I managed to miss Victor Frankenstein when it was in theaters for a nanosecond and managed to ignore its release on video, right up until I was on a 14 hour long plane flight to New Zealand. I was restless and couldn’t sleep so in went the earbuds and I thought, “Why not?” Why not, indeed. That in was May of 2016 and I have seen Victor Frankenstein three four more times since then. I own a copy. I compel friends to watch it because it is, as my friend Matt put it, it is “The most remarkable hymn to wretched excess I’ve seen in the last couple of years.”
Oh, and it is! Steampunk, homoerotic horror that breaks the fourth wall and embraces all of the more ludicrous possibilities to be found in that combination? Yep. Movie featuring the talents of James MacAvoy (as Victor), Daniel Radcliff (as Ygor!), a metric crap-ton of actors who play coded bisexual or gay characters on various BBC historical productions (the guy who plays Moriarty on Sherlock! The blonde dude who is an uppercrust villain in almost everything), all here. Lady Sybil Crawley from Downton Abbey, reborn here as a circus acrobat/courtesan (which there should be more of, just saying). Charles Dance stopping by the set for the sole purpose of smacking James MacAvoy around? Got you covered on that too. Weird, maggot-filled homunculus monkey and rat-face circus dude with a gun? Yeppers! All these delights and more await you.
Some plot highpoints:
- Ygor gets rescued from the horrible Victorian circus by James MacAvoy. Why is he horribly mistreated even though the circus performers trust the nameless hunchback (Frankenstein names him “Ygor” after his mysteriously missing flat mate) as their doctor? Because random evil. And an excuse for Frankenstein to find and rescue him. In slow motion, while the circus is performing. Also, Victorian steampunk dudes must communicate with many meaningful glances and with no sense of personal space.
- More on personal space. Ygot gets “dehunchbacked” in Victor’s palatial industrial loft, located atop a steampunky soap factory. The combination of the spiffy sets, the purty CGI and the dehunchbacking process itself are totally worth the price of admission. Victor mugs, Ygor suffers nobly and the audience can have a delightful time with the subtext on this one. I have said of this film that it “ships itself while you watch” and this would be one of those moments.
- Watch Inspector Roderick Turpin (actor Andrew Scott/Moriarty) have an inordinate amount of free time to develop a religious (or something) obsession with Victor and his activities! Because if there was one thing that the Victorian police force in late 1800s London had, it was a lack of crimes to investigate. So there was lots of time to worry about a cute, upper class dude collecting dead animal parts and making homunculi from them. Really. No wonder they couldn’t find the Ripper.
- The big climatic scene in which everyone goes to the castle in Scotland, somehow conquering cliffs and a drawbridge, only to display really poor judgment about early electricity, rain and monsters.
- Random things I love about this movie:
- The way that Victor and Ygor can see anatomy illustrations of organs and skeletal structure when they look at people and animals.
- The Lazarus Fork. Just watch it. You can thank me later.
- MacAvoy’s demonic smile
- The rotting homunculous monkey chase scene.
- Turpin’s phantom eye patch that comes and goes.
- Really, everything.
Victor Frankenstein is one of those films on that thin line between brilliant and ludicrous. It got terrible reviews when it opened and closed in a blink, but every person I have shown it to or persuaded to watch it has loved it. It is the perfect example of a film that needs to find its people. If you like Penny Dreadful, Dracula (the recent TV series) and/or Crimson Peak, this is definitely a film for you. It’s stylish and weirdly hilarious and just plain fun to watch, in ways that are similar to these shows and movies. It’s also silly and completely over the top and I can see why there were mixed responses to it. But my advice is to give it a shot and see if you’re one of its people. If nothing else, you’ll get a few good laughs.
About Catherine Lundoff:
Catherine is originally from Brooklyn, NYC, and currently lives in Minneapolis with her wife Jana, an amazingly talented book artist, and a couple of cats. When not writing, she works as a professional computer geek. In former lives, Catherine owned a feminist bookstore (Grassroots Books in Iowa City) and has lived in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico. She was once a professional archaeologist and before that, worked at a bar in St. Louis that that claimed to have the world’s largest collection of Elvis memorabilia outside Memphis. Catherine started writing professionally in 1996 while in law school. She sold the first story she ever wrote and quit law school a week or two later.
Catherine is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Broad Universe, GCLS and the Erotic Authors Association (EAA)—useful organizations to belong to at any stage of a writing career.
Catherine was also a member of the Arise! Bookstore Collective (now defunct). Arise! was one of a shrinking number of independent bookstores. As a former bookstore owner and frequent bookstore visitor, the survival of indies is near and dear to Catherine’s heart. She asks that you please support your remaining local independent bookstores; their survival is essential for new writers and nonmainstream voices to be heard.