Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sherlock Frankenstein.

This weekend brought an interesting bit of Holmes-related cinema to theaters with Victor Frankenstein.

"But Dr, Frankenstein is around fifty years older than Holmes," one might protest. "And classic literature in its own right!"

Well, yes, but one can't see this latest movie without thinking that it owes much of its existence to the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr.  The London of Victor Frankenstein is as beautifully detailed in steampunky elegance as that of Sherlock Holmes, for starters, and the connections don't end there.

James McAvoy's Frankenstein has a Sherlock's energy pushed past the limits of any social skills. Daniel Radcliffe's Igor is a Watson pushed past all normal limits of tolerance. And then there's some of those familiar names in the cast: Andrew Scott, Mark Gatiss, Louise Brealey . . . and director Paul McGuigan (which makes the casting a little less coincidental).

Andrew Scott's Detective Inspector Turpin is Frankenstein's nemesis: a moralistic detective who at first evokes Holmes and then shows more and more madness, eventually evolving into a more serious version of Kenneth Mars's Inspector Kemp from Young Frankenstein. An interesting flip of his Sherlock nemesis role, but I think I'd rather have seen him as the doctor himself.

"Chiswick Cross Hospital" plays a part in the movie, evoking the Charing Cross version in Canon and reality. Victor Frankenstein also carries his brother's watch, with "Henry Frankenstein" engraved on it, just as Watson had his own brother's "H.W." watch. Coincidence? (It should be noted, of course, that "Henry" was the name of the doctor in the 1931 Frankenstein.)

My movie-going Watson (or Holmes, depending upon one's point of view) and I both agreed that Victor Frankenstein was not a great movie. We couldn't decide if it was the basic bones of the original story than held it back as a film, or something in the execution. Good actors, good production values, ideas that seemed like they should have been a part of a good movie . . . and yet it was still missed a certain emotional connection. The movie seemed to want Victor and Igor to be buddies while still making Frankenstein a "driven-beyond-all-reason-or-nicety" genius, which is something a good Holmes and Watson have in spades. The "buddy cop" film trope would seem to work better in detection than monster-building, at least if this film is any evidence.

Still, an interesting trip to the theater for a Sherlockian, and I'd recommend it just for that.

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