Director – Roger Corman
Cast – John Hurt, Raul Julia, Nick Brimble, Bridget Fonda, Catherine Rabett, Jason Patric, Michael Hutchence, Catherine Corman
Release Year – 1990
Reviewed by John of the Dead
A close friend of mine had been hounding me for quite some time to give Frankenstein Unbound a watch due to it being the zaniest of all the “Frankenstein” movies, and he was darn right about that. The final film of Roger Corman’s directing career (after a hiatus of almost 20 years), this film gives us an awesome take on Frankenstein lore thanks to a cheesy adaptation of Brian Aldiss’ novel of the same name, complimented by Corman’s ever-fun direction that did what it could to make this flawed effort an enjoyable watch.
John Hurt(Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army) stars as Dr. Joe Buchanan, a bright scientist who while creating a more destructive yet environmentally safer “atomic bomb” inadvertently opens a portal that sends him from present day 2031 America to 1817 Switzerland. As he wanders the streets of a small village he comes across a young Dr. Frankenstein, who he is very much aware of due to Frankenstein’s legend, and soon finds himself enthralled in a deadly game with Frankenstein and his monster.
I can’t say that I always prefer it, but I really liked going into this film without any idea of what the plot contained. I read no plot summary nor asked my buddy what the film entailed (although I assumed it had to do with Frankenstein), and that made for a fun and fairly exciting experience, especially when I was thinking “what the hell?” during the film’s opening sequences taking place in a futuristic society. The idea of a brilliant scientist mistakenly transporting himself to a far off land centuries in the past was a bit “out there” for me, which immediately alerted me to not take this film very seriously and just let it go its course. I really enjoy when history is thrown into horror films, and it was great to watch Dr. Buchanan marvel at the young Frankenstein and talk science with him, as well as him coming across with Mary Shelley (who was still an unmarried Mary Godwin) and speaking with her about how her future book would impact the world. Dr. Buchanan was used as a very positive character, and Frankenstein along with his monster played out their antagonistic roles, although the film’s one big fault was that the other characters were not used to full potential. Despite the importance of Mary Shelley to the Frankenstein story she only appeared sporadically during the first two acts, as did Frankenstein’s mistress – someone who could have been used to provide much conflict but was instead merely used to minimal levels. Because of this poor character usage the film did feel a bit bland at times and out of pace, however I was glad to see that Frankenstein’s monster delivered some good gory kills, and plenty of them for that matter, which was a nice touch when you compare this film to the other much less gory efforts involving this series. Overall, I enjoyed this zany story and found it an interesting way to give us Frankenstein and his lonely and maniacal monster.
Roger Corman(The Masque of the Red Death, Pit and the Pendulum, House of Usher, Tales of Terror, The Little Shop of Horrors) did a fun job directing this piece, giving us a cheesy experience with his ridiculous visual FX, live-action usage of a well-executed monster, and plenty of funny kills at just the right times. Corman showed that he still had what it took to deliver a fun watch after his long hiatus, and in addition to that he employed fine actors who excelled in their roles – including those who were not used to full potential. Some may not like Corman’s usage of the monster, portrayed by Nick Brimble, due to him not being of a truly serious variety but often comical at times, although he did manage to deliver some good carnage and tear off a few limbs here and there in hilarious fashion.
Overall, Frankenstein Unbound is a fun flick marking the return (and departure) of a directing icon who made the most out of a zany storyline that came with a few flaws. The storyline should be enjoyable for those of you who seek something “different” from the genre, and Corman’s direction results in some insane monster antics and plenty of gory dismemberments to make for a mostly-positive film that I say you check out if you feel like taking a chance on this one.