Gods And Monsters

Ian McKellen stars in and dominates Gods And Monsters, an adaptation of Christopher Bram's novel Father Of Frankenstein, which recounts the last days of director James Whale. An openly gay director when that term had little meaning, Whale directed a handful of classic horror films (Frankenstein, Bride Of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Old Dark House) and more than a few others, including the 1933 version of Showboat with Paul Robeson. After more or less leaving the business under less than amicable terms in the early '40s, Whale lived a comfortable, if forgotten, existence until, already dying, he killed himself in 1957. Gods And Monsters portrays an initially uneasy, fictionalized relationship between McKellen and hunky yardman Brendan Fraser (George Of The Jungle). After Fraser agrees to pose for a drawing, Fraser and McKellen strike up a friendship that begins as an uncomfortably one-sided flirtation but ends up becoming deeper for both men. While McKellen's sharp performance provides the main attraction, the film wouldn't work without both Fraser, who brings something extra to a character who could easily have been a mere lunk, and director Bill Condon's careful integration of larger themes. Flashbacks to McKellen's difficult Welsh upbringing and time as a WWI officer get at the roots of horror, making the drama of his final days—when the past unexpectedly floods back and he begins to make addled sense of his life—especially moving.

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