Gods and Monsters

Adapted from Christopher Bram's novel, this fictionalised biographical treatment-cum-tribute to James Whale - the ex-pat British director of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, who died mysteriously, face down in his California swimming pool in 1957, as if seeking refuge in one of his own horror film scenarios. Whiling away his early Hollywood retirement in incapacitated general lechery, lapsing into nostalgic reveries prompted by the visit of a young would-be biographer, McKellen's Whale latches on to Fraser's hunky but determinedly straight gardener, desperately seeking solace as his past glories and horrors begin crowding round. It's superficially reminiscent of Love and Death on Long Island, only less crusty, with McKellen giving a superb performance as the tormented old bugger; and the inserts from his past steadily and lucidly sound echoes of the Frankenstein themes and roles. 'Alone - bad! Friend - good!' - not a complicated film, but warm and clever.

By: NB

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