Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Bride (1985)

Title: The Bride (1985)

Director: Franc Roddam

Cast: Jennifer Beals, Sting, Clancy Brown, David Rappaport

Writer: Lloyd Fonvielle


Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of those timeless works that has been adapted to the silver screen on countless occasions. The Frankenstein mythos has gone all around the place, its even been translated into science fiction form by the likes of Roger Corman who directed Frankenstein Unbound (1990), a film in which a time traveler transports himself to the time when Dr. Frankenstein was doing his famous experiments with the undead. The Frankenstein Monster was even turned into an E.T. like character in Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad (1987) a film in which the Frankenstein monster befriends a group of kids who team up with him to destroy the forces of evil, just to mention two of the most off beat examples. But one thing is for sure, the Frankenstein Monster, a.k.a. “The Creature” is frequently portrayed under a positive light. He is always the misunderstood monster, always looking for a friend, and always getting the cold shoulder from everyone because of his looks. This is primarily the way in which the creature was portrayed in Franc Roddam’s The Bride. How did the filmmakers behind The Bride treat the Frankenstein mythology?

The story is pretty much a retelling of Mary Shelly’s novel. The film picks up pretty much half way through the story, when Dr. Frankenstein is already creating “the bride” for his creature. Problem comes when she turns out to be extremely beautiful and Dr. Frankenstein and the creature begin to battle for the brides attention. The Dr. and The Creature duke it out for a couple of minutes until finally the creature decides he has been betrayed and runs away from his creator. Rejected. Betrayed. What horrors await the creature out in the world? How will The Bride react to being brought back to life? Will the creature ever reunite with his Bride?

So this movie has a great opening sequence which takes place inside of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. In this early stage of the film, it has a real horror movie feel. With Dr. Frankenstein and his servant trying their best to bring The Bride to life. Lots of lightning, a furious storm outside and a dark brooding castle. Let’s not forget there’s a mad scientist performing some mad experiments! I loved the art direction on these opening sequences; Dr. Frankenstein’s lab is filled with morbid half complete experiments. Disembodied heads inside of jars, headless bodies floating in liquid. These opening sequences felt very much like a horror movie. But, don’t let yourself be fooled. If you were expecting a horror movie from this re-telling of the Frankenstein legend you are sorely mistaken my friend. Though this opening sequence does give us a glimpse of the horror roots within the Frankenstein mythos, this film isn’t a horror movie. And that’s really what sets it apart from the rest of the Frankenstein movies.

In reality, this film has many interesting themes that don’t really have a lot to do with horror. The filmmakers opted to go with a story about true friendship, and the “sexual politics” between men and women at the time. You see, Dr. Frankenstein decides that he wants to teach The Bride (who is later named Eva, after Adam and Eve) good manners and proper behavior. But he is also interested in creating a woman who is equal to man in terms of freedom to speak her mind and do as she pleases. Problem is that when he gets what he wants, and Eva starts doing things her way and speaking her mind, he can’t really take it. So this tension between man and woman is something that dominates one half of the film.

The other half of the film concerns itself with the story of the creature roaming the country side looking for a new life. Along the way he meets a little person called Rinaldo who is on his way to Budapest to join the circus. Rinaldo is a midget who is constantly made fun of by people in the street. But he soon befriends the creature and even gives him a name! Rinaldo decides to name the creature Viktor. Together, they become the best of friends. This part of the film is really my favorite because of the friendship they develop. Rinaldo likes having Viktor around because he is a huge hulk who can protect him. And Viktor likes Rinaldo around, because Rinaldo is smart, and doesn’t take crap from anybody in spite of his size. Together, they go searching for fame and money in the circus. Best parts of the movie for me are those were Viktor (the creature) finds happiness out in the world on his own. Of course, he also encounters a couple of low lives and has to learn the hard way that the world is filled with individuals such as these. But Viktor never forgets the lady of his dreams. And Rinaldo always reminds Viktor to follow his dreams. So eventually Viktor makes his way back to the castle searching for his promised “Bride”.

The themes of the movie are many, but this film doesn’t focus so much on not being able to accept death as a natural part of life. This is really what most Frankenstein movies are about. Not being able to accept our own mortality. But not The Bride. The Bride is more about the family dynamics between parents and their offspring. The creature is essentially a child who is in discordance with his creator and runs away from home to face the big bad world all on his own. To learn to survive on his own merits. He goes out and learns all about good and evil. While The Bride Eva remains in the castle with Dr. Frankenstein. The Dr. ends up wanting to mold her into what he considers a woman should be like. She naturally rebels against her creator. She wants to be free to do things her own way! I like how this film addresses the fact that a parent can mold their child into whatever they want during those early formative years. A parent has a huge responsibility in shaping that life into what it will eventually become. The question the film asks is: What if we don’t like who our parents turned us into? What then? Learning to go our own way and take our chances in finding our own path in life is what this film is really all about.

