As a schoolboy avidly reading the trades to find out about the next big release, there were few films that loomed as large on my radar as Franc Roddam’s The Bride. The cast, the entire notion of the film made for perfect tabloid fodder; big names, a high concept, but a film that eventually limped out, killed by negative press and general disinterest. Viewed in 2019, that’s a real shame because The Bride is a stunningly made and original film that was never likely to capture the public fancy, even with such an exquisitely modish cast.
This is a re-telling of the Frankenstein story of Mary Shelley, but starts where most films stop; Frankenstein and his monster in the laboratory, the Bride wrapped in bandages, brought to life by flashes of lightning. The Baron is played by Sting, pop icon with The Police, but no mean actor in Brimstone and Treacle, less so in Dune. The Bride is Jennifer Beals, still super-hot from her Flashdance sensation, and whose unfamiliarity works well for this role; her first appearance, sans bandages, is when she walks naked into the Baron’s living room, unaware of the effect her nudity causes. Meanwhile Clancy Brown is a good choice for the monster, although the make-up is unimpressive, while Tim Spall is a hunchbacked assistant and Quentin Crisp barely says a word as a lab helper.
The story then splits to follow the monster as he befriends a circus dwarf and gets a job at a circus run by Alexis Sayle and Phil Daniels, and The Baron’s My Fair Lady-esque attempts to civilise his new creation; she hisses at a cat and claims she thought it was a ‘tiny lion’. Things turn sour in both cases, and the scene is set for a battle between creation and creator. The Bride has ambitions to being a feminist revision much like Angela Carter’s The Company of Wolves, and does nicely by making Dr Frankenstein the real monster, something Sting actually does well with in the final scenes. Audiences probably wanted something sexier than recasting a classic character as a toxic male, or more sensational that the pathos-drenched tears of a monster, but shorn of expectations, Roddam does pretty well to revise a familiar story with fresh detail.
Even sour-puss critic Leslie Halliwell attested to the arresting quality of The Bride’s opening scene, and the set for the laboratory is truly impressive. But The Bride constantly has style to burn, and the locations, sets and costumes are first rate. The wisdom on the film is that the story and acting let things down, but that’s no-longer the case; doubling down on single elements of classic stories is much more fashionable in 2019 than in 1986, and The Bride is far better than the reputation suggests.