[box cover]

The Bride

There are good movies, and there are bad movies, and there are "so bad they're good" movies. There are also movies whose mere titles, when uttered in mixed company, are greeted with hoots of derision, rolled eyes and the phrase, "Oh dear God." Franc Roddam's 1985 The Bride is one of those films. Partly it's because, yes, it's really, really bad — although to be fair, there are any number of films that are probably much worse — but mainly it's because it's a B-horror movie trying with all its heart to be a brilliant A-feature film, failing spectacularly through wretched acting, terrible writing, and completely mishandled direction. It begins promisingly, if a tad earnestly: Dr. Frankenstein (Dr. Charles Frankenstein, not Henry), attended by his assistant, Dr. Zalhus, is getting ready to zap his newest creation, which is all wrapped up in gauze and strapped to the lightning-shocky-thingy. The camera angles are dramatic, the set is evocative of the cool/kitsch laboratory setup in James Whale's original Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, Maurice Jarre's music creates eerie suspense, live body parts swim in vats of liquid ... then the machinery goes haywire, Dr. Frankenstein gives it too much juice, and he assumes he's fried it irreparably. But then, it moves! He cuts away the gauze to reveal .... Flashdance star Jennifer Beals! This is a good time to stop watching the film — after this, they all start to talk. Which is a shame, really: The set design is brilliant, the costumes gorgeous, but how can you not know that you're filming a piece of total camp when you've cast Sting as Doc Frankenstein, Quentin Crisp as his assistant, and Jennifer Beals as the Bride? Alas, Roddam seems to have been utterly without humor or awareness of what he was working with, helming this mini-epic as if he were directing Sir Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham-Carter in a Merchant Ivory flick. The one brilliant piece of casting — Clancy Brown as the Monster — is wasted, giving the bulk of the film over to looooong conversations between Sting and Beals (scenes which rank amongst the most boring, poorly-acted stretches of dialogue ever committed to celluloid). A secondary, far-too-short plot follows the Monster (named, at one point, Victor) as he runs off and befriends a midget (David Rappaport, memorable from Time Bandits) with dreams of joining the circus. But the main point of the story is that Sting is inexplicably in love with his creation, Beals — inexplicable mainly because the two have absolutely no on-screen chemistry together — and he jealously seeks to keep her for himself, first from the Monster and then from smarmy pretty-boy Cary Elwes. Finally, Victor the Monster develops a psychic link with Beals and the viewer starts to pound themselves in the head with the DVD case as the final scenes wind down with some of the worst acting ever, ever, EVER seen in a major feature film (Beals shouting at Sting, "You didn't create me! You didn't create me!" is so painful to watch that it can actually give the viewer a sharp throbbing ache behind the eyes) until finally, blessedly, it's over. Sitting through the end of this movie is probably a good approximation of what the survivors felt when they escaped in their lifeboats from the Titanic. Columbia TriStar's DVD is undeservedly gorgeous, in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with clean, crisp Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. A director's commentary is provided, which is interesting only in that Roddam continually admits that he really didn't know what the hell he was doing when he made this film; at one point, he talks about how he had no idea how he was going to shoot a difficult scene, so he stalled for time by complaining that the carpet wasn't right, buying himself two hours while they got a new one. And during the aforementioned "You didn't create me!" scene, he says, "I think that this argument about the control that men have over women and the men thinking that they create a woman or create her career or her future, I think it's a very serious theme. And I think it could have worked had we, you know, paid more attention to the script." Thanks, Franc. Trailer, cast-and-crew notes. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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