A lot of people felt disappointed with this film because it wasn’t a horror film in the true sense of the word. This movie doesn’t really concern itself with having the creature killing people left and right or anything like that. It took a very different route then your typical Frankenstein film, but that’s really what I enjoyed about it. It has all the things you might expect from a Frankenstein film, but then it also has many that you won’t expect. It has the castle, the storms, the angry towns people, the blind man, the gypsies, basically every staple that you might expect to see in a Frankenstein movie is there. But thematically speaking, the film is different then most Frankenstein tales. Sting does a fine job as Dr. Frankenstein, playing him with an air of pompousness and evil. David Rappaport should have never blown his head off the way he did because he was a damn fine actor in everything he was in and his performance on The Bride is one of the most endearing things about the film. A ray of light in the evil world that the creature inhabits. The creature by the way was played by Clancy Brown, whom some of you might remember as playing The Kurgan in Highlander (1986). In my opinion, this film is one of his finest days as an actor. The only downside to this movie (according to some) was Jennifer Beals, but I don’t subscribe to that point of view. I think she has a naïveté to her character that fit the story perfectly. The film has great production values, great script and and some wonderful moments. I recommend it if you want to see a slightly different tale based on Mary Shelley’s book.

Rating: 4 out of 5


Neil Fulwood said...

Francisco, I had no idea this movie even existed. Franc Roddam - the guy who made 'Quadrophenia' - directing what sounds like a very intriguing take on Mary Shelley's novel? The very concept sounds as eclectic as the cast. I need to see this!

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

Wicked good review as always Francisco! Reading reviews of twenty-five year old movies that I remember seeing their premier at the theater always makes me feel old. However, I've always meant to rewatch The Bride on cable or DVD, but still haven't. I was one of those people who were disappointed that it wasn't a horror movie. You have to remember, this was before the Internet and any information you could get about a film before its release was limited. Like many people at the time, I expected a film featuring Dr. Frankenstein, his creature and his bride, to be a horror film. Taken on its own merits, The Bride is a decent character study and, as you suggested, a study of family and sexual relationships. It's always a bad idea to fall in love with your own "daughter" that you created to be your "son's" bride. I suspect Sigmund Freud would have enjoyed psychoanalyzing this film. I still wouldn't recommend The Bride to horror film fans, but art film fans like my friend Professor Phileas are sure to enjoy it. Although they might not like the downer ending.

The Film Connoisseur said...

Franc Roddam directed this one and Quadrophenia which by the way also starred Sting, so thats probably how Roddam got sting to be on this movie.

The Bride has good production values, old school sets, good characters you take a liking too, and all the elements that you would expect from a Frankenstein movie as well. Somewhere near the ending of the film, the movie turns right back into an old Frankenstein movie, right down to having the towns people hunting down the creature, him encountering the blind man, the gypsy...its just that everything is slightly different.

The problem with it is that people didnt like the fact that it wasnt a horror movie all the way. But that alone does not make it a bad film. This misunderstood movie flopped in theaters, but I got to watch it later on cable. They thought they had a huge hit in their hands because of Sting who was huge at the time, at his peak I would say.

Its one of those good movies that flop.

@Fritz: Yeah, I use to see this one when I was like 10 years old. Even then I enjoyed the film. The whole thing with Rinaldo and the creature is just great it works for me. They become quite the team during their stint at the circus.

One hilarious scene has the creature getting drunk with Rinaldo in a bar. The creature gulps down a whole barrel of beer and passes out!

The film has a downer ending? I thought the ending was maybe a little too positive for a FRankenstein movie...they defenetly took the story and made it their own with the ending on this one.

Imagine that, a Frankenstein movie with a happy ending! Usually these films are all sad and depressing in the end.

Johnny Thunder said...

Thanks for another great review. Funny, I had not seen this film in a number of years, and watched it last week. It was much better than I remembered, and has definitely held up.

shannon Rice said...

I just watched this for the first time and have to say it is definitely well done. One has to take this film on its own merit. Reading "expert" reviews first may keep some away from this film. My advice: Dont let them it stands up.

Francisco Gonzalez said...

Agree Shannon, this one is pretty good! It probably got a lot of heat because it was Sting showing the world he could carry a whole movie on his shoulders. Singers who suddenly decide to act don't always get the best response from the public.


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