Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Wednesday 2 March 2022

Burl reviews Frankenstein Unbound! (1990)


Attention pilgrims, it’s Burl, here to review the work of a legendary filmmaker! The legendary filmmaker’s name of course is Roger Corman: the fellow who brought us such distinguished works as A Bucket of Blood, Rock All Night, Sorority Girl, and Attack of the Crab Monsters! He took a little break from directing movies which ended up lasting twenty years (though he produced them, and still produces them, with wild abandon), and his return to the director’s chair was this curious item, Frankenstein Unbound!

We begin in the future year of 2031, where a scientist called Buchanan, played by the terrific John Hurt of Only Lovers Left Alive, is putting the finishing touches on his superweapon! The superweapon dissolves matter, but it also opens up some kind of temporal time rift, such as we saw in The Philadelphia Experiment, but here shaped like a purple vagina; and after Buchanan drives home in his talking car to find a bunch of kids in his yard holding a funeral for a bike for some reason, he and his sapient auto get sucked up by the time rift and deposited in 1817, near Lake Geneva!

Naturally, as we know from history, Dr. Frankenstein was conducting his notorious experiments in this area, and of course, once Buchanan and his talking car have figured out where and when they are, and Buchanan has hidden his talking car in a bramble, he walks into a bar and the first person he meets is none other than the modern Prometheus! The good doctor is played by Raul Julia from The Eyes of Laura Mars as an imperious dandy, and after he gets a look at Buchanan’s digital watch, he’s pleased in return to show off the hulking creature he’s built! Nick Brimble from Lust for a Vampire plays the monster, a brutal oaf who speaks in a tragic, baronial timbre, is covered in face putty, and is happy to knock people’s heads off when he takes a mind to!

Meanwhile, of course, Mary Wollstoncraft (that is, the future Mary Shelley) is hanging around, played by Bridget Fonda from Singles, and there are brief, fey, pointless appearances from Byron and Shelley, essayed respectively by Jason Patric from The Lost Boys and rocksman Michael Hutchence from Dogs in Space! And then there’s Catherine Rabett from The Living Daylights as Frankenstein’ sweetheart Elizabeth, who gets cracked open like a walnut by the creature!

Yes, he’ll do violence all right, that creature, and he’s mad mainly because of the meat! Ha ha, no, he’s mad because Frankenstein has thus far refused to make him a mate, but then the doctor obliges him after all, and the mate seems to have CDs growing out the sides of her head; and then the time rift reappears, sending Buchanan, Dr. Frankenstein, the creature and his new jerrybuilt ladyfriend to some kind of frozen future wasteland! Ha ha, the talking car gets left behind in nineteenth century Switzerland, where it presumably will roll around the countryside startling locals with loud honks or unexpected badinage!

The climax involves more killing and the predictable revelation that the wasteland is actually the world of the future, which has come to this sad state thanks to Buchanan’s superweapon, and which he’s fated to wander alone for the rest of his days! Ha ha! I guess this is meant to function as a sort of corollary or echo of the monster’s self-imposed Arctic exile as depicted in the book!

Well, it’s a strange picture, and an odd choice for Corman! Of course, he made all sorts of pictures in his career, so maybe there is no odd choice for him! It’s a bit akin to the Poe films he made, Premature Burial and suchlike, but it has more heads and arms being ripped off than those ones did, ha ha! And it’s less elegantly made, frequently goofy, and in places demonstrates genuine ineptitude! But it also has really effective bits, as when the creature is chasing down Elizabeth’s carriage, or when he goes ape on the torch-bearing townsfolk!

I’m glad it exists though, as a curio if not a compelling piece of cinema; and it’s really not that much goofier than its contemporaries, films like Gothic and Haunted Summer! I thought the stitched-together multicoloured eye on the poster was a pretty cool image, meant no doubt as a metaphoric synecdoche for the creature itself - but it turns out that’s what the monster’s eyes really look like! Ha ha, talk about impractical! But there’s the movie in a nutshell for you - and look, a synecdoche after all! I give Frankenstein Unbound, or F.U. as some may prefer to call it, two vaporized Statues of Liberty models!


  1. I remember reading articles in the genre mags of the day and getting all excited with the anticipation of another Roger Corman movie at last. And then I saw it.

    It looks desperately cheap in too many places, and is just daft in too many others. Haven't seen it since, but no wonder Roger didn't try it again! If anything, it's like a late period Ken Russell movie, where he couldn't get the resources he needed.

    1. It does remind me of Gothic - the story of course, and the treatment as well, and also of Lair of the White Worm, a movie I unabashedly love! This one could use a little of that old Russell daftness, and also, of course, I'd have appreciated a little Dick Miller in there!