring Kenneth Branagh
Robert De Niro
Helena Bonham Carter
Ian Holm
Tom Hulce
Aidan Quinn
John Cleese
Music by Patrick Doyle
Cinematography Roger Pratt
Editing by Andrew Marcus
Studio American Zoetrope
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
(Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Release date(s) October 12, 1994 (1994-10-12)
Running time 123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $45,000,000
Box office $112,006,296

Frankenstein (also known by its promotional title, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) is a 1994 American horror film directed by Kenneth Branagh. The film starred Branagh, Robert De Niro, Tom Hulce, Helena Bonham Carter. It was produced on a budget of $45 million. It is an adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.[1]



The film opens with a few words by Mary Shelley:

I busied myself to think of a story, which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror. One to make the reader dread to look around, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart.

The film begins in the year 1794. Captain Robert Walton leads a daring expedition to reach the North Pole. While their ship is trapped in the ice of the Arctic Sea, Walton and his men discover a man traveling across the Arctic on his own. In the distance, a loud moaning can be heard. When the man sees how obsessed Walton is with reaching the North Pole he asks, "Do you share my madness?" The man then reveals that his name is Victor Frankenstein and begins his tale.

The film flashes back to Victor's childhood in Geneva as the son of the wealthy Baron and Caroline Frankenstein. At one point in his childhood Victor's parents adopted Elizabeth, who would become the love of Victor's life.

Years later Victor's mother dies giving birth to his brother William. Sometime before going off to the university at Ingolstadt, a grief-stricken Victor vows on his mother's grave that he will find a way to conquer death. On the night of his graduation Victor and Elizabeth promised to wed when Victor returns from his studies.

At university, Victor's previous studies with the works of alchemists such as Paracelsus, Albertus Magnus, and Cornelius Agrippa make him unpopular with certain professors. However he finds a friend in Henry Clerval and a mentor in Professor Waldman. Victor comes to believe that the only way to cheat death is to create life. At this point Professor Waldman tells Victor not to follow through with his theory; he tested it once, but he ended his experiments because they resulted in an "abomination."

While performing vaccinations, Professor Waldman is murdered by a patient who thinks the doctors are trying to poison him. After Waldman was buried, Victor breaks into Waldman's laboratory, takes Waldman's notes on the experiments, and starts using them to work on his own creation.

Victor spends months in his apartment working on creating a living, breathing creature. Using dead body parts from various sources, including Waldman's own brain & the body of the murderer, he begins piecing a creature together. Victor is so obsessed with his work that not even a cholera outbreak tears him from it. Late one night Victor finally gives his creation life, but he recoils from it in horror and renounces his experiments.

That night the creature escapes Victor's apartment, running off to the wilderness. He spends months hiding in the woods, living in an unwitting family's barn. As time progresses the creature learns to read and speak. Eventually the creature tries to win the family's love, but his efforts are in vain. Through the journal the creature finds in the coat that he took from Victor's apartment he learns of the circumstances of his creation and that Frankenstein is responsible. He then burns down the family's abandoned cottage and heads to Geneva, vowing revenge on his creator.

Victor, who believes his creation destroyed, returns to Geneva with the intent of marrying Elizabeth. He finds there that his little brother William has been murdered. Justine Moritz, a servant of the Frankenstein household, is framed for the crime and hanged. That night Victor is approached by his creation, who tells him to meet him on the mountain. Realizing that the creature murdered his brother, Victor goes with the intent on destroying his creation, but is no match for his enhanced speed and strength.

Rather than killing his creator, the creature insists instead that Victor make him a bride. If he does this, then he promises to quit humanity forever with Victor never having to see him ever again. To ensure the safety of the rest of his family, Victor begins gathering the tools he used to create life, but when the creature insists he use Justine's body to make the bride, Victor breaks his promise. Enraged, the creature once more vows revenge, saying, "If you deny me my wedding night, I will be with you on yours!"

