Friday, September 28, 2012

Unbound for Glory: "Frankenstein Unbound" (1990)

Roger Corman, who has not produced a decent film in the last fifteen years, must have been saving up all his creative forces for this entertaining bit of science fiction-horror.

John Hurt plays a scientist in 2031 who is working on a new weapon for the government that implodes the enemy and makes them disappear, usually through a time slip into another time. Hurt himself is sucked in back to 1831, and meets Dr. Frankenstein, who is mourning the loss of his younger brother. The brother was killed by the Monster, but an innocent girl is blamed and plans are made to execute her. Hurt discovers Mary Godwin (soon to be Mary Shelley) and enlists her aid in helping the girl. The girl is executed despite their efforts, and Hurt meets up with Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, while trying to stop the Monster from killing again. Eventually, Hurt decides to stop Frankenstein using the very technology that sent him to 1831 in the first place.

John Hurt is a revelation here in a leading role. Stripped of the weird characters he is too often asked to play, he comes across as completely normal and very good. Bridget Fonda is also good as Mary Godwin. Raul Julia makes a great Dr. Frankenstein, eschewing the hysterics of past mad doctors. Michael Hutchence as Shelley and Jason Patric as Byron are rather funny as the nineteenth century's versions of free loving hippies. Their scenes are too few.

This was Corman's first directorial effort in twenty some odd years, but he has a very good touch with the camera. The special effects, especially involving the time slip cloud, are impressive without seeming cheap. The ending does get a little too allegorical, and the effects inside the future city's brain do look cheap, but the whole film was a positive experience. Frankenstein's Monster here is one of the scariest of all time. The stitched eyeballs are gross, and his appearance is genuinely hideous. He can speak, no mumbling and shuffling here. I would put this film on par with "Time After Time" and "Somewhere in Time," two other films that used their stories to compel the plot forward, not a bunch of special effects.

I recommend "Frankenstein Unbound" to both science fiction and horror fans. (* * * * *) out of five stars.