Hooptober 2022 #26: The Bride (1985)

Something that rarely works is the “prestige” horror film. Before elevated horror was a thing, studios occasionally tried to legitimize horror films by casting with A-list stars instead of genre stalwarts, getting well known directors, and making the films variations on classic stories. The idea being they would make the “good” horror film. These films tend to generally be period pieces with the air of a “legitimate” historical drama. They often mean to put a modern eye and respectability into a on supposedly decrepit genre. Yet, these films fail to understand the legitimacy of their source material.

Most of the time you get a film like The Bride. This film pretends to update the story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by centering around Jennifer Beals’ Bride. The film opens promisingly. Sting’s Baron Charles Frankenstein begins to once again create life in his laboratory. He works to create a bride for his monster, portrayed by Clancy Brown. However, in what’s meant to be a symbolic gesture, something goes wrong and the lab explodes. All that seemingly survives is the Baron and his new creation.

There’s promise in the idea that Baron Frankenstein, given the opportunity, would make a woman for a modern world. The film references the myth of Pygmalion, the story of a sculptor who falls in love with his creation. Frankenstein talks to a colleague on about creating a woman equal to their partner. He teaches teaches his creation, who he names Eva, literature, philosophy, and decorum. Jennifer Beals, while a little out of her depth, seems to have going from near feral animal to society woman. Frankenstein though is a feminist only in words, not deeds. He clearly sees her as his creation and not a woman. When Eva begins to have her desires outside of him, he scoffs at the very freedom he’s taught her. By the end, he attempts to exert control over her as a piece of property.

This story is actually enough for a movie, especially one titled The Bride. Unfortunately, the majority of the film gets spent with the monster. The monster, you see, survives the explosion at the beginning. There’s a scene when Brown awakens from the explosion and experiences the outside world for the first time. He’s childlike and amazed. Unfortunately Brown doesn’t get to do more with the character. Unlike Eva, the script dictates that Viktor spend the film as a dullard. He meets a Rinaldo, a little person, played by Time Bandits’ David Rappaport. This new companion teaches the monster, given the name Viktor, things like compassion and self worth. Frankly, this part of the film, almost plays like Of Mice and Men with Rappaport as George and Clancy Brown’s Viktor as Lennie. They join a circus. Rinaldo dies. None of the story with Viktor works because it seems in an entirely different movie. This is the kind of stuff an audience expects in a Frankenstein film. It’s like the filmmakers got cold feet and decided audiences wouldn’t be interested in The Bride. They thought we needed to have the monster to remind us this is a Frankenstein film. When he finally connects with his bride, it feels more like pity than a genuine connection.

The weakest element though really is Sting. Sting seems like he’s in between world tours, doing this to pass the time. His Baron Frankenstein should be… something. The audience gets no hint of what drives him to reanimate the dead. Is he a madman? A scientist who wants to solve the mystery of life and death? His portrayal is that of a bored noble than a person consumed with strange pursuits.

There’s a good film somewhere in The Bride. In the right hands, there’s a study of gender, and power dynamics through lens of Mary Shelley’s classic novel. However, that’s not this film. The bride barely gets to be in her own picture. The Monster gets trapped in a cliche. Someone really needs to bring new life to this concept.

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