Victor and Elizabeth are married. En route to their honeymoon, Victor and Elizabeth are flanked by body guards. Meanwhile Victor's father dies while the creature watches over him. That night Victor takes every precaution to defend his new family, but the creature finds them anyway and gains access to Elizabeth's room. He uses his hand to prevent her crying out, then despite her pleas he kills her by ripping out her heart as Victor searches the house, just before Victor comes back to find the monster holding Elizabeth's heart, saying, "I keep my promises!". He tosses Elizabeth's body off the bed, her head slams into a nearby table, and her hair is set aflame by the candles there. The creature flees out the window amidst gunfire. Victor puts the fire out though.

Victor races home to bring Elizabeth back to life. Repulsed by what he intends to do, Henry tries to stop him. Victor argues that his father would have done the same for his mother. After Henry tells him that Baron Frankenstein is dead, Victor believes there is nothing left to lose. "Nothing but your soul," Henry replies.

After a gruesome operation that involved stitching Elizabeth's head back together and to Justine's body, Victor succeeds in giving, "Elizabeth" life. At this point the creature enters the room, thinking that this bride is for him. The two begin fighting over her, when "Elizabeth," horrified by her hideous appearance, burns herself alive, setting fire to the whole mansion.

The story returns to the Arctic Circle. Victor tells Walton that he has been pursuing his creation for months with the intent of killing him. Soon after relating his story, Victor succumbs to pneumonia and dies. After a word with his crew, Walton hears a noise coming from the room he left Frankenstein's body in. There they find the creature, weeping over his creator's dead body. They take Frankenstein's body and prepare a funeral pyre for him. The ceremony is interrupted when the ice around the ship begins to crack. The creature takes the torch and finishes the ceremony, burning himself alive with his creator's body. Walton, having seen the result of Frankenstein's obsession, puts his own aside and orders the ship to return home.


The main characters include:

  • The Creature (Robert De Niro) - The product of an experiment with corpses and electricity.
  • Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) - The Creature's creator, a scientist obsessed with conquering death.
  • Henry Clerval (Tom Hulce) - Dr. Frankenstein's best friend from medical school.
  • Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) - Frankenstein's fiancee and adoptive sister.[2]
  • Baron Frankenstein (Ian Holm) - Victor Frankenstein's father.
  • Professor Waldman (John Cleese) - Frankenstein's tutor and colleague who shares his interest in creating life. His brain is later used for the creature.
  • Captain Robert Walton (Aidan Quinn) - The commander of the ship which picks up Frankenstein in the Arctic Circle.
  • Justine Moritz (Trevyn McDowell) - A worker in the Frankenstein household who is close friends with Elizabeth.
  • Mrs. Moritz (Celia Imrie) - The head servant in the household who often fights with Justine.
  • Caroline Frankenstein (Cherie Lunghi) - Victor's mother who dies during birth of his younger brother, William.
  • William Frankenstein (Ryan Smith) - Victor's younger brother.


The film did disappointing business upon its U.S. theatrical release, grossing only $22 million, but did well in global markets where it grossed $90 million.[3][4]

Critical reviews were mixed. Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four, writing: "I admired the scenes with De Niro [as the Creature] so much I'm tempted to give Mary Shelley's Frankenstein a favorable verdict. But it's a near miss. The Creature is on target, but the rest of the film is so frantic, so manic, it doesn't pause to be sure its effects are registered."[5] Janet Maslin wrote, "Branagh is in over his head. He displays neither the technical finesse to handle a big, visually ambitious film nor the insight to develop a stirring new version of this story. Instead, this is a bland, no-fault Frankenstein for the '90s, short on villainy but loaded with the tragically misunderstood. Even the Creature (Robert De Niro), an esthetically challenged loner with a father who rejected him, would make a dandy guest on any daytime television talk show."[6]

Conversely, James Berardinelli of gave the film three out of four stars, writing: "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein may not be the definitive version of the 1818 novel, and the director likely attempted more than is practical for a two-hour film, but overambition is preferable to the alternative, especially if it results — as in this case — in something more substantial than Hollywood's typical, fitfully entertaining fluff."[7] with the film currently earning a rating of 44% on Rotten Tomatoes.[8]

It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Makeup.

Other media

The movie also had a pinball table made based on it, as well as a Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis game (the latter of which was by Sony Imagesoft), following a platform-style format. A Sega CD game was also produced by the same company that had a more adventure-based format that would sometimes switch to a fighting game.


External links

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