Gods & Monsters
dir. by Bill Condon
starring Sir Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave
James Whale directed Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, but now a stroke has taken a chunk out of his mind, and life begins to parallel his movies. Haunted by uncontrollable reminiscences of World War I and his youth, he has lost his artistic skills and reason to live. Whale uses his flagrant homosexuality to seduce his lawn man, dumb as a hammer Clay Boone. An ex-Marine dropout and confirmed heterosexual, Boone resists Whale’s advances, but accepts him as a friend, realizing both are essentially alone in the world. Whale prods Boone, hoping to provoke the violence necessary to end his misery. When Boone refuses to kill him, James Whale end his own life by drowning.
This film is a technically complex interweaving of the present, the film versions of Frankenstein, and the flashbacks that invade Whale’s mind and motivate the plot. Lynn Redgrave gives a furious performance as a the housekeeper completely repulsed by Whale’s sexuality, yet fiercely loyal in her role as Igor to Whale’s Frankenstein. Clay Boone remains sympathetic as the hard luck Monster who still has his standards — ” I am not a bugger!” The cinematic parallels are compelling, while the plots is packed with a sly humor and an occasional brain transplant.
It isn’t until well after you leave the movie house that you realize that the culmination of Whale’s blatant flirtation of Boone is not for sexual release, but release from the prison of his ruined mind. Lacking the courage to either live with or end his life, he attempts the entrapment and ruination of his newest and only remaining friend. Both god and monster, Whale’s life becomes the comedy of death he himself produced at the pinnacle of his professional career.