Frankenweenie 3D (PG)
Tim Burton flashes back almost 30 years to revisit his earliest influences in Frankenweenie, a feature-length update of a short film he made way back in 1984.
Aside from evidence of sharper animation techniques and a different cast not much has changed. It’s still in black-and-white, still too creepy for kids (the original was censored by Disney) and still boasting that trademark Burton brand of dark whimsy.
A companion piece to both The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie is the tale of science geek Victor Frankenstein who brings his dog Sparky back to life after it has been knocked down by a car.
But in Burton’s hands the story harks back to the Thirties adventures of Boris Karloff as first the local kids get in on the act and then the townsfolk of New Holland chase Sparky through the streets shouting ‘Kill the monster!’ as it heads toward the sanctuary of a windmill.
Burton knows his film heritage and Frankenweenie is liberally dosed with sly references to the great frighteners of the past. Victor’s schoolmaster (voiced by Martin Landau) is a dead ringer for Vincent Price. There are clips of Christopher Lee as Dracula on the TV. And a rival dog to Sparky sees its fur turn into a frizzy bouffant à la Elsa Lanchester’s Bride of Frankenstein when it gets a jolt of electricity from the bolt in Sparky’s neck. Nice touch.
In truth the picture is laden with nods to those great old shockers and the faces that made them such crowd-pleasers. And as the kids go on to create their own monsters there are nudge-nudge connections to Gremlins and Godzilla, whilst Edgar the hunchbacked kid is a link to mad-eyed Renfield from 1931’s Dracula.
However the fun and in-jokes don’t necessarily translate into a winner. Frankenweenie resembles what it is: a short film padded out to make a feature. Though it runs only 87 minutes it doesn’t survive the operation.
Burton buffs will love it.