Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound (USA 1990)

Likely Corman’s final film as director, this is adapted from Brian Aldiss’s novel,

“a meditation on the wilful independence of the Frankenstein myth.”

Shot on the then standard format of 35mm it can be enjoyed [if Bradford’s Media Museum is accessible] this coming Wednesday in the quality auditorium of Pictureville.

The film’s story involves a time-travelling scientist, Dr. Joseph Buchanan (John Hurt) travelling back in time to meet, not just Mary Shelley (Bridget Fonda) and her story-telling circle, but her creation Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Raul Julia) and his own creation the ‘Monster’ (Nick Brimble). The film works weird variations with the historical characters and with the fictional ones. And Corman fans will find references from Corman’s large and long cinematic output. The continuity is variable and at times the plotting requires careful attention. However there are bravura sequences filmed with elan and a sense of fun, including laboratory work, a trial and an execution. There are some fine examples of special effects from the period. And the film finally transports us to an arctic winterland that transforms the final chapter of Shelley’s novel.

The film has it share of violence, with severed limbs, mutilated bodies and much blood. It gained an 18 certificate from the BBFC in 1991. The film is in standard widescreen and DeLuxe colour, running only 85 minutes. The locations were in Italy, standing in for Switzerland, and the production crew involved a number of craftspeople from the Italian industry.

It is a rare pleasure now to see classic films in their original format and happily the Museum are using their best screening venue. The print is from the Museum archive and is apparently in good condition. And John Hurt’s voice is always worth the price of admission. The film also ties in with a new event at the Science & Media Museum;

“Introduced by Pippa Oldfield, Head of Programme at Impressions Gallery, to celebrate the launch of the exhibition ‘In Search Of Frankenstein’.”

Frankenstein is one of my favourite stories, as a novel or in the endless retelling on film. The many variations on the creation of the monster are a continuing pleasure in mise en scène.

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