Flawed but interesting
Until this film, no other version of FRANKENSTEIN came close to actually telling the story found in Mary Shelley's novel. (No criticism to the popular and highly entertaining films of Universal and Hammer made up to that point! They simply borrowed some of Shelley's concepts and worked them into new narratives, rather than actually adapt the novel.) However, a low budget, uneven performances and, in some places, ponderous pacing do harm what could have been a minor masterpiece. And there remains the unanswered question: After taking great pains to follow the novel, why leave out a major plot point like the execution of Justine, and why drop the novel's title? (Instead of FRANKENSTEIN or MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN, the film has always played under the titles VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN and TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN.) Given the Arctic sequences that bookend the film, maybe it was appropriate that the first time I saw this was on TV in the midst of a blizzard!
Filmmakers Calvin and Yvonne Floyd had not originally intended this to be an adaptation of Mary Shelley's classic. Instead, it was to be the second feature-length documentary based on the works of Radu Florescu and Raymond T. McNally. In 1975, the Floyds had filmed the Florescu/McNally book IN SEARCH OF DRACULA, which looked at the vampire count in film and fiction, as well as the historical Dracula, Prince Vlad Tepes. Florescu and McNally followed up their best seller with IN SEARCH OF FRANKENSTEIN, exploring the historical and philosophical influences that inspired Mary Shelley's masterpiece. As the Floyds began to research a film version of IN SEARCH OF FRANKENSTEIN, they were surprised to find that none of the previous Frankenstein films ever made had actually used the plot of the literary classic. So, plans for doing a Frankenstein documentary were scrapped, and the decision was made to produce an authentic adaptation of the novel. And so was born VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (or TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, depending upon when and where you saw it.) Now it, like the Floyds' film IN SEARCH OF DRACULA, has been rescued from obscurity and made available on home video and DVD. The two films make for a modest but interesting double feature. Another nice companion piece would be director Jess Franco's 1970 COUNT DRACULA, starring Christopher Lee and Herbert Lom.