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Gods and Monsters (film)

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Title: Gods and Monsters (film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Bill Condon, 71st Academy Awards, 1998 in film, 3rd Golden Satellite Awards, National Board of Review Awards 1998
Collection: 1990S Drama Films, 1990S Lgbt-Related Films, 1998 Films, American Biographical Films, American Drama Films, American Films, American Lgbt-Related Films, British Biographical Films, British Drama Films, British Films, British Lgbt-Related Films, English-Language Films, Film Scores by Carter Burwell, Films About Filmmaking, Films About Suicide, Films Based on American Novels, Films Based on Novels, Films Directed by Bill Condon, Films Featuring a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe Winning Performance, Films Set in California, Films Set in the 1950S, Films Shot in California, Films Whose Writer Won the Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award, Independent Spirit Award for Best Film Winners, Lgbt-Related Drama Films, Lions Gate Entertainment Films, Screenplays by Bill Condon
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Gods and Monsters (film)

Gods and Monsters
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bill Condon
Produced by Paul Colichman
Gregg Fienberg
Mark R. Harris
Screenplay by Bill Condon
Based on Father of Frankenstein 
by Christopher Bram
Starring Ian McKellen
Brendan Fraser
Lynn Redgrave
Matt McKenzie
Arthur Dignam
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Stephen M. Katz
Edited by Virginia Katz
Distributed by Lions Gate Films
Release dates
  • January 21, 1998 (1998-01-21) (Sundance)
  • November 4, 1998 (1998-11-04) (United States)
  • March 26, 1999 (1999-03-26) (United Kingdom)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $10 million[1]
Box office $6,451,628

Gods and Monsters is a 1998 British-American drama film that recounts the (somewhat fictionalized) last days of the life of troubled film director James Whale, whose experience of war in World War One is a central theme. It stars Ian McKellen as Whale, along with Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave, Lolita Davidovich, and David Dukes. The movie was directed and written by Bill Condon from Christopher Bram's novel Father of Frankenstein. It was executive produced by British horror novelist Clive Barker.

The film won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Ian McKellen) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Lynn Redgrave).[2]

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!"

The story has also been turned into a play of the same title which premiered in London at the Southwark Playhouse in February 2015.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Reception 3
  • Real life basis 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The story opens in the 1950s, after the Korean War; it has been more than a decade since James Whale, director of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, has retired. He lives with his long-time housemaid, Hanna, who loyally cares for him but disapproves of his homosexuality. Whale has suffered a series of strokes that have left him fragile and tormented by memories: growing up as a poor outcast, his tragic World War I service, and the filming of The Bride of Frankenstein. Whale slips into his past, and indulges in his fantasies, reminiscing about gay pool parties and also sexually teasing an embarrassed, starstruck fan who comes to interview him. Whale battles depression, at times contemplating suicide, as he realizes his life, his attractiveness, and his health are slipping away.

Whale befriends his young, handsome gardener and former Marine, Clayton Boone and the two begin a sometimes uneasy friendship as Boone poses for Whale's sketches. The two men bond while discussing their lives and dealing with Whale's 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.

Boone assures Whale that he is straight and receives assurance from Whale that there is no sexual interest, but Boone storms out when Whale graphically discusses his sexual history. Boone later returns with the agreement that no such "locker room" discussions occur again. Boone is invited to escort Whale to a party hosted by Princess Margaret. There, a photo op has been arranged for Whale with "his Monsters": Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester from "ancient" movie fame. This event exacerbates his depression. A sudden rain storm becomes an excuse to leave.

Back at Whale's home, Boone needs a dry change of clothes. Whale can only find a sweater, so Boone wears a towel wrapped around his waist. Whale decides to try to sketch Boone one more time. After some minutes, he shows his sketches to Boone, disclosing that he has lost his ability to draw. After Boone drops his towel to pose nude, Whale makes him wear a World War I gas mask and then uses the opportunity to make a sexual advance on Boone, kissing his shoulder. Boone becomes 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 Boone and Hanna. Boone finds Whale floating dead in the pool, as a distraught Hanna runs out clutching a suicide note. Boone and Hanna agree that Boone should disappear from the scene to avoid a scandal.

The film closes roughly a decade later as Boone and his young son, Michael, watch The Bride of Frankenstein on television. The son is skeptical of his father's claim that he knew Whale, but Clayton produces a sketch of the Frankenstein monster drawn by Whale, and signed, "To Clayton. Friend?" "Friend?", being a plea from the original misfit, Frankenstein's monster, and disclosing Whale's true intentions.



Gods and Monsters received positive reviews from critics, with McKellen's and Redgrave's performances singled out for particular praise. Time Out called it "not a complicated film, but warm and clever".[3]

The film has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 52 reviews. The site's critical consensus states: "Gods and Monsters is a spellbinding, confusing piece of semi-fiction, featuring fine performances; McKellen leads the way, but Redgrave and Fraser don't lag far behind."[4] The film holds a 74 Metascore on Metacritic, based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[5]

Real life basis

James Whale did have several men (and women) pose nude for him, 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.

Whale did suffer from strokes towards the end of his life, which affected his mental abilities, and was found dead in his pool.[6] There were rumours that this was a homicide, but the evidence only pointed at suicide.[7] 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 explains that the character of Clayton Boone is completely fictitious.[8]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Time Out Retrieved 20 May 2010
  4. ^ Gods and Monsters at Rotten Tomatoes
  5. ^ Gods and Monsters at Metacritic
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^

External links

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