Thursday, October 20, 2011

31 Days of Frankenstein: The Bride of Sarandon

The Bride (1985)

The Bride is sort of a What If sequel to James Whale's The Bride of Frankenstein, the What If part being that there's no Elizabeth. That turns out to be a major difference.

The Bride of Frankenstein has always been a provocative title. Technically, Elizabeth is the title character, being the Baron's wife, but of course no one really thinks of it that way, not even the movie itself. The Bride is the creation that Frankenstein and Pretorius make (supposedly) for the Monster; Pretorius even explicitly calls her "The Bride of Frankenstein." Though audiences often mistake the name of the Monster for his creator, in the world of the film, there's no confusing the two. Pretorius isn't referring to the Bride as the spouse of the Monster; he's associating her with Baron Frankenstein himself.

The mundane explanation is that she's Frankenstein's Bride in the same way that the novel Frankenstein is Mary Shelley's book. She created it, so it belongs to her. That doesn't prevent my buying a copy though so that it also belongs to me. Creation doesn't mean eternal ownership. If that's what Pretorius means, then the Bride of Frankenstein can quickly become the Bride of the Monster.

But Pretorius is anything but mundane. He's perverse and I believe he said exactly what he meant about the new creature being Frankenstein's wife, even though the Baron already had one in Elizabeth. This is confirmed when the Bride chooses Frankenstein over the Monster, a move Frankenstein endorses by holding out his arms to her and drawing her closer. The whole thing is mercifully brought to a premature end by the Monster's blowing up the lab, but what if he hadn't? Would Frankenstein have chosen the Bride over Elizabeth?

That's a fascinating idea for a story and I wished The Bride would have gone for it. Instead, it takes Elizabeth out of the picture and allows Frankenstein (Charles, not Henry or Victor; played by Sting) to develop his relationship with the Bride (Jennifer Beals) without the mess of a preexisting wife in the mix. It's still messy though because of course the Monster (Clancy Brown) is still running around the countryside.

The Monster is your Victor (or, actually, Viktor) in this version and Brown does a great job with him. Head of makeup Sarah Monzani and her crew went with the bald look for him, a choice I understand (what with the brain transplant and all) even if I much prefer the long-haired look (for aesthetic as much as literary reasons). Viktor tries to get over his rejection by the Bride and succeeds for a while in the company of a circus-dwarf he meets named Rinaldo (named after the black-listed screenwriter of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and played by Time Bandits' David Rappaport). But when something happens to that relationship, Viktor decides he wants to give the Bride another shot after all. Meanwhile, Baron Frankenstein's natural selfishness has been getting in the way of his forming a meaningful relationship with the Bride.

It's not a flawless movie (Beals isn't particularly endearing, which she kind of needs to be as the romantic interest for both Frankenstein and Viktor), but I love the way it puts the romance back into Gothic romance, Brown and Rappaport have great chemistry, and Sting is a perfectly loathsome Frankenstein, as he should be. There are also appearances by Timothy Spall and a pre-Princess Bride Cary Elwes.

Frankenstein (1987)

I haven't been able to