In many ways, “Doctor Frankenstein” departs from the Mary Shelley masterpiece it was inspired by. The film worn by James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe, on the other hand, multiplies the nods to cult feature films on the mad scientist and his famous creature.
Doctor Frankenstein : a classic revisited
In 1816, Mary Shelley was 19 when she wrote her first novel while in Switzerland. Two years later appears Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, a work considered as a precursor of science fiction. From the beginnings of the seventh art, the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creature stands out as a fundamental source of inspiration. The first adaptation, a short film by J. Searle Dawley produced by Thomas Edison, dates back to 1910. Over a hundred years later, in 2015, director Paul McGuigan in turn tackles the myth with Doctor Frankenstein.
The film does not take the point of view of the famous mad inventor, played here by James McAvoy, but of his faithful assistant Igor, performed by Daniel Radcliffe. Considered a fairground animal and mistreated in the circus where he works, the latter meets Victor Frankenstein, who claims to be able to cure his deformity.
A collaboration between them begins in the lair of the scientist as charismatic as he is enigmatic, whose past raises many questions. Victor presents to Igor his biggest project: to create life from scratch and succeed in cheating death. At first fascinated, the assistant becomes more and more worried in front of the radicalism and the obsessive temperament of his savior.
Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott and Charles Dance complete the cast of this steampunk reinterpretation of a literary classic. Not hesitating to deviate from the original masterpiece, Doctor Frankenstein multiplies the nods to elements deeply rooted in popular culture.
A mess of references
The first freedom that the film takes vis-à-vis the work of Mary Shelley is to offer a central place to Igor, who does not exist in the novel. The servant first appears in the play Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein by Richard Brinsley Peake, in 1823. The hunchback assistant was then baptized Fritz, like the one played by Dwight Frye in Frankenstein, the horror classic signed James Whale in 1931.
This is in homage to the creature immortalized by Boris Karloff in this feature film that the design of that of Doctor Frankenstein is designed, including its flat skull. The monster brought to life does not really look like its description in the book.
In addition, the scientist played by James McAvoy claims to have lost his brother Henry. In the Frankenstein of 1931, the scientist embodied by Colin Clive who is ecstatic that his thing is “alive” is also named Henry. The famous line “It’s alive!”, diverted an incalculable number of times in the cinema, is obviously present in the version of 2015.
In Doctor Frankenstein, the name of the eccentric inventor is scratched. An error that refers to the monument of comedy Frankenstein Junior by Mel Brooks, where the brilliant Gene Wilder constantly corrects his interlocutors. In this 1974 film, Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars) has a wooden arm and a glass eye. This is also the case of the policeman camped by Andrew Scott and in pursuit of James McAvoy in this much more serious re-reading and playing the spectacular card.