Roger Corman's Frankenstein Unbound (1990)

R | 85 mins | Science fiction | 2 November 1990

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HISTORY

       Percy Bysshe Shelley married Mary Godwin in 1816, a year before the Geneva, Switzerland, section of Frankenstein Unbound takes place, but she is identified, by herself and other characters, as Mary Godwin and shocked that people in the future know her as Mary Shelley. The full title of her novel was Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818), Prometheus being a god in Greek mythology who offended Zeus by giving fire to humanity. At the time, Percy Shelley was writing a lyrical drama called Prometheus Unbound. Science fiction writer Brian W. Aldiss combined the titles for Frankenstein Unbound.
       Actor Peter Weller was originally cast as “Joe Buchanan,” according to the 3 May 1989 DV, but ultimately was not involved with the production. John Hurt, who took the role, told the 1 Sep 1989 Globe and Mail in Toronto, Canada, that his agent gave him the script to read during the Cannes Film Festival the previous May, and he found it “better than I thought.”
       The 1 Nov 1990 HR and 5 Nov 1990 Var noted that Ed Neumeier worked on the screenplay, but he was not credited.
       Several sources, including the 26 Jun 1989 and 21 Aug 1989 issues of DV, reported that principal photography began 19 Jun 1989 in Italy, and ended roughly eight weeks later, in mid-Aug.
       Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound was the prolific producer’s first outing as a director in eighteen years, thanks to the urging of his former employee, Thom Mount, who served as one of the film’s producers. Corman requested and received $1 million ... More Less

       Percy Bysshe Shelley married Mary Godwin in 1816, a year before the Geneva, Switzerland, section of Frankenstein Unbound takes place, but she is identified, by herself and other characters, as Mary Godwin and shocked that people in the future know her as Mary Shelley. The full title of her novel was Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818), Prometheus being a god in Greek mythology who offended Zeus by giving fire to humanity. At the time, Percy Shelley was writing a lyrical drama called Prometheus Unbound. Science fiction writer Brian W. Aldiss combined the titles for Frankenstein Unbound.
       Actor Peter Weller was originally cast as “Joe Buchanan,” according to the 3 May 1989 DV, but ultimately was not involved with the production. John Hurt, who took the role, told the 1 Sep 1989 Globe and Mail in Toronto, Canada, that his agent gave him the script to read during the Cannes Film Festival the previous May, and he found it “better than I thought.”
       The 1 Nov 1990 HR and 5 Nov 1990 Var noted that Ed Neumeier worked on the screenplay, but he was not credited.
       Several sources, including the 26 Jun 1989 and 21 Aug 1989 issues of DV, reported that principal photography began 19 Jun 1989 in Italy, and ended roughly eight weeks later, in mid-Aug.
       Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound was the prolific producer’s first outing as a director in eighteen years, thanks to the urging of his former employee, Thom Mount, who served as one of the film’s producers. Corman requested and received $1 million when he accepted the job in 1985, according to the 26 Aug 1985 DV. Wes Craven was hired to write the script, but left the project early and was not credited. The film was originally budgeted at $6 million, according to the 19 Jan 1989 HR, but nearly doubled to $11 million four years later, thanks to a split of domestic and international distribution rights between Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros, the 19 Jun 1990 HR noted. The film’s release was delayed for six months reportedly because of a dispute between Fox and Corman over the length of the final cut and whether the film met the studio’s expectations.
      The film begins with a voiceover by “Dr. Joe Buchanan”: “After the first atomic bomb, Einstein said, ‘If I had known where this would lead, I’d have been a watchmaker.’ So here I am, either at the end of a world or at the beginning of one. A record must be kept for the sanity of all concerned. I’ll start from when the time slips were just beginning.” In a final voiceover, Frankenstein’s monster says, “You think you have killed me, but I am with you forever. I am unbound.” Near the film’s beginning, a card announces the place and time as: “New Los Angeles, 2031.” End credits give “special thanks Danny Bramson.” Also, “Filmed on location in and around Milan, Bergamo and Bellagio, Italy.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Feb 1991.
---
Daily Variety
26 Aug 1985
p. 1, 27.
Daily Variety
3 May 1989.
---
Daily Variety
26 Jun 1989.
---
Daily Variety
21 Aug 1989.
---
Daily Variety
12 Jan 1990
p. 14, 67.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 1989
p. 1, 46.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Dec 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1990
p. 1, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 1990
p. 5, 19.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Dec 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 1990
p. 10, 29.
