Saturday Night Live (1987)
I’m not completely sure, but I think the first time Phil Hartman played the Frankenstein Monster on Saturday Night Live was in December of 1987. In the skit, the Monster, Tarzan (Kevin Nealon), and Tonto (John Lovitz) appeared on a talk-show called Succinctly Speaking. Nora Dunn played the host and offered a variety of topics for her guests to comment on as briefly as possible. Not a problem for these guys.
Nora Dunn: All right, Tarzan, let’s start with you: Fire.
Tarzan: Fire good.
Nora Dunn: Mm-hmm. Tonto?
Tonto: Fire good.
Nora Dunn: All right. Frankenstein?
Frankenstein: Fire bad!
She moves on to bread and then the INF Treaty, which turned it into one of the only times (if not the only time) Phil Hartman ever cracked up and broke character on the show. Man, I miss that guy.
Anyway, the Tarzan, Tonto, and Frankenstein bit was so popular that they became recurring characters.
Frankenstein Unbound (1990)
I’ve never read the Brian Aldiss novel and it’s been a few years since I’ve seen Roger Corman’s adaptation of it, but the concept behind Frankenstein Unbound is pretty cool. In it, a not-quite-mad-yet-but-getting-there scientist from the future (John Hurt) is accidentally sent back to the nineteenth century as a side effect of a superweapon he’s been working on. There he meets not only Victor Frankenstein (Raúl Juliá), but also Mary Shelley (Bridget Fonda) who’s become interested in the Baron’s work. Lord Byron (Jason Patric) and Percy Shelley (Michael Hutchence from INXS) also figure into the story.
Unfortunately, the movie is extremely unsubtle in dealing with the theme of setting limits on the pursuit of knowledge. The literary Baron is too obsessed to consider whether or not he should be trying to create life. He’s a selfish jerk, but he’s not the sinister, mustache-twirling villain of Unbound who very much knows that he’s playing God and is going for it with gusto. Likewise, the literary Monster is a tortured, emotionally fragile creature, not the stupid, homicidal brute in Corman’s film. Everything is over-simplified, including having Hurt’s character on hand to internalize the moral lesson on the audience’s behalf.
Makeup artist Guiliana DeCarli came up with an interesting, truly monstrous look for the Creature. It’s not one of my favorites, but it gets points for uniqueness.