Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (1990)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.  

USA, 1990.  The Mount Company.  Screenplay by Roger Corman, F.X. Feeney, based on the novel by Brian Aldiss.  Cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi, Michael Scott.  Produced by Roger Corman, Kobi Jaeger, Thom Mount.  Music by Carl Davis.  Production Design by Enrico Tovaglieri.  Costume Design by Franca Zucchelli.  Film Editing by Mary Bauer, Jay Cassidy.  

Roger Corman returns to directing after almost twenty years (at least with onscreen credit), his choice of project one that is well in line with the horror films that made him famous.  This modern twist on Mary Shelley’s oft-filmed tale stars John Hurt as a scientist in 2031 who invents a high-tech weapon that comes with a few side effects.  While it effectively destroys its target, it also causes rifts in time that part the clouds in the sky and suck people into other periods of history, in Hurt’s case transporting him and his funky electronic talking car to early nineteenth century Switzerland.   His biggest problem is getting back home until he meets a man named Frankenstein (Raul Julia) who has also created something with its downside, having figured out the way to reanimate dead flesh but accidentally creating a monster in doing so.  Attending the trial of a young woman accused of witchcraft, Hurt meets Mary Shelley herself (Bridget Fonda) who introduces him to Byron and Percy Shelley (Jason Patric, Michael Hutchence) and this is where the film really becomes an incomprehensible mess.  Aside from the insult to Mary Shelley’s imagination, suggesting that she merely wrote down something she witnessed and wasn’t actually a gifted story teller, this film is confused about which narrative thread or theme is its main concern, eventually ignoring its various strands and devolving into a chase with the monster.  The final scene is beautifully shot in a futuristic lab with funky lighting, but most of the modern tech stuff is too cheesy for words, and Julia gives the most spirited and least confused performance.  Nick Brimble simply inspires pity as the monster, having to make something of that terrible makeup and inconsistent dialogue (sometimes he’s a henchman, sometimes he’s a thoughtless monster, sometimes a philosopher).

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