Long Beach Press-Telegram
3 Jun 1989
Section C, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
2 Nov 1990
Section F, p. 6.
New York Times
2 Nov 1990
p. 14.
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
1 Sep 1989
Section D, p. 4.
Time Out (London)
23-30 Jan 1991
pp. 20-21.
Toronto Star
4 Jun 1989
Section V, p. 14.
Vanity Fair
Dec 1990.
pp. 114-117.
Variety
5 Nov 1990
p. 72.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Mount Company Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Still photog
Apprentice still photog
1st elec
Generator op
Key grip
Cam, Loc visual eff unit
Asst cam, Loc visual eff unit
Grip, Loc visual eff unit
Cam, Visual eff - Fantasy II Film Effects
Cam [2d unit]
Cam [2d unit]
Cam asst [2d unit]
Cam asst [2d unit]
Grip [2d unit]
Moviecam Superamerica cams and loc equip
Laboratory services provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Asst to the prod des
Asst to the prod des
Asst to the prod des
Storyboard artist
Storyboard artist
Matte artist, Visual eff - Illusion Arts
Matte artist, Loc visual eff unit
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed - U.S.
Asst ed - Italy
Apprentice ed - Italy
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Asst set dec
Prop master
Asst props
Prototype car "Aztec" courtesy of
Prototype car "Aztec" courtesy of
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Ward mistress
Asst ward
Period cost made by
Addl cost provided by
Future cost des by
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Post prod sd supv
Post prod sd supv
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec asst
Dial ed
ADR eng
ADR ed
ADR asst
Digital sd eff des
Digital sd eff ed
Digital sd eff ed
Digital sd eff ed
Foley ed
Foley rec
Foley artist
Foley artist
Stereo consultant
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Loop group
Sd re-rec at
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual eff
Visual eff
Set spec eff
Animatronics eng
Visual eff
Matte photog, Visual eff - Illusion Arts
Optical eff, Visual eff - Illusion Arts
Optical eff, Visual eff - Illusion Arts
Spec engineering, Visual eff - Illusion Arts
Prod mgr, Visual eff - Illusion Arts
Spec rigging, Visual eff - Illusion Arts
Visual eff supv, Visual eff - Fantasy II Film Effe
[Visual eff] asst, Visual eff - Fantasy II Film Ef
Modelmaker, Visual eff - Fantasy II Film Effects
Optical supv, Visual eff - Fantasy II Film Effects
Rotoscope supv, Visual eff - Fantasy II Film Effec
Main title backgrounds
MAKEUP
Spec makeup eff
Makeup artist
Asst makeup
Hairstylist
The monster created by
Prosthetic makeup artist
Foam latex supv
Prosthetic mould des
Prosthetic makeup asst
[Prosthetic] trainee
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Italian prod services provided by
Italian prod services provided by
Italian prod services provided by
Prod coord
Unit mgr
Prod secy
Asst prod secy
Crowd marshall
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
U.S. prod office coord
Prod controller
Controller - Italy
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Asst to Mr. Mount
Assoc to Mr. Mount
Unit pub
Asst scr supv
Assoc to Mr. Corman
Asst to Mr. Corman
Casting - Rome
Casting - London
Accounting, Visual eff - Illusion Arts
Transportation, Visual eff - Illusion Arts
Prod asst, Loc visual eff unit
Prod supv, Visual eff - Fantasy II Film Effects
Prod asst, Visual eff - Fantasy II Film Effects
Prod asst, Visual eff - Fantasy II Film Effects
Prod asst, Visual eff - Fantasy II Film Effects
Unit mgr [2d unit]
Horses and carriages
Horses and carriages, Scuderia
Horses and carriages, Scuderia
Transportation capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Completion bond
Legal services
Legal services
Studio services provided by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
Stunt performer
ANIMATION
Computer anim and displays
Computer anim and displays - Video Image
Computer anim and displays - Video Image
Computer anim and displays - Video Image
Computer anim and displays - Video Image
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Frankenstein Unbound by Brian W. Aldiss (London, 1973).
AUTHOR
SONGS
["Man, Woman," words and music by Carl Davis.]
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Frankenstein Unbound
Release Date:
2 November 1990
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 2 November 1990
New York opening: week of 2 November 1990
Production Date:
19 June--mid August 1989
Copyright Claimant:
Byron Films, Inc.
