Director James Whale is best known for his 30’s horror films, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, and their sublime mix of horror and comedy. In this beautifully observed portrait, Ian McKellan plays the filmmaker living in comfortable retirement at his Hollywood home. His stern but supportive housekeeper, Lynn Redgrave, cares for him loyally in spite of her disapproval of his homosexual relationships. When handsome gardener Clayton Boone appears, Whale asks him to pose for his sketching. He is suspicious of the director’s motives but reluctantly agrees and becomes increasingly fascinated by the older man’s tales of former Hollywood, growing to admire as well as pity his now ailing, one-time famous employer.
Through use of flashbacks to World War 1 (in which Whale served), to the shooting of Bride and excerpts from the film itself, we are given some insight into the world of this neglected director. The monster serves as metaphor throughout and while there are some questions around the focus of Condon’s portrayal, the film certainly brings a memorable creation to life.
US, 1998. Colour. 105 min. Drama. Director: Bill Condon