American TV producer Hunt Stromberg Jnr. wanted to make a definitive version of the Frankenstein story which was faithful to Mary Shelley’s classic 19th-century novel. Given the green light by Universal, he recruited Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy to develop the script and selected Jack Smight as director.
Production on the three-hour movie took place in the UK at Pinewood Studios with location shooting at a Kensington hospital and around Denham and Bray. Principal filming commenced in March 1973 and wrapped in the early summer.
In a spin from the old fable, here the creature (Michael Sarrazin) had intellect and beauty (although he slowly decays) giving the relationship between Frankenstein (Leonard Whiting) and his creation a strong homoerotic subtext.
David McCallum played Frankenstein’s mentor, the drunken and abrupt Henri Clerval with Nicola Pagett as Frankenstein’s fiancée Elizabeth. Jane Seymour had a dual role as the doomed peasant girl Agatha and the female creature Prima.
Supporting and cameo performers included Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, Agnes Moorhead, Tom Baker and Yootha Joyce.
Frankenstein: The True Story was released in UK cinemas in 1974 (with a reduced running time of 123 minutes) and eventually broadcast on BBC2 on Saturday 27 December 1975 as one long film (shown between 8:20 pm and 11:15 pm).
In America, it was broadcast on television in two 90-minute parts on consecutive nights (Friday 30 November and Saturday 1 December 1973).
Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy were displeased with the finished film and published their own version of their screenplay in novel form as Dr Frankenstein in 1973.
Dr Victor Frankenstein
Dr Henri Clerval
Dr John Polidori
Sir Richard Fanshawe