Copyright Date:
8 November 1990
Copyright Number:
PA483696
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Ultra-Stereo®
Color
Duration(in mins):
85
Length(in feet):
7,693
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Walking in a frozen wasteland, Dr. Joe Buchanan remembers demonstrating his “prototype laser” at the Hawkings Institute in California. Its particle beams obliterate a model of the Statue of Liberty. He tells observer General Reade that the weapon will likewise make enemy troops disappear. However, the institute’s information officer reminds Joe that the U.S. President is concerned that his experiments may have caused recent freak weather and “time slips.” Joe explains that an object’s disappearance creates a “black hole,” which may be a problem. As Joe drives home in his computer-driven car, a television announcer reports that “stratospheric disturbances” are linked to experiments at the Hawkings Institute. When Joe gets home, a storm cloud opens and a ball of light delivers a Mongolian horseman, who throws a spear at him. The warrior is sucked back into the cloud, replaced by a fireball that engulfs Joe. He awakens next to his car. The car’s feminine computer voice tells him she can neither confirm their position nor connect with the Hawkings mainframe because there are no satellites. Joe drives to an abandoned barn, parks inside, and walks to a village. He stops at an inn and sells a gold ring to the innkeeper for fifty Swiss francs plus dinner. Seeing a distinguished looking man reading a Geneva, Switzerland, newspaper dated 22 May 1817, Joe sits at his table and explains his strange clothing by introducing himself as an American. The man says he is Dr. Victor Frankenstein, which surprises Joe because he believed Frankenstein was a fictional character. Frankenstein is unfriendly, but fascinated by Joe’s wristwatch. When the innkeeper expresses his condolences for the death of the doctor’s little brother, Frankenstein ... +


Walking in a frozen wasteland, Dr. Joe Buchanan remembers demonstrating his “prototype laser” at the Hawkings Institute in California. Its particle beams obliterate a model of the Statue of Liberty. He tells observer General Reade that the weapon will likewise make enemy troops disappear. However, the institute’s information officer reminds Joe that the U.S. President is concerned that his experiments may have caused recent freak weather and “time slips.” Joe explains that an object’s disappearance creates a “black hole,” which may be a problem. As Joe drives home in his computer-driven car, a television announcer reports that “stratospheric disturbances” are linked to experiments at the Hawkings Institute. When Joe gets home, a storm cloud opens and a ball of light delivers a Mongolian horseman, who throws a spear at him. The warrior is sucked back into the cloud, replaced by a fireball that engulfs Joe. He awakens next to his car. The car’s feminine computer voice tells him she can neither confirm their position nor connect with the Hawkings mainframe because there are no satellites. Joe drives to an abandoned barn, parks inside, and walks to a village. He stops at an inn and sells a gold ring to the innkeeper for fifty Swiss francs plus dinner. Seeing a distinguished looking man reading a Geneva, Switzerland, newspaper dated 22 May 1817, Joe sits at his table and explains his strange clothing by introducing himself as an American. The man says he is Dr. Victor Frankenstein, which surprises Joe because he believed Frankenstein was a fictional character. Frankenstein is unfriendly, but fascinated by Joe’s wristwatch. When the innkeeper expresses his condolences for the death of the doctor’s little brother, Frankenstein becomes agitated and leaves. Joe runs after his carriage and hops unseen on the back. When the carriage stops, Frankenstein gets out, crosses a footbridge, and walks into the woods. Through vegetation and rain, Joe sees Frankenstein yelling at someone, but in an avalanche of small rocks, Joe falls backward and is knocked unconscious. He awakens, returns to his car, and drives to the outskirts of Geneva. He parks in the forest, and walks into the city, where he buys contemporary clothing and explores the streets until he sees Dr. Frankenstein and his fiancée, Elizabeth LaVenza. He follows the couple to the trial of Justine Moritz, a peasant girl charged with murdering William Frankenstein. Joe sees a woman sitting alone, and asks a parson if it would be proper to take a seat next to her. The parson identifies her as Mary Godwin, mistress of Lord Byron, who lives across Lake Geneva with poet Percy Shelley. Sitting next to Mary, Joe tells her he admires her writing, but she answers that she has never published anything. A peasant witness tells the court he saw a giant kill his sheep, and suspects the same creature murdered the Frankenstein boy, but the crowd mocks him. The prosecutor insists that since the child’s locket was found in Justine’s possession, she must have killed him. Justine is found guilty and sentenced to be hanged the following day. Afterward, Joe follows Dr. Frankenstein as he puts Elizabeth into her carriage, then Frankenstein walks alone out of the city and into the