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Roger Corman’s ‘Frankenstein Unbound’ is Still Ridiculous

Roger Corman’s “Frankenstein Unbound” is a ridiculous, ridiculous movie. Sure, it’s already rooted in a strange story, and no “Frankenstein” film is without its quirks. Still, one could easily see this one and say, “Ho-lee mackerel!” Let’s look at some of the ways in which this movie is bizarre yet entertaining.

1. It’s a Time Travel Movie

That’s right: “Frankenstein Unbound” is among the quirky collection of time travel-themed horror films. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there? Well, that all depends on your point of view. On the surface, it’s interesting that a scientist from 2038 could travel to meet Victor Frankenstein (Raul Julia) in 1817. However, let’s not forget that it’s absurd. The scientist, Dr. Joe Buchanan (John Hurt) even has a talking car! So, if someone wonders if Frankenstein ever dabbled in “Knight Rider”-isms, you kind of have your answer. It’s also interesting that…

2. John Hurt’s Character Sleeps with Frankenstein Author Mary Shelley

The actual Mary Shelley.  She probably never slept with a scientist from the future for having a fancy car.

Yes, you read that correctly. At one point in the film, Mary Shelley (Bridget Fonda) ends up with Dr. Buchanan. In one scene she even explains that she believes in “free love” (which is fair enough, but doesn’t necessarily mean one will sleep with literally anyone). Oh yeah, that’s another crucial reveal: Mary Shelley is a character in this movie, which means (in the Frankenstein Unbound universe, or the “Frankensphere”), she based her novel on real life. Wowzers! So, oddly enough, that makes this film a work of historical fiction.

This is nothing entirely new for horror, or especially sci-fi. In fact, most horror is inspired loosely by true stories, true fears and urban legends. However, the quirkiness of “Frankenstein Unbound” becomes crystal clear when Dr. Buchanan prints off a copy of her finished book from his Knight Rider car. That’s so futuristic it could have made Mary Shelley puke!

3. Dr. Buchanan has Zero Concerns about Disrupting the Future

In nearly every time travel story, at least one character pipes in about the dangers of altering the present, which could have irreparable harm on the future. It’s often implied that changing even the slightest thing has unpredictable effects. It’s often called the “butterfly theory,” referring to how (at least theoretically) even a butterfly’s wings may help trigger catastrophic storms in the future. It’s a bit of a fantastical theory itself, but food for thought, right? Well, Dr. Buchanan apparently didn’t order that food for thought, and actually doesn’t think that much at all.

To be fair, it does go with his character. The main reason he’s in 1817 Switzerland is shortsightedness. In trying to create a weapon so powerful that no country could use it in war, Buchanan inadvertently created a Doomsday device that erroneously opens rifts into space-time! Much like Ash in “Evil Dead 2” and “Army of Darkness,” Buchanan was sucked out of his stupid time and spat out into another one. It just goes to show you: There’s a such thing as genius-level stupidity.

To Corman’s credit, this is likely a play on nuclear scientists of the 1940s, or even Albert Einstein himself, whose genius theories ultimately led to destructive nuclear capabilities and the constant Doomsday paranoia of the 1950s. On the bright side, though, “Duck and Cover” and “Bert the Turtle” are hilarious. If this classic film is any indication, the nuclear apocalypse is going to be hilarious. You might even say it’ll be a blast!

4. The Breathing, Mutilated, Obviously-supposed-to-be-dead Sheep Scene

Be it good or bad, no sci-fi horror flick is without a goof or two (or many, many more). One of “Frankenstein Unbound’s” goofs is so blatant that it must have been intentional. Rather early on, soon after Buchanan first arrives in the 1800s, he happens upon a slaughtered heard of sheep. It’s a grisly scene — or at least would be if it didn’t come off looking so fake. They appear to be draped in prop guts, and you can clearly see that the sheep are breathing! It leads to an obvious question: Why didn’t they just use a still shot of the sheep, or at least dramatically slow down the footage so as to approximate stillness? Oh well!

5. The Monster Has Looks that Kill!

Frankenstein Unbound
In what universe does this not look ridiculous?
Photo credit: A Mount Company Production/20th Century Fox

Oddly enough, we’ve barely mentioned Frankenstein’s monster. Well, Nick Brimble looks a tad bit ridiculous as the character, and it’s probably not his fault. There’s no way to take the monster very seriously, what with it looking like that! Basically, this movie’s tones are all over the place, and the ridiculous looking monster is definitely part of that magic. Nevertheless, it provides a certain charm, and it’s possible Roger Corman knowingly made such bizarre choices, just to make a unique imprint on the Frankenstein legend.

6. The Monster Fights Lasers

Given Buchanan’s fancy car, it only makes sense to equip it with things like lasers, right? Well, it happens whether you like it or not. In fact, by the end of “Frankenstein Unbound,” you’ll realize lasers are actually rather integral to the plot. Still, like so many aspects of this movie, it makes it difficult to take it seriously. It is interesting to see someone from the future, who is used to high tech luxuries, be dragged into Dr. Frankenstein’s universe. Still, lasers? It just makes the movie sillier.

What are your thoughts on “Frankenstein Unbound?” Let us know in the comments!

About Wade Wainio

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