Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein

frankensteins-monsters-monster-frankenstein

From John Levenstein, one of the writers of Arrested Development back when it was on Fox and still good, comes this quite strange one off comedy starring David Harbour of Stranger Things fame. Harbour not only stars as himself but also as his Orson Welles-esque father David Harbour III and in it he explores the last tv play that his father supposedly starred in, Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein, and tries to find out more about the man and his life.

At the beginning Harbour explains how his father produced “televised theatricals”, but what we get here is something that looks like the Dark Shadows tv series from the sixties (rather than Tim Burton’s shitty film attempt) what with it being a soapy affair with a cheap attempt at a gothic set and supernatural characters. Much of the footage from the production is filled with pretentious dialogue as we soon learn that the two leads Harbour III and Joey Vallejo (Alex Ozerov) hated each other, and so they end up ad-libbing and trying to out act each other.

Parts of it are a spoof of Orson Welles acting, pomposity and career in general (the adverts especially being rather pointed), but it also serves as a mockery of the kind of cheap genre fare that you used to get on tv, and any actor who has ever taken themselves too seriously (which at a guess is about sixty eight percent of them). They also have fun playing around with various concepts like Chekhov’s Gun, while all of the behind scenes footage with Harbour exploring the life of his father serves to show how forced documentaries can be at times, and how often faked drama can be built up only to be instantly deflated.

Kate Berlant and Alfred Molina also pop up in the fabricated tv show and are clearly having a ball when it comes to overacting on purpose, while the talking heads we see Harbour Jnr interact with are good value too, Michael Lerner of Barton Fink fame especially. But it’s Harbour himself who provides the greatest value for money, I’d always found him a little one note in the past but was enormously impressed with his take on his supposed father’s pomposity, and he’s created a quite unique character with impressive skill, becoming more and more outlandish and egotistical throughout the show.

It’s perhaps not outstanding material but it is extremely entertaining, the dialogue shines throughout ( with the repetition of the phrase “And that’s how I got in to Juilliard” having a particularly great pay off) and the things it sends up are mocked in a refreshingly intelligent manner. Admittedly it’s quite the oddity and not the sort of thing you’d expect Netflix to make, especially as it’s an one off, but I hope it’s a sign of them becoming more experimental and I’d definitely like to see them create further rather unusual shows like this in the future.

Alex Finch.
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