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Jeff's Review of:
Gods and Monsters

December 31, 1998

1998, 1 hr 45 min., Rated R for sexual material and language. Dir: Bill Condon. Cast: Ian McKellen (James "Jimmy" Whale), Brendan Fraser (Clay Boone), Lynn Redgrave (Hanna).

Gods and Monsters is a movie that few have heard of, but most should be because it will be a major player in the Golden Globes and Oscars. It already won Best Picture by the National Board of Review and Ian McKellen deservedly won Best Actor from the NBR and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Lynn Redgrave has also been nominated for a Golden Globe, as is McKellen. Why all the hoopla? Because the acting in Gods and Monsters is first-rate.

The title? Borrowed from a line in Whale's The Bride of Frankenstein, "To a new world of gods and monsters!" spoken by the mad scientist in a toast to his genius. We see several clips of the movie as the director of Gods, Bill Condon, ever-so-subtlely tries to relate the psychology of the monster with Whale's failing health and mind.

The plot revolves around the life of James "Jimmy" Whale, a real-life Hollywood director (Frankenstein, The Man in the Iron Mask and Showboat are examples of his work) who was also openly gay before it was chic. He died mysteriously in a pool drowning in 1957, and Gods and Monsters speculates as to the events in his final days.

Fraser is gardner Clay Boone, a former Marine who is very much the tough-guy heterosexual, who becomes the object of lust for Whale, a recluse who stayed away from the Hollywood establishment for the last 16 years of his life. Boone also has the "look" of the monster (remember, Frankenstein is the scientist, the monster had no name): a big strong body with a flat-top haircut that projects a square jaw for an imposing figure in the shadows.

The relation of Boone as the monster becomes more apparent as we see Whale feel the effects of his stroke in that he has frequent flashbacks to periods of his life best left alone. But Whale cannot keep the memories suppressed, re-living his horrible experiences of World War I in the trenches and seeing his first love die and rot between the armies. Not all memories are nightmarish, as Whale also remembers how he flourished in the 30s, making great movies and "bare-buttocked" boys frolicking around the swimming pool.

Redgrave is exceptional as Hanna, Whale's loyal servant who is a devout Catholic and knows that her master is destined for hell. But she remains faithful, with a clear affection for Whale, and has seen the pattern of young men being sought by him too many times. Such as the young, flaming gay boy from a local college newspaper, who must play "strip life-poker", removing a piece of clothing for each answer.

I wouldn't say it's in my top ten of the year, but I will say it was a good film, made so by the great talents of the actors and the development of the characters. McKellen is masterful, and deserves any awards he can reap.

The verdict: geocities archive -- Top-notch acting, interesting storyline.

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