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A Dean Koontz inspried Beauty and the Frankenstein Monster failed TV pilot
on September 26, 2005
The first thing you need to know about this particular "Frankenstein" is that it the pilot for an aborted USA Network series based on concepts and characters by Dean Koontz. However, Koontz and USA apparently came to a parting of the waysd with two significant results: Koontz's name disappeared from the USA project and the author wrote a series of novels with Kevin J. Anderson, the first of which, "Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, Book One: Prodigal Son," appears to cover a lot of the same ground (but I have not read it and therefore can not speak to specific differences). This may well be enough information to forestall Koontz's fans from watching this pilot movie and proceeding directly to the novels. But I like pilots and tend to watch as many as I can because I find them intrinsically interesting.
The premise of this "Frankenstein" is basically that Mary Shelley got most of the story right and changed some names. In the novel Frankenstein brings his creation to life and then abandons him, with the latter being his greater sin for which he and his family must pay. In this pilot the doctor is now named Victor Helios (Thomas Krestchmann), the filthy rich owner of a biotech company in New Orleans. Helios has found ways of keeping himself alive for several centuries and has been continuing his experiments with an eye towards replacing flawed humanity with his master race spawned in his company's vats. Helios even gets to program his creations as he desires and has just come up with a new version of his wife, Erika (Ivana Milicevic). A good question here is whether "Frankenstein" still applied to the doctor, as in the novel, or to his creation, as in pop culture, but it does not matter because both are here.
The first creation is now called Deucalion (Vincent Perez), and while the name comes from classical mythology it is not, as you might suspect, one associated with Prometheus. As you will recall, Prometheus created the first humans in Greek mythology and the subtitle of Shelley's novel was "The Modern Prometheus." Decaulion, on the other hand, is the Greek counterpart to Noah, who survives the great flood with his wife Pyrrha and repopulates the world. However, to the extent that he is the first human to have a name in mythology, Decaulion has that in common with Adam as well. Since Helios (the name of the god of the sun, son of Hyperion) is the villain, that allows Decaulion to be the heroic figure. This is necessary because there are a whole bunch of Helios creations running around and one of them appears to be a serial killer.
Working on the case are Detective Carson O'Conner (Parker Posey) and her partner Detective Michael Sloane (Adam Goldberg), and once Carson and Decaulion start running into each other on a regular basis you are going to have to make a point of reminding yourself this is "Frankenstein" and not "Beauty and the Beast" (the Vincent and Catharine one on television and not the Disney musical one that was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar). This is key because that gives you a better sense of the dynamic of this would-be series than having watched all of the Universal films regarding Frankenstein. Also involved in the case and its developments is Detective Harker, and since he is played by Michael Madsen you know this is not a good sign. There is more to the serial killer than meets the eyes, and we find out some interesting things about these creations that would have implications for the series that this pilot never got off the ground.
As much as I like Posey as an actress with strong Independent credibility and Goldberg as comic relief in just about everything he does, they really seem too young to be detectives. I also have some questions as to how Helios can create enough of his creatures to keep up with the birth rate in New Orleans let along the state of Louisiana, the former states of the Confederacy, the United States, North American, the Western Hemisphere and eventually the entire world, because I tried doing the math and I do not see it working out that way. The script by John Shiban, who worked as both a writer and a producer on "The X-Files," certainly sets up sufficient premises for an on-going series, but I do not know if it is a good thing when I find myself more interested in the relationship between Helios and Erika than the one between Decaulion and Catherine, er, I mean Carson.
The reason I ended up rounding up on this one in the end is because I liked the look of the film, not just in terms of Leslie Keel's art direction, but also the efforts of director Marcus Nispel. His updated version of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" creeped me out, which is a pretty good accomplishment given more of the jetsam and flotsam out there in the world of contemporary horror films. Take into account that he is doing this for television (albeit cable) and not a theatrical film and the results are pretty impressive. There is a great look to the film and Nispel is again working with cinematographer Daniel Pearl to come up with some interesting shots, so if you do not think that style over substance is an inherently bad thing that would be another reason to give this "Frankenstein" a try (and if you really want the substance the Koontz-Anderson novels are out there waiting for you).