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F Entries
Federico Fellini
Richard Fleischer
Louise Fletcher
D.C. Fontana
Anne Francis
Joanna Frank
John Frankenheimer
Brendan Fraser
 
FRANKENHEIMER, JOHN
(1930–2002). American director.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Directed: "The Turn of the Screw" (and produced) (1959), episode of Ford Startime; The Manchurian Candidate (and produced; and co-wrote, uncredited) (1962); Seven Days in May (and produced) (1964); Seconds (1966); Prophecy (1979); "Maniac at Large" (1989), episode of Tales from the Crypt; The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996).
 
In the 1960s, young and fresh from an apprenticeship in the constrained but energizing medium of live television, John Frankenheimer directed a trilogy of contemporary thrillers, all on the borderline of science fiction, that have stood the test of time remarkably well. Probably the most celebrated of these is his drama of a war hero brainwashed to become an assassin, The Manchurian Candidate, long unavailable for viewing before making a triumphant return to theaters. But Seven Days in May, his meticulous and darkly persuasive account of a planned military takeover of the United States government, is an equally engrossing indoor drama, and few films are as disturbing and deliberately unsettling as Seconds, the story of an aging businessman given a handsome new face and new career by a sinisterly clandestine organization. Intelligently paranoid, crisply edited, visually imaginative, and distinguished by career-best performances from unlikely stars like Frank Sinatra and Rock HUDSON, these are films that seemingly marked Frankenheimer as a emerging directorial genius.

Unfortunately, Frankenheimer was mastering the low-budget, claustrophobic, black-and-white film just at the time when Hollywood was permanently committing itself to expensive, expansive, full-color productions. Thus, he was obliged to adjust his talents, with mixed success, to glossy spectacles like Grand Prix (1966), The French Connection II (1975), and Black Sunday (1977). It was also around this time that Frankenheimer, by his own later reports, was sinking into self-destructive alcoholism, which could provide one explanation for the astounding ineptitude of his next venture into the fantastic, Prophecy. Badly out of his element in the remote forests of Maine, and burdened with an unusually weak cast (Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante), Frankenheimer was completely unable to bring any sense of conviction or panache to this silly story about a monstrous bear on the rampage. The Medved brothers gave Prophecy a Golden Turkey Award as "The Most Unbearable Bear Movie Ever Made," and it is hard to say that the honor was undeserved.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a recovering Frankenheimer returned to his original home, television, directing an episode of Tales from the Crypt and several well-received television movies that earned him Emmy Awards and new respect. In the midst of a troubled production, he was then brought in to serve as the director of another genre film, The Island of Dr. Moreau, this time with results that were merely disappointing, not disastrous. Despite its horrific theme, there is an odd air of listlessness about the film, as if everyone involved in the project wasn't much interested in it (especially stars Marlon Brando and Val KILMER), and it again places Frankenheimer in an unsuitably uncivilized environment. Had he been involved from the start, Frankenheimer might have fruitfully harkened back to old glories by junking H. G. WELLS's antiquated wilderness setting and placing Dr. Moreau in a gigantic office complex surrounded by fences and security guards, directing a top-secret government research program in bioengineering that is gradually uncovered by a stubborn investigative reporter. For the wild men in Frankenheimer's best films prowl through the corridors of power, not the jungle.

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