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'Gods and Monsters'

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 20, 1998

  Movie Critic

Gods and Monsters
Ian McKellen stars in "Gods and Monsters" with Lynn Redgrave. (Lion Gates)

Bill Condon
Ian McKellen;
Brendan Fraser;
Lynn Redgrave;
Lolita Davidovich;
Kevin J. O'Connor
Running Time:
1 hour, 45 minutes
Contains bare chests and some erotic overtones
Adapted Screenplay
Although most film buffs are familiar with the 1931 horror classic "Frankenstein" and its 1935 sequel "Bride of Frankenstein," not many can say they know much about the director James Whale, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1957 in his swimming pool. Based on the speculative novel, "Father of Frankenstein" by Christopher Bram, writer and director Bill Condon's sensitive and moving "Gods and Monsters" concerns the last months of Whale's life and revolves around the homosexual filmmaker's friendship with a handsome young gardener in his employ.

The story is slight and hardly a whodunit in the standard sense, but "Gods" is eminently watchable thanks to strong performances from its three leads – Ian McKellen as the frail and sexually frustrated Whale; Lynn Redgrave as his bullying but protective housekeeper Hanna; and (believe it or not) Brendan Fraser as straight and slightly dim blue-collar boy-toy Clayton Boone. You expect great work from McKellen and Redgrave (barely recognizable beneath a frumpy housecoat and German accent).

Fraser is the real surprise, though, bringing unexpected depth and nuance to his portrayal of a lawn-mower jockey whose emotional horizons are expanded through his strange and tender relationship with a dying older man whose love for him will never be requited. Of particular note are the uncanny flashback sequences re-creating the filming of Whale's two Frankenstein movies and Condon's meticulous capturing of the catty glamour of Old Hollywood.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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