OOM #18 – Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (1990)


Welcome one and all to the wonderful October Overlook Madness. Today we have yet another Roger Corman film for your amusement and wonderment, and no wonder that is James Rolfe and his Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness that brings forward once again this last directed feature from Roger. You can watch the video he did for this weird and strange movie here, and you can read what I thought of this film down below.

I’ve had the chance this year to take a closer look to the most diverse kind of work of Roger Corman, and I must say that this, his last feature before his directing retirement is the one that baffled me the most, as after making dozens of films in the 60’s and 70’s, Roger Corman stopped for the 80’s and then returned with only this particular endeavor, a futuristic science fiction adaptation of the classic Mary Shelley story of Frankenstein and his monster. Why was Roger Corman compelled to take the reigns of this production? Was it the bigger budget (compared to his earlier exploitation films) associated with this adaptation of what at the time was a famous novel based around the events of the novel and the real figure of Shelley? Maybe, he knew that his production company would take care of this, but he was the most experienced of the bunch, with years of producing and directing on his back, going forward into what is maybe among the most ridiculous tales of his filmography, in an ouvre that is mostly filled with ill-advised and not that thought out projects. What is there to find in this Roger Corman’s Frankenstein?

First of all, John Hurt is in this movie, and I can’t really start to understand how his presence can be any explicable in the context of the making of this crude picture, that was most surely marketed and released using the caliber of his acting skills as well as those by Raul Julia as the main attraction, and people were confused when they were treated to a film that starts with a pulpy neon-filled sequence that features lasers and the ultimate weapon of mankind: a black hole imitator that makes anything it touches disappear. When he eventually travels in time to the era of where the Frankenstein events supposedly took place, we are suddenly left with one of the least cautious and most irresponsible scientists that one can experience, where our time traveler doesn’t have any problem in showing off all the inventions of the future to colleagues as well as peasants that surely can’t understand a thing he’s saying nor the events that made him appear there in the first place. In most ways it’s like the complete opposite to Doc Brown in the Back to the Future series, where the doctor makes sure that he has no repercussion on what is going on in history. Here, John Hurt, can change the entire course of history because of how reckless and open to his own story he is.

Oh, and the monster, well, the monster already exists once the film starts, and it’s incredible to find how it seems that this, at least on a surface level, seems more closely adapted to the original novel, as the struggle is between the doctor and a talking monster that constantly asks for a mate while it breaks havoc, trying to get Doctor Frankenstein’s attention. The monster has an interesting design, and the over-violent nature of most of the scenes in which it appears, it makes it fun with copious amounts of blood and crushingly ridiculous moments that make one jump up out of joy. And now that I’m reminded of the book, I must consider the fact that there are long stretches of this that are related to the blooming relation between our protagonist and a Mary Shelley before the fame, quickly jolting down the events around her to make the book of Frankenstein. Sadly, while that would’ve made for some interesting scenes, it’s quickly played down for a romantic element, and it finally has no effect on the main storyline, it doesn’t help in any way and are scenes like that, with long stretches of stuff that make no sense nor affect anything is what brings this movie down, because it feels clumsy from the start, and not as if an accident happened preventing any of this from happening.




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