Saturday, October 13, 2018

THE BRIDE (1985) Blu-ray review

The Bride (1985) d. Franc Roddam (UK) (118 min)

An inspired extension of James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein, this sumptuous costume drama captures the Gothic look and feel with fine production design and sturdy acting even as it fails to engage emotionally. The film begins on course, with great-looking laboratory scenes of mad doctor Charles (?) Frankenstein (Sting) animating Eva (Jennifer Beals) to be his first creation’s (Clancy Brown) mate. But the seams begin to show when the plotline splits in two: One half following the original creature (dubbed “Viktor”), shunned by both mate and creator, in his travels while the other observes Frankenstein as he dresses up his newest creation as an independent society lady at home.

Doing a commendable job beneath layers of latex makeup, Brown follows well in Karloff’s large footprints, and when he meets diminutive circus performer Rinaldo (an excellent David Rappaport, best known from Time Bandits), a Victorian-age Of Mice and Men dynamic is created to good effect.

Sadly, the film’s other two leads have not one volt of electricity between them onscreen, with the comely Beals utterly vacant behind the eyes (perhaps by design, but it doesn’t make it any more interesting) and Sting every inch the preening rock-star narcissist.

For better or worse, Roddam and screenwriter Lloyd Fonvielle (who had previously collaborated on 1983’s The Lords of Discipline) eschew many of the horror tropes, focusing on the characters’ relationships and their place in the world. The bond between the two outsiders (Rinaldo and Viktor) fares rather well, but attempts at some sort of social commentary and sexual politics ring rather false and the climactic showdown between creator and creation feels rushed and tacked on.

While not even in the same class as the 1935 original, this is a well-intentioned if flawed effort, and not one without intriguing elements. Fonvielle, who would go on to co-write Stephen Sommers’ 1999 Mummy reboot, introduces a psychic connection between monster and mate that is unfortunately only briefly touched on. It’s also fun to see Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride, Saw) and Timothy Spall (Wakewood, the Harry Potter movies) pop up in small early roles, as well as genre veteran Guy Rolfe (Mr. Sardonicus, Dolls, Puppetmaster 3-5). It’s also worth noting that Geraldine Page won her Oscar for The Trip to Bountiful the same year that she was slumming it as Frankenstein’s serving woman.

In addition to contributing an enormously informative and entertaining audio commentary track for Shout! Factory’s new Blu-ray release, Roddam sits down for a 30-min interview, where he reveals that he originally envisioned Sting (whom he given his first role, that of “Ace Face” in Quadrophenia) for Elwes’ role of the soldier who falls for Eva but was forced by the studios to cast him as the lead. He also muses on how Beals was – like his screen creation – “freshly made” from her breakout role in Flashdance the year prior, and was perhaps not yet prepared for such a challenging role.

For his part, Brown is given nearly 40 minutes (“Monster,” curiously and seemingly arbitrarily divided into two 20-minute sections) to discuss his experiences on the film, for which he still clearly has a great deal of affection, despite various hardships (at one point, he had a terrible allergic reaction to the glue for the facial prosthetics, which sent him home for 10 days while his skin healed). The veteran character actor (Highlander, The Shawshank Redemption) comes off as avuncular, intelligent, passionate, self-effacing, and a complete professional; it’s nice to see him given the spotlight for an extended amount of time, both here and in the feature itself.

The Bride is now available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


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