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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Gods And Monsters (1998)

"Every Englishman knows his place, and if you ever forget there's always someone to remind you. Our family had no doubt about who they were, but I was an aberration in that house, a freak of nature. I had imagination, cleverness, joy. Where did I get that? Certainly not from them."
- James Whale (Ian McKellen)

Review By: Robert Mandel   
Published: May 02, 2000

Stars: Ian Mckellen, Brendan Fraser
Other Stars: Lynn Redgraves
Director: Bill Condon

MPAA Rating: R for sexual material and language.
Run Time: 01h:45m:00s
Release Date: June 08, 1999
UPC: 025192058424
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Set in the last stage of life of the openly gay horror film director (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Invisible Man), James Whale (Ian McKellen), this alleged biography, is a wonderful exercise in writing, acting, film craftsmanship, and, mostly, love. And it shows. This is not simply the tale of a twisted homosexual who, even after experiencing a stroke, is still picking up on young boys, and the comical and "moral" relief of his Teutonic housekeeper (Lynn Redgrave), but a portrait of a dying, lonely old man who seeks friendship with a handsome, unworldly, young, angry ex-marine (Brendan Frazier). Brought together by the cruelty of their fathers, this is the story of how opposites attract in friendship, so that when we peel away the exterior distinctions of the onion that make us unique and different, we still have much more in common than we do not.

Based on Christopher Bram's novel, Father of Frankenstein, director/screenwriter's Bill Condon screenplay is a fireworks show in subtlety, which upon repeat viewings appears to work on many levels. Bram and Condon do an excellent job at tying together Whale as both god and creator of the Frankenstein pictures with Dr. Frankenstein as god and creator of the monster. The creator thread continues with Whale as the molder of Clay Boon from small-minded and untouchable to close friend, as well as Boon as the intended monster. And finally, between the Monster (Frankenstein) and Whale himself, as outsider and outcast; Whale is society's monster.

There is a certain "campiness" to portions of the film, intended as a tribute to Whale's style, otherwise known as trench or gallows humor, that developed as a way of dealing with the hardships of WWI. Director, Bill Condon is quick to give much of the credit for this film to author Christopher Bram but Gods and Monsters shows Condon's mastery. An example is his artful use of Whale's condition, which disabled him from blocking memories, as a non-linear form for tying together the past and the present of Whale's life in a far more interesting way than a normal chronology could have. Ian McKellen referred to Whale's situation "as if he's chasing the monsters out of his mind."

"Me like dead, hate living." -Frankenstein

Ian McKellen gives a virtuoso performance as Whale, well beyond deserving of his Oscar® nomination. It is no easy task to play so many different roles within a single character, and do so with such incredible humor, anger, and grace. In a scene at George Cukor's party, his delivery of a simple line, "The only monsters are here," invokes meaning that reverberates and ties together. Lynn Redgrave is absolutely riotous and outright believable as the mostly deadpan, god-fearing, doting housekeeper who lives in the middle between hating Whale's lifestyle but loving the man. Brendan Frazier seems out of his league amongst this cast, but his performance is deceptive in that even his Monster-like woodenness I believe are intended.

"Bad to be alone. Friends good." -Frankenstein

Release date: June 8, 1999

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is a single-sided, dual-layered picture disc with a very nice anamorphically (16:9) enhanced 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio transfer. The colors are bright and well saturated, with no bleeding, pluming, or flesh tone discoloration. There are minor accounts of aliasing distortion (for instance in the opening sequence), pixelation, and occasional softness, but nothing these are the exceptions, not the rule. (It later comes to note via a VSDA panel discussion, that Condon actually corrected some soft shots specifically for the DVD.) A very nice disc by Universal.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: There are both Dolby Surround 2.0 (not rated) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks. The latter is a nicely rendered mix, that is generally focused on the front stage, but makes good use of the rear stage for Carter Burwel's underrated musical score. You would not expect a film such as this to make use of all 5.1 channels but the monster dream sequence presents the case of exactly why even a character film such as this can exploit them to their fullest.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Bill Condon
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: This Collector's Edition also contains production notes, cast and crew info, excellent feature commentary with director Bill Condon (which tells about the creation of the movie, rather than simply blathering about what's on screen), and a well done mini-documentary, The World of Gods and Monsters: A Journey with James Whale, narrated by Producer Clive Barker.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

All in all, I found Gods And Monsters not only to be a truly inspired film and salute to one of the great directors, but an inspired DVD as well. Like the movie, it may not be flashy, but it's substance is rich.


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