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Frankenstein Unbound
An eyeball with an iris of multiple colors on a black background
Promotional artwork
Directed byRoger Corman
Written byRoger Corman
F. X. Feeney
Based onFrankenstein Unbound
by Brian Aldiss
Produced byJay Cassidy
Roger Corman
Kobi Jaeger
Laura J. Medina
Thom Mount
CinematographyArmando Nannuzzi
Michael Scott
Edited byMary Bauer
Jay Cassidy
Music byCarl Davis
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 2, 1990 (1990-11-02)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11.5 million[1]
Box office$335,000

Frankenstein Unbound is a 1990 science fiction horror film based on Brian Aldiss' 1973 novel of the same name, starring John Hurt, Raul Julia, Bridget Fonda, Jason Patric, and Nick Brimble. The film is co-written and directed by Roger Corman, returning to the director's chair after a hiatus of almost fifteen years. This is his final film as a director before his death in 2024. He was paid $1 million to direct.[1]


In 2031, Dr. Buchanan and his team work to develop the ultimate weapon, an energy beam that will completely remove whatever it is aimed at. Buchanan hopes he can create a weapon so powerful that it will end all war and have the added benefit of having no impact on the environment. Unfortunately, the prototype has unpredictable side effects, creating erratic global weather patterns and rifts in space and time that have caused some people to vanish. As he drives home from the testing facility, Buchanan himself is caught in one such rift.

Buchanan and his futuristic computer-controlled car reappear in Switzerland in 1817. In a village, he meets Victor Frankenstein. The men discuss science over dinner and it is revealed that Frankenstein's young brother has been killed. A trial is to determine the guilt or innocence of the boy's nanny, who is suspected of murder.

Several villagers claim to have seen a monster in the woods and suggest this is the killer. Buchanan observes the trial and becomes interested in a young woman taking notes. She turns out to be Mary Shelley, author of the Frankenstein novel. Shelley gives credence to the talk of monsters, but the judge does not. The nanny is found guilty and sentenced to die on the gallows. Buchanan knows the monster killed the child. He implores Frankenstein to come forward and reveal the truth, but Frankenstein refuses. Buchanan then asks Shelley for help, telling her that he is from the future. They are attracted to each other, but Mary, fearing to know too much about the future and her own destiny, chooses not to become involved. Buchanan is on his own. He drives his car to Frankenstein's workshop and finds the doctor in discussion with the monster.

The monster has killed Frankenstein's fiance, saying that if a mate was not made for him then he would deprive Frankenstein of his. Frankenstein asks Buchanan to use his knowledge of electricity to assist in resurrecting the dead woman. Buchanan instructs the monster to run cables to a weather vane on the roof. While the monster is distracted, Buchanan re-routes some of the electrical cables to begin powering up the prototype laser in his car.

As the lightning strikes the tower, again and again, the battery on the laser begins to charge and the corpse on the table begins to move. At the same moment, the woman is restored to life and Buchanan's energy beam is fully charged; he fires. The castle is destroyed.

But the laser opens another space-time rift, sending Buchanan, Frankenstein, and the two monsters far into the future. They land on a snowy mountain with no sign of civilization. Frankenstein and the monster both try to entice the woman to them, only to have her force Frankenstein to shoot and kill her. Enraged, the monster kills Frankenstein and trudges off into the snowstorm. Buchanan follows, hoping to kill the monster before he reaches a city and kills again.

Eventually, the monster is cornered in a cave filled with computers and machines. When Buchanan enters, the machines chirp to life and a voice says "Welcome back, Dr. Buchanan." The monster tells Buchanan that the cave is the central brain for the nearby city, the last one remaining after the world has been devastated by Buchanan's ultimate weapon. Buchanan engages security devices and the monster is burned to death by lasers. Buchanan makes his way to the nearby city through the snow.

As he walks, the monster's voice is heard saying that he cannot truly be killed, for now, he is "unbound."



Producer Thom Mount approached Roger Corman with the idea to get him back into directing after a two decade absence.[3] To get a strong script, Corman looked to known writers including Wes Craven and Floyd Mutrux to craft something original before ultimately having F.X. Feeney adapt Brian Aldiss' novel Frankenstein Unbound with input from Corman himself.[3]

Australian singer Michael Hutchence from INXS was cast in a lead role.[4]


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 50% approval rating based on 18 reviews, with an average rating of 5.20/10. Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote "The movie ... looks fine, and the performers are mostly good. ... Mr. Brimble's Monster looks the way Alexander Godunov might look after a failed face-lift. The special effects are nicely spaced out, and the laugh lines fairly funny."[5]

It performed poorly at the box office, grossing nearly $335,000. According to Brian Aldiss he went to see the film in a cinema in Leicester Square and there were only 6 other people in the audience.[6]


This feature was filmed in Italy, including in Milan and around Bellagio.[7][5]

See also


  1. ^ a b Nashawaty, Chris (2013). Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses : Roger Corman: King of the B Movie. New York: Abrams. p. 210. ISBN 9781613129814. OCLC 967587777.
  2. ^ "Terri Treas". 2009. Archived from the original on July 22, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Gray, Beverly (2004). Roger Corman : blood-sucking vampires, flesh-eating cockroaches, and driller killers. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 183. ISBN 1560255552. OCLC 53324928.
  4. ^ Vagg, Stephen (May 17, 2024). "Top Ten Corman – Part Four, Connections with Australia". Filmink.
  5. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (November 2, 1990). "Review/Film; 'Corman's Frankenstein Unbound'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-05-13.
  6. ^ "Celluloid Memories – Brian Aldiss". 5 June 2011.
  7. ^ Gray, Beverly (2004). Roger Corman : blood-sucking vampires, flesh-eating cockroaches, and driller killers. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 184. ISBN 1560255552. OCLC 53324928.