Gods and Monsters (1998)


Gods and Monsters is a 1998 period drama film that recounts the partly fictionalised last days of the life of film director James Whale, whose experience of war in World War I is a central theme.

Whale had directed The Road Back (1937), a sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Not So Quiet on the Western Front is a 1930 British comedy film whose title is a reference to All Quiet on the Western Front.

A new adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front was released in 1979.


In the 1950s, James Whale, the director of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, has retired. Whale lives with his long-time housemaid, Hanna, who loyally cares for him but disapproves of his homosexuality. He 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 Bride of Frankenstein. Whale slips into his past, and indulges in his fantasies, reminiscing about gay pool parties and sexually teasing an embarrassed, starstruck fan. He battles depression, at times contemplating suicide, as he realises his life, his attractiveness, and his health are slipping away.

Whale befriends his young, handsome gardener, 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 Bride of Frankenstein on television 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 George Cukor for 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 Whale’s 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. An enraged Boone 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 cannot 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 Bride of Frankenstein on television. The son is sceptical 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.


  • Ian McKellen as James Whale.
  • Brandon Kleyla as young James.
  • Kent George as 25-year-old James.
  • Brendan Fraser as Clayton Boone.
  • Lynn Redgrave as Hanna.
  • Lolita Davidovich as Betty.
  • Jack Plotnick as Edmund Kay.
  • Matt McKenzie as Colin Clive.
  • David Dukes as David Lewis.
  • Rosalind Ayres as Elsa Lanchester.
  • Jack Betts as Boris Karloff.
  • Martin Ferrero as George Cukor.
  • Marlon Braccia as Elizabeth Taylor.
  • Amir Aboulela as The Monster.
  • Cornelia Hayes O’Herlihy as Princess Margaret.
  • Jesse James as Michael Boone.
  • Arthur Dignam as Ernest Thesiger (uncredited).


  • An international co-production between the United Kingdom and the United States, the film is written and directed by Bill Condon, based on Christopher Bram’s 1995 novel Father of Frankenstein.
  • Gods and Monsters 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).
  • The film features reconstructions of the production of the 1935 film Bride of Frankenstein, which Whale directed.
  • The title Gods and Monsters is derived from a scene 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 adapted as a play of the same name which premiered in London at the Southwark Playhouse in February 2015.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Bill Conden.
  • Producer(s): Paul Colichman, Gregg Fienberg, and Mark R. Harris.
  • Writer(s): Bill Conden.
  • Music: Carter Burwell.
  • Cinematography: Stephen M. Katz.
  • Editor(s): Virginia Katz.
  • Production: Showtime, Regent Entertainment, and BBC Films.
  • Distributor(s): Lionsgate Films.
  • Release Date: 21 January 1998 (Sundance Film Festival).
  • Running Time: 105 minutes.
  • Country: UK and US.
  • Language: English.


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