woods. Just past the footbridge, he encounters a huge man with a demon-like face, accuses him of murdering his brother, and fires a pistol, but misses. Bemoaning his intense loneliness, the monster demands that Frankenstein create “a mate” for him, or else he will kill Elizabeth. After the brute runs into the forest, Joe confronts Dr. Frankenstein and begs that he reveal what he has done, in order to save Justine Moritz from being hanged. Joe takes the doctor to his car and returns to the barn. Using Joe’s modern pen, Frankenstein writes a letter, supposedly exonerating Justine, and tells Joe to deliver it to his fiancée in the morning, because she comes from a powerful family that can sway the judge. The next morning, Joe delivers Frankenstein’s letter to Elizabeth, but she refuses to help because the letter warns that her life is in danger and she must leave Geneva. Joe returns to his car and, relying on the computer’s historical knowledge, drives around Lake Geneva to reach Villa Diodati, where the English poets Bryon and Shelley reside. On the way, his computer prints out a copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Overhead, a familiar ominous cloud formation forms. When Joe arrives at the country estate, Lord Byron confronts him with a pistol, but Joe distracts him by offering him a pair of binoculars. Byron introduces him to Percy Shelley, who is mesmerized by the strange cloud overhead. The poet wonders aloud if it could be a gateway to a distant world. Mary enters and recognizes Joe from the trial. He asks if she can help Justine, but Mary has no idea what she could do. Joe hurries back to Geneva as Justine is led to the gallows. He grabs an axe and tries to stop the execution, but townspeople beat him. The trap door drops, killing the girl. Townspeople carry Joe to the lake and toss him in. He awakens to see the face of Mary Godwin, who reveals she rowed across the lake to rescue him. Joe calls for his car, which comes to them, and he drives Mary home. Villagers and farmers are shocked as the futuristic automobile passes. Confessing that he comes from the future, Joe shows Mary the computer readout of her book, which she has only begun. She is shocked that the future knows her as Mary Shelley. Joe points to the cloud overhead and tells her that, like Dr. Frankenstein, he tried to do the world a favor, but created a monster instead. At the villa, Joe and Mary discuss the future, then make love. Meanwhile, Elizabeth LaVenza prepares to leave Geneva. Joe returns to the barn and finds Frankenstein waiting. In order to create a mate for his monster, he needs to draw upon a storm’s electricity, but perhaps Joe’s car can supply enough to do the job. Joe warns him not to do it, and shows him an electronic copy of Mary’s novel, Frankenstein. Not far away, the monster stops Elizabeth’s carriage and attacks her. Hurrying toward her screams, Joe and Victor Frankenstein find the monster standing over her broken body. Mocking how “poorly made” humans are, the monster demands that Frankenstein make improvements when creating his mate. Villagers arrive and try to hang Joe, but the monster kills many of them and sends the rest running. Frankenstein warns the monster not to hurt the unconscious Joe, because his scientific knowledge will be helpful. Joe awakens in Frankenstein’s lab inside an abandoned church. The doctor has commandeered his car as a power source and read the car’s instructions, in case Joe does not cooperate. The monster gives Joe the choice of helping or dying. Joe wonders if another laser gun implosion might open a time slip and transport him somewhere else. While Frankenstein is busy in the lab, Joe sees storm clouds gathering and asks the monster to carry one end of an electrical cable to the top of the church steeple and attach the coil to the metal cross. Once the connection is made, Joe tells the car to load the “laser implosion program” and fire particle beams at the church when it reaches maximum power. Returning to the lab, he sees that Frankenstein has reconstructed Elizabeth. The car’s lasers light up the church. Simultaneously, lightning from the storm activates Frankenstein’s equipment and revives Elizabeth. Suddenly, Joe’s implosion device transports part of the church and the four inside to a frozen future world. Frankenstein demands Joe restore them to 1817 Switzerland, but he is unable to do so. As the monster embraces Elizabeth, Frankenstein calls her to him. Enraged by jealousy, the monster attacks. Frankenstein cocks his musket pistol and prepares to fire, but Elizabeth grabs the barrel and presses it to her chest as the gun goes off, killing her. The monster breaks Frankenstein’s back. Joe packs a new gunpowder charge into the musket and chases the creature into the snow. Finding a hatchway into an underground system, Joe descends into tunnels and finds his old laboratory, whose computer welcomes him home. The monster walks in, and Joe fires, but the musket ball only slows it down. Running to his laser, Joe fires and sends the monster into a black hole. Now, Joe wanders through a snowy, desolate world. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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