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Frankenstein Unbound

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1990

‘…posits a fictional past where both the writer and her creation co-exist, a somewhat radical post-modern concept…’

I wouldn’t claim to be an expect on the work of sci-fi writer Brian Aldiss, but his work has inspired films as diverse as Brothers of the Head and Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Roger Corman’s adaptation of Frankenstein Unbound is something of a curiosity piece, blending many elements of Mary Shelley’s classic tale with some thought-provoking science-fiction. The resultant hybrid was universally despised in 1990, but looks better with each passing year.

The plot is not simple. The year is 2031, and scientist Dr Buchanan (John Hurt) dresses like neo from The Matrix and is reliant on his super-sleek talking car. He’s just invented a mega-ray that destroys everything, but each time the weapon is used, the environment around him starts to collapse. There’s a simple power behind this idea, although Corman’s script doesn’t quite follow up on their environmentally sound notion. Instead, a time-slip caused by the machine sends Buchanan and his car back to Switzerland 1817, where he’s forced to attach electricity wires to a church tower, Back to the Future-style, to send himself and his car back to 2031.

But even that’s not even half of the real plot; while in 1817, Buchanan runs into Dr Frankenstein (Raul Julia), whose brother has just been killed; an innocent nanny is accused of his murder. At her trial, Buchanan runs into Mary Shelley (Bridget Fonda) who is taking notes for a proposed novel she’s writing. Eagle-eyed readers will note that Frankenstein Unbound posits a fictional past where both the writer and her creation (Nick Brimble) co-exist, a somewhat radical post-modern concept. Things resolve with more time-slippage and a good old-fashioned scrap, but not before retelling a fair chuck of Shelley’s narrative.

Did I mention that INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence turns up as Mary’s Shelley’s poet husband Percy? That’s one of a number of mind-zonking features here, with all concerned playing with gusto and moments of gore to justify an 18 certificate. While hardly a coherent film, this is an interesting stab at a riff on the Frankenstein myth, and with a sumptuous Carl Davis score to boot, well worth catching just for the novelty factor, which is plentiful here.

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    • You should write your own film about fictional characters having affairs with their authors. Doesn’t happen in this film though. Mrs Frankenstein is a good name for a spin off or a band…

      • My movies would be very moralizing movies, so everyone would end up dying for their transgressions. Not exactly blockbuster material.

        I’ll keep it in mind though for if I ever run out of things to do or books to read 😉

        • I’d want to see a film called Mrs Frankenstein, whether she dies for her transgressions or not…

          • What about “Mrs Frankenstein & the Psychic Grandma”? I think I could work with that material.

            And here’s a question I just thought of. If the Frankensteins are made up from other dead bodies, haven’t they already paid for their crimes by dying the first time? OR are they truly new individuals who must be punished anew? metaphysical questions like this are what get me going first thing in the morning.

    • He has a couple of scenes, and if you’re a fan, you’ll like what he does here, nicely cast!

  1. If you look closely and use your imagination I can see an Ironing device in the picture at the top of this post🤔🤔 Just saying….🤔🤔
    Anyways….This is one of those films I guess it’s well, either you love or hate it😅😅I think you sentiment is just about correct in describing my motivation to maybe watch this one at some point: The novelty factor!😀

  2. I was just working up some notes on this! Fascinating credits. With all the talent involved it really couldn’t miss being . . . something. And it doesn’t.

    • It’s a novelty! And while it’s a bit all over the shop, I love John Hurt and his talking super-car, they got a lot of the tech right! And that weird mix of literature and sci-fi fanciful notions plays better now than then…

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