The problem Frankenstein adaptations have is that most people don’t know the actual story from the book. The one about the frail rich boy who brings life to a creature in a modest backroom, then gets bedridden by depression for a months while his creature stalks a family and learns to speak elegantly and read about history, until it gets rejected by humanity and demands a bride. The story Universal pictures told in 1931 about a mad scientist that screams “It’s alive!” while lighting brightens up a castle and a monster is created is just more interesting.
Interestingly, Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound does feature aspects of the novel that are seldom seen in adaptations (like the trial of the girl who is suspected of killing Victor’s brother); however, it makes up for it by being insane.
John Hurt plays a scientist in the year 2031. He created a laser weapon that somehow created a rift in space and time that brings bad weather and time travel to the world. He gets sucked into the rift and ends up Switzerland in 1817 where he meets Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein has already created his creation at that point and like in the novel, it speaks and demands a bride.
Oh, yeah. John Hurt took his talking Knight Rider AI car with him to the past. Hurt also meets Lord Byron, played by Jason Patric, Percy Shelly, who is Michael Hutchence the singer of INXS, and his girlfriend Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, portrayed here by Bridget Fonda.
The creature is really one of the most authentic version of it seen in film. It can talk fluently, it has long hair (although not black), it’s grotesque, although for some reason it has monster legs and extra thumbs. His eyes, seen on the film’s posters, are really neat—sewn together from many—even though it makes no sense why Frankenstein would put together eyes. Victor is played by Raul Julia, so he is obviously nothing like the book version—calm and collected in contrast to the nervous wreck Shelley created.
The film plays out a little like an episode of Quantum Leap, especially the one where Sam meets young Stephen King, but instead of Sam being careful, Hurt rides around the 19th century countryside in his AI car, tells everyone he is from the future and shows Shelley a printed out version of the book she hasn’t written yet.
This was the last film Roger Corman directed, and it’s quite enjoyable. The lead actors are all way too talented to be in this, and I suspect John Hurt was fully aware of that, while Raul Julia gives it his all like he always did. It’s a very interesting blend of being the most faithful adaptation of Frankenstein, and the most batshit insane one.