Hello, ghoulish friends in time, and welcome to a regular spooky feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch a chilling movie featuring creepy time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one terrified guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense! Also, I am very scared!” And that’s good enough for me. Look out, Frankenstein is behind you!
FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND (1990)
Our Clocktober Halloween Spooktacle continues with the mad scientist time travel of Frankenstein Unbound. The year is 2031, and Dr. Joe Buchanan (John Hurt) has constructed an energy weapon that could end war as we know it. Its unfortunate side effect? Tearing giant uncontrollable holes in the sky that suck random people away through time and space. When Joe and his talking car (Terri Treas) find themselves slurped off by one such hole, they are deposited in Switzerland in 1817, where nothing involving Frankenstein happens whatsoever.
I kind of hate that “Turns Out a Fictional Work Was Totally a Real Account” is a type of movie. For the record, I liked Time After Time, and while you could argue that I’m somewhat biased due to my crazy, smothering love for The Time Machine, that movie at least had a legitimately compelling story on top of random H. G. Wells facts smooshed together with details from his book. But The Man from Earth, Shadow of the Vampire, a fairy tale double-dip with The 10th Kingdom and The Brothers Grimm, TRON Fucking Legacy… they start to get exhausting. And, unfortunately, Frankenstein Unbound is no exception.
“You sure it’s not FRONK-en-STEEN? Just fuckin’ with you. Walk this way.” *snicker*
Drs. Buchanan and Frankenstein (Raul Julia) meet less than 15 minutes into the movie, and it’s not much of a shock, considering the audience met Frankenstein in the fucking title. So where do you go from, “Holy shit, it’s Frankenstein”? “Holy shit, it’s Mary Shelley”? “Holy shit, it’s the monster”?
Literally the only other thing worth mentioning in this predictably bland story is that the time traveler has a silver gull-wing sports car…
Oh, well, that doesn’t seem like too much of a blatant–
…that he attaches to a wire hanging off of a tower…
…so he can use the power of lightning to charge his car and escape from the past.
You absolute motherfuckers.
Yeah. Like that other time travel movie.
With this script, it’s a wonder any actor could dredge a praiseworthy performance out of the material, but they all tried, to varying degrees of success. John Hurt’s degree, unfortunately, didn’t vary enough. His two required emotions here are “grin at the quaintness of life in 1817″ and “disapprove of scientific perversity,” and he… adequately tries them out for a bit.
“Hey! Stop being evil and stuff.”
Raul Julia, on the other hand, makes a fantastic but believably insane Victor Frankenstein, and I really wish he’d gotten to play the character in a movie that didn’t gargle buttholes. Like, say, an actual adaptation of Frankenstein?
Nick Brimble plays the monster as… doofy, which sounds weird, since he’s typically portrayed as confused and child-like before he’s goes a-rampaging, but dammit, this creature’s been cranked to Maximum Doof. And it isn’t just the makeup.
Wait, is that Station? Station!
Bridget Fonda is a breathtaking vision of swoony old timey times as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. She deserves an Oscar just for completely selling this 100% authentic line of dialogue as she opens up her blouse to get her bang on with John Hurt:
“Percy and Byron preach free love. I practice it.”
Lest you miss the inherent sexual ownership in that line, Jason Patric and Michael Hutchence play Lord Byron and Percy Shelley as overshadowing polyamorists that absolutely want you to know they put Mary on the rotisserie every single night and you’re invited to have a go yourself. Oh, heavens, my knickers are aflutter!
And speaking of sex…
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
This. Is. A. Time. Vagina.
Excuse me while I kiss the sky.
You might think that’s a single screenshot of the gaping portal that’s presented out of context, but believe me, you can watch the labia spread with quivering anticipation. There’s no way the director didn’t say, “Make it a puss,” especially with kinkmasters Percy and Shelley gazing hungrily into it. Come, my friends, and have a throw at the space-time continuum, won’t you?
As for the quality of rest of the special effects, did I mention this was directed by Roger Corman yet?
Oh, Christ, Rog, no one has ever taken a plasma ball seriously in a movie.
My absolute favorite bit of cheap-ass visual trickery is when the monster gets hit by lasers, because they literally hit him with lasers. From a planetarium.
Ah, damn, Laser Beatles is sold out? Alright, fine, two for Laser Frankenstein.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
Rather than freaking out over temporal laws, Buchanan just lets his car do the thinking for him while he’s off plowing writers. Here’s a scene where he asks the car to run some time travel calculations, so her response is technically a declaration that “none of this makes any sense.”
“All probabilities indicate that it is not possible to reverse a time slip effect.”
I could try to go out on some forced joke about how the filmmakers attempted to reanimate the story of Frankenstein using parts from other movies and ended up with a monster, but I’d rather use this space to tell you about how much I enjoyed Warlock earlier this week. Have you seen Warlock? It’s great! It’s got time travel and a crazy villain, just like this movie, but it’s a thoroughly entertaining adventure that’s equal parts eerie and fun. Warlock pulls out all the stops in the magical battle between good and evil and always keeps you guessing what outrageous spell each character will pull next. Join Julian Sands as the titular Warlock, on a quest to reassemble a cursed book so that he can learn the name of God and become the son of Satan; thrill as he’s pursued by the heroic Giles Redferne (Richard E. Grant), a man out of time who will stop at nothing to save the world from utter destruction; laugh as the spunky Kassandra (Lori Singer) tries to deal with the two warring strangers after they’ve landed in the 1980s, and more importantly, her living room! Warlock is a great ride from beginning to end. This Halloween (or any movie night), choose Warlock and you won’t be disappointed.
Unlike Frankenstein Unbound, which can go take a flying fuck at the sky.
LATER THIS WEEK:
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.