MR STITCH (1995)
"I have thoughts inside my head that are not my own. I have emotion which does not belong to me. You made a mistake. "
Director: Roger Avary
Starring: Wil Wheaton, Rutger Hauer, Nia Peeples, Ron PerIman, Taylor Negron, Michael Harris
Screenplay: Roger Avary
Synopsis: Dr Rue Wakernan (Rutger Hauer) creates an artificial person from the bodies of eighty-eight people of both sexes and all races. The creature, dubbed Number Three (Wil Wheaton), has no memory, but has been given a "databank" of information and a working mind. Still swathed in bandages, Three undergoes physical rehabilitation, finally emerging with great strength and violent impulses. The creature begins to suffer nightmares, and after one such attack, destroys the surveillance eye that watches it constantly, and severely beats the attendants who try to subdue it. To placate his creation, Dr Wakernan promises Three that it may remove its bandages and read works of fiction. Three reads the Bible, and afterwards decides that it is male, and chooses the name Lazarus. Dr Wakeman attaches a recording device to Lazarus' brain to record its activity while he sleeps, but after another violent nightmare Lazarus destroys the machine. He claims that his "dreams" are actually residual memories from the people he was created from, and that there is a flaw in his design. He refuses to work with Dr Wakeman any more. Dr Elizabeth English (Nia Peeples), a psychiatrist, is sent to him instead; the two get along well. Dr English is startled when Lazarus uses a colloquialism that was not in his database, and becomes distressed when he quotes Dr Texadan (Ron Perlman), who designed his brain. Dr English hypnotises Lazarus, and contacts a dark personality that is not his. When Dr Wakeman banishes Dr English from the project, Lazarus breaks out of confinement and goes in search of the truth about himself.
Comments: Roger Avary's Mr Stitch makes no bones about its derivation from "Frankenstein": the screenplay acknowledges its debt in the very first scene. The film's greatest success is in articulating that portion of the novel which no-one since Mary Shelley has shown much interest in, the intellectual development of the artificially created man. The verbal jousting between Rutger Hauer's equivocating Dr Wakernan and Wil Wheaton's uncompromising Lazarus contains some thoughtful and clever writing. Unfortunately, once this two-person play tries to expand its themes, Mr Stitch becomes first confusing, then just plain silly. Next to nothing is made of Lazarus' inhabitance by the people who went into his creation, or of the entity "of the darkness" who exists behind them. Another problem is the script's carelessness with regards to time. One of Lazarus' residual memories involves Elizabeth English telling her lover, Frederick Texadan, that she's pregnant. By the end of the story, Dr Texadan has been killed, parts of him have ended up in Lazarus, Lazarus has undergone full physical and mental rehabilitation, and Dr English has recovered from her lover's death, but her waistline hasn't budged an inch. However, the film's major shortcoming is that in trying to find an explanation for Lazarus' creation, Avary has fallen back upon that creaky old chestnut, the corruption of a scientific project for military purposes. Lazarus, we find, is part of an experiment to design the "perfect killing machine". Now, while I'm prepared to believe almost anything of the military, even I have a problem swallowing that one. (At any rate, at a cost of eighty-eight dead people and a billion dollars, Lazarus had better be perfect, because I can't see Congress approving too many more of him.) It is at this point that the story really falls apart, helped along by a truly dreadful performance by Michael Harris as General Hardcastle, the resident military psychotic. Lazarus' flight from captivity has an arresting sequence when he encounters the disembodied parts that will go into his successor, Number Four; the artificially animated head has mismatched eyes, as Lazarus does, their colours reversed; but once Lazarus escapes into the outside world, the story degenerates into a juvenile parade of car chases and random violence, and throws away whatever interest it had left. Wil Wheaton's appearance as Lazarus, a subdued effort by Tom Savini, who has a cameo, is impressive but not particularly convincing; the inclusion in his structure of a long fingernail with red polish is totally gratuitous. More interesting is the stark white on white on white design of the interiors during the early sequences, its uniformity broken only by the black of Lazarus' couch/bed, and the eruption of yellow when Lazarus destroys the floating eye.