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Frankenstein Unbound Movie Review

corman roger hurt mary

There have been close to 100 movies made about Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, so why not yet another variation on the legend from the one and only Roger Corman, directing his first film in decades? This is the third film in four years to make use of the Byron-Godwin-Shelley triangle (Gothic and Haunted Summer were the others) but they're mainly in this picture as atmospheric window dressing. John Hurt plays who else but an American scientist from the future who has created a machine that is raising havoc with time and space. He is not as conscience-stricken as he could be, and when he winds up in early 19th century Switzerland, he heads straight for the nearest tavern. He asks if he can share a table with who else but Raul Julia's Dr. Frankenstein? (Do you ever wonder why time travelers never seem to run into ordinary blokes?) Hurt is staggered by the quick realization that Dr. Frankenstein is not a very nice man and resolves to Do Something About It. He meets Mary Godwin (Bridget Fonda) at a witchcraft trial for a little girl accused of a murder committed by Dr. Frankenstein's monster. When Mary expresses sympathy for the child, he follows his literary idol to the Swiss retreat she shares with Byron and Shelley. “You're not English, are you?” a prissy Byron (Jason Patric) inquires after hearing John Hurt's thick British accent. “No,” Hurt answers heartily. “I'm Dr. Joe from America!” Bridget Fonda, fetchingly costumed as Mary Godwin, is unable to help save the world from Frankenstein, because she hasn't even written the book yet! Her presence in the film is explained when Dr. Joe goes to bed with her. And that's all we ever see of Mary Godwin. Dr. Frankenstein continues to be not very nice and we finally see his monster. His makeup is overdone, his dialogue is overwritten, and Roger Corman gets to stage all sorts of violence he could never get away with at American International Pictures. He still cuts corners in inimitable Roger Corman fashion, though. Frankenstein Unbound was backed by investors from Italy where the movie was shot on location. But Swiss and Italian vegetation are quite different: to the best of our knowledge, there aren't any palm trees in the Swiss Alps, are there? The conclusion looks like it was shot in the property department for every science-fiction movie made in Italy since 1979. There are some nice touches: my favorite character was Dr. Joe's talking car, which has the capacity to run off copies of entire books. The look of the film is extremely lush, but the editing is sloppy, as if Corman started out to make a pretty good movie and then someone from outside the project slapped it together. Frankenstein Unbound was basically dumped by its eventual distributor, 20th Century Fox, but in spite of this cavalier treatment, it may attract a cult viewing audience. AKA: Roger Corman's Frankenstein Unbound.

1990 (R) 86m/C John Hurt, Raul Julia, Bridget Fonda, Jason Patric, Michael Hutchence, Catherine Rabett, Nick Brimble, Catherine Corman, Mickey Knox; D: Roger Corman; W: F.X. Feeney, Roger Corman; C: Melissa Torpy, Armando Nannuzzi; M: Carl Davis; V: Terri Treas. VHS, LV, Closed Caption

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