1996 film directed by Greg Spence
Gods and Monsters is a 1998 film which recounts the (somewhat fictionalized) last days of the life of troubled film director James Whale, whose homosexuality is a central theme. It stars Ian McKellen as Whale, along with Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave, Lolita Davidovich, and David Dukes. The movie was adapted by Bill Condon (who also directed) from the novel Father of Frankenstein by Christopher Bram. It was executive produced by famed British horror novelist Clive Barker.
The film features reconstructions of the filming of Bride of Frankenstein, a movie Whale directed. The title comes from a line in Bride of Frankenstein, in which the character Dr. Pretorius toasts Dr. Frankenstein, "To a new world of gods and monsters."
It is more than a decade after James Whale (McKellen), director of Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein has retired and lives with his loyal housemaid, Hanna (Redgrave), who disapproves of his gay lifestyle. Whale has suffered a series of strokes that have left him fragile and tormented by memories of his past, growing up as a poor outcast, his World War I service and filming The Bride of Frankenstein. Whale indulges in his fantasies, reminiscing of gay pool parties and toys with a starstruck fan who comes to interview him. Whale also battles depression knowing his life is slipping away and the diagnosis that his stroke damage grows worse, at times contemplating suicide.
Whale befriends gardener, former Marine Clayton Boone (Fraser) and the two begin a sometimes uneasy friendship as Boone poses for Whale's sketches. The two bond while discussing their lives and dealing with the spells of disorientation and weakness from the strokes. Boone, impressed with Whale's fame, watches The Bride of Frankenstein on TV as his friends mock the movie, his friendship with Whale and Whale's intentions. After impressing on Whale he is straight and receiving assurance from Whale he has no interest in him, Boone storms out when Whale graphically discusses his sexual history. Boone later returns with the agreement that no such discussion occur again. Boone escorts Whale to a party hosted by Princess Margaret where a photo op has been arranged with Whale and "His Monsters", Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester. Whale realizes he is but a footnote in cinematic history, which only exacerbates his depression and uses a sudden rain storm as an excuse to leave.
Back home Whale persuades Boone to pose nude for him, however, uses the opportunity to make a brazen advance on Boone, kissing him and grabbing his penis. Boone becomes predictably enraged and attacks Whale, who confesses that this had been his plan and begs Boone to kill him to relieve him of his suffering. Boone refuses, puts Whale to bed then sleeps downstairs. The next morning Hanna is alarmed when she can't find Whale, prompting a search by she and Boone. Boone finds Whale floating dead in the pool, as a distraught Hanna runs out clutching a suicide note.
The film closes roughly a decade in the future as Boone and his son watch The Bride of Frankenstein on TV. His son is skeptical of his father's claim that he knew Whale and is impressed when shown a sketch of the Frankenstein monster signed, "To Clayton. Friend?".
James Whale did have several men (and women) pose for him nude, and some of these are shown in the making-of featurette. Several of his paintings were bought by a collector and loaned to the studio for the making of this film.
James Whale did suffer from strokes towards the end of his life, which affected his mental abilities, and was found dead in his pool. There were rumors that this was a homicide, but the evidence only pointed at suicide. It is a matter of speculation if Whale had any assistance in his suicide.
Whale's household might have hired a male gardener, but what sort of relationship he had with his employer is in the realm of speculation. In the documentary included on the DVD and in interviews, novelist Christopher Bram admits that the character of Clay Boone is completely fictitious.
1996 film directed by Greg Spence
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