Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Craving Corman: Frankenstein Unbound

Can a Used Car Salesman become an Artist?  Today's film- Frankenstein Unbound- seeks to answer that question.  Roger Corman is a name known to millions.  What is his reputation though?  His reputation is generally that of a man who makes cheap, quickly-produced films designed to make a buck and disappear.  With his track record of the last fifty years, it's hard to argue with that too much.  I don't think it's entirely accurate though.  Mixed in with schlock like Attack of the Giant Crab Monsters and The Wasp Woman is stuff like The Stranger, a film highlighted in a recent Documentary about his life.  In the midst of his dime-store action fare, he adapted a controversial book about Race Relations in the South into a film.  He says that it's the only film he's ever lost money on, which is probably true.  The point is that he has occasionally taken a chance on something different and daring.  His last film as a Director- and his 56th!- was Unbound and it's an interesting film to go out on.  It's apparently based on a Book, something that I know want to cover for Fiction vs. Fiction.  The plot involves time-travel, a meta plot and the lead singer of INXS playing Lord Byron.  It basically combined Gothic, Frankenstein and The Final Countdown (not to be confused with this awesome song).  It's a weird, arty film that tries to be more than it can be.  How close does it get though?  To find out, read on...
A Future Scientist (John Hurt) is experimenting with a beam that warps the laws of Physics to destroy objects.  There is no downside, other than the atmospheric disturbances and...
A few, pesky Timeslips.  That's no big deal, at least until a random Hun tries to kill you.

Oh and Hurt gets sucked back in time.  Oops.
He ends up in Italy back in the 19th Century.  On the plus side, there's not going to be a bunch of good Actors appearing as historical characters (fictional or otherwise) for no good reason.
Spoke too soon, huh?  Yes, they work in a bit where Jason Patric plays Lord Byron, INXS Singer Michael Hutchence as Shelly and Bridget Fonda as the future Mary Shelly.  This adds...mostly nothing.  It makes it feel really arty though.
The key thing is that Raul Julia (aka M. Bison) plays Victor Frankenstein, who was apparently real.  Yes, they want to reference the real-life events shown in Gothic (a film I need to see some day) and insert the fictional events of Shelly's 'Frankenstein' as reality.

Said Adam has killed Victor's brother and many others, but still he hides it.  Oh and he's going to make him a mate.
Remember that whole Butterfly Effect Theory about how the littlest things in the past can affect the future?  Well, get this...

Hurt's character $%^&s Mary Shelly.  That can't have any consequences, can it?
Seriously though, this is one ugly creature.  You have to see this thing.  Kudos.
Our hero's future car- which OOH has a computer in it- is ostensibly-used to create the power needed to created Adam's bride.  Hurt actually uses it, however, to open another Time Slip.  When in doubt, make things worse!
Somewhere in the future, all sorts of shit goes down.  Mrs. Adam dies and, in a rage, Adam kills his Creator.

The Creature flees into the snow and Hurt follows him.  They run into a lab that apparently belongs to Hurt (don't ask- I don't really know), where the scientist kills Adam with a laser light show.
After that is done, he wanders off towards the nearest matte painting to, um, live a new life...I guess.  The End.
It's a big, arty mess.  The good parts are the film's overall good look (in the first Two Acts), unique feel and good make-up work for Adam.  I do have to comment on how cheap the matte backgrounds often look in 'Future Earth' at times though.  There's an art to make white walls look real from the right distance...which they fail at it.  Likewise, I have to ask a silly question: what's with the three-colored eyes of Adam?  I get the idea- he's a composite of random body parts sewn together.  That said- why put an eye together from three different eyeballs?  Was it just impossible to find one intact?  It's just a minor, but silly addition that I could do without.  I love the design overall.  It looks *mostly* realistic enough to have been made, but fantastical enough to work for this.  The downsides to this movie are its uneven pacing, it's pretentious nature and the silly fluff added.  Having Byron and Shelly there fit the supposed time, but was unnecessary.  You could have just said that they were nearby.  Likewise, the Trial bits with the girl are dramatic, but just kind of end in a dark pay-off.  The biggest issue is with Victor's ever-changing sanity and whim.  He wants to kill the beast.  He wants to hide the beast.  He wants to kill the beast.  He wants to make it a mate.  He wants to hide it again.  Please just make up your mind and do it in a logical manner.  As a whole, this is not quite the arty film that Corman wanted it to be, nor is it the pulp film that everyone expected.  It's...odd, as this pointless (and arty) dream sequence demonstrates...
Up next, I cover a very unique film for Independence Day.  It's a good representation of American art and hubris that I can't imagine you'll guess.  Stay tuned...

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