Sunday, February 10, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Video Watch

Roger Corman's `Frankenstein Unbound' Goes To Video

Roger Corman's heavily hyped comeback movie, ``Frankenstein Unbound,'' opened shortly after Halloween last fall in New York and Los Angeles, then quickly disappeared in spite of some positive reviews. A videotape resurrection is scheduled for Feb. 21.

Corman directed the original ``Little Shop of Horrors'' as well as the Vincent Price adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's stories that flooded drive-ins in the early 1960s. He then got involved in distribution and producing and left the directing to such discoveries as Jonathan Demme and Joe Dante.

``Frankenstein Unbound,'' starring John Hurt as a 21st-century weapons scientist who travels back in time to the 19th century to meet Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Raul Julia), is Corman's first directing job in 20 years. The cast also includes Jason Patric as Lord Byron, Michael Hutchence as Percy Bysshe Shelley and Bridget Fonda as ``Frankenstein's'' author, Mary Godwin Shelley - the same character recently played by Natasha Richardson in ``Gothic'' and Alice Krige in ``Haunted Summer.'' Catherine Rabett, best known for her tabloids-exploited relationship with Prince Andrew, is cast as Frankenstein's fiancee as well as the monster's bride.

Entertainment Weekly's critic, Owen Gleiberman, called the result ``vintage Corman'' and ``a pleasingly understated piece of time-travel surrealism.'' The New York Times' Vincent Canby liked the performers, the Italian location photography and found the laugh lines ``fairly funny.''

On the other hand, Variety's critic found the picture ``competent but uninspired,'' while The Village Voice's Gary Giddins really had a bad time: ``The science fiction is potty, the fantasy mundane, the horror muted, the humor regrettable.'' Theater audiences appear to have agreed, although ``Frankenstein Unbound'' is likely to become a video hit on the strength of its cast and title alone.

Another well-known director, Bobby Roth (``Heartbreakers,'' ``Baja Oklahoma''), has a new picture on cassette this month, and it stars a currently hot actor: Ken Olin, the star of ``thirtysomething'' and the new theatrical film, ``Queens Logic.''

Called ``The Game of Love,'' it's about a group of friends who get together at a nightclub where they hash out their affairs and rivalries. The script has roles for Belinda Bauer, Ed Marinaro and Tracy Nelson, and it sounds a lot like ``Queens Logic'' as well as ``Heartbreakers.'' It's due Feb. 21.

Melvin Van Peebles, the black filmmaker who made the revolutionary ``Sweet Sweetback'' more than 20 years ago, also has a new movie on cassette: ``Identity Crisis,'' starring his son, Mario Van Peebles (``The Cotton Club,'' ``Heartbreak Ridge''), as a New Yorker who trades places with a high-fashion maven. Promoted as a ``rap-packed action comedy in the tradition of `House Party,' '' it's coming Feb. 28.

Also bypassing theaters and going straight to video this month:

``Backstreet Dreams,'' in stores this weekend. Brooke Shields co-stars with Burt Young and Anthony Franciosa in this 1990 drama about a small-time gangster (Jason O'Malley) who marries an unfaithful woman (Sherilyn Fenn, who plays Audrey on ``Twin Peaks'') and has an autistic son. Shields plays a wealthy psychologist who tries to treat the boy. The music is by Bill Conti, who won an Oscar for ``The Right Stuff.''

``Shock 'Em Dead,'' in stores now. A 1990 devil-worship thriller starring Traci Lords, Aldo Ray and Troy Donahue.

``Last Call,'' in stores now. William Katt and Joseph Campanella are the stars of what Variety called ``a very sexy made-for-video feature . . . it should score heavily with the intended voyeur market.'' Shannon Tweed plays an exotic performance artist who snags the attention of a corporate square (Katt). It's available in R-rated and unrated versions.

``Puppet Master II,'' in stores now. Paramount Home Video's sequel to last year's cassette hit reunites the gang of puppets with their creator, Toulon, and introduces a dangerous new member to the group.

``Michael Jordan's Playground,'' in stores Monday. NBA superstar Michael Jordan makes his musical and acting debut in this sequel to ``Come Fly With Me.'' It's based on Jordan's life and combines dramatic footage with action highlights from his sports career.

``House of Usher,'' due Wednesday. Oliver Reed plays Roderick Usher, the old Vincent Price role, in this remake of the Edgar Allan Poe horror story. Donald Pleasence is cast as his deranged brother.

``Rush Week,'' due Wednesday. Gregg Allman and Roy Thinnes turn up in this thriller about an ambitious student reporter (Pamela Ludwig) who investigates the death of the dean's daughter at a California college.

``In the Cold of the Night,'' Feb. 21. Seattle's Marc Singer stars in this 1990 thriller, which will be released in two versions: R and NC-17. It's about a photographer who has nightmares about murdering a mystery woman.

``Diamond's Edge,'' Feb. 27. Based on Anthony Horowitz's book, ``The Falcon's Malteser,'' this British send-up of detective movies concerns two kid brothers who get involved in diamond smuggling. Most of the humor is forced, but Susannah York has a memorably seedy cameo as a lounge singer, and there's a sly running gag about the older brother's inability to follow the plot of ``Murder, My Sweet.''

``White Phantom,'' Feb. 27. A martial-arts adventure starring Jay Roberts Jr. as a judo expert who battles terrorists and a Ninja-busting organization led by Bo Svenson.

``Corporate Affairs,'' Feb. 27. A soft-core wild-party movie with a high-finance backdrop. Variety's critic wrote that ``the pages of the script pass mindlessly through the actors' heads to their microphones'' and complained that ``given the mild titillation aimed for, it's a very bad orgy.'' Mary Crosby and Peter Scolari are the stars.

``Wheels of Terror,'' Feb. 28. A horror film in the tradition of ``Christine'' and ``The Car,'' about a black sedan that terrorizes a small town. Joanna Cassidy stars, and the director is Christopher Cain, who made the first ``Young Guns.''

Video Watch by John Hartl appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment. You can get more video information by calling the Seattle Times' 24-hour free service Infoline. Call 464-2000 from any touch-tone telephone and when instructed, enter the category number 0911 to reach the Video Hotline. You may replay all information by pressing ``R'' (7); back up to previous information by pressing ``B'' (2); and jump over over current information by pressing ``J'' (5).


Monday - Alan Bates in ``Mr. Frost,'' ``Michael Jordan's Playground.''

Tuesday - ``Memories of Duke (Ellington).''

Wednesday - Anjelica Huston in ``The Witches,'' Julia Roberts in ``Flatliners,'' Oliver Reed in ``The House of Usher,'' Roy Thinnes in ``Rush Week,'' Judy Garland in ``Gay Purr-EE,'' Ingrid Bergman in ``The Hideaways,'' ``Twice Upon a Time.''

Thursday - Derek Jarman's ``The Angelic Conversation,'' Philippe Noiret in ``Cinema Paradiso,'' Liam Neeson in ``Darkman,'' Ray Sharkey in ``The Take,'' John Agar in ``The Brain From Planet Arous,'' Smita Patil in ``Spices,'' ``The Brain That Wouldn't Die,'' John Wayne in ``The Three Musketeers'' (12-episode serial).

New laserdiscs: Elizabeth Taylor in ``Cleopatra'' (letterboxed), John Ritter in ``Problem Child,'' James Mason in ``Journey to the Center of the Earth'' (letterboxed).

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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