My Fair Hunchback
released OUT NOW! 12a | 110 minutes Director Paul mcGuigan Cast James mcavoy, daniel radcliffe, andrew scott, Jessica brown Findlay
Have we reached peak Frankenstein?
From Penny Dreadful to The Frankenstein Chronicles to Bernard Rose’s imminent contemporary take – Frank3n5t31n, as the poster has it – it feels like there’s a surplus of reanimated body parts out there of late.
So the fact that Victor Frankenstein opens with the words “You know this story – the crack of lightning, a mad genius, an unholy creation” feels like a clear provocation, a promise of something fresh, just as the film’s title demands we shift our attention from monster to man (surely every half-decent Frankenstein movie is the story of the man?).
Max Landis’s breathless screenplay shunts the creature to the final reel, making it the pay-off rather than the premise, foregrounding the friendship between its creator and his lab assistant, Igor, a character the movie aims to reclaim from decades as a stock comedy archetype. “You’re not a clown, you’re a physician,” Victor tells his curious new associate, looking beyond the chalk face and the Tim Burton hair.
It’s Pygmalion with stolen limbs, essentially, as James McAvoy – a swaggering, devilish Victor, with just a pinch of Withnail – rescues Daniel Radcliffe’s hunchback from an Elephant Man-like existence in the circus, determined to shape him into a gentleman (“Cutlery. Use it. Wipe your hands,” he commands, like Henry Higgins with a sideline in corpse-bothering). It’s McAvoy who powers the film, never less than magnetic and passionate. For all his goth boy melancholy Radcliffe feels just a little eclipsed by him, though he brings a nice line in blank-faced innocence, like a put-upon silent film star.
Director Paul McGuigan riffs on the inventive visual tics he pioneered on Sherlock – Victor’s gaze overlays anatomical sketches on people’s bodies – and relishes a good Grand Guignol shudder (a pair of eyeballs suspended in jelly twitch open, while one of Victor’s early experiments is an effectively hideous collision between roadkill
There’s nothing here that feels truly new
and Meccano). Andrew Scott’s turn as an evangelical police inspector – flinty and understated, a world away from Moriarty – allows the film to explore the rich theological implications of monster making.
There’s some pleasing design work – Victor’s lab is pure industrial gothic, full of steam and cogwheels, while Victorian London has a model theatre charm – and moments of swashbuckling energy and sardonic humour that lift the overfamiliar tale.
But just as the final reveal of Victor’s creation echoes Dave Prowse’s scarred golem in Hammer’s The Horror Of Frankenstein, there’s nothing here that feels truly new, that entirely persuades you this tale needed to be told again.
The hunchbacked lab assistant in 1931’s Frankenstein was Fritz. The first with an Ygor was Son Of Frankenstein (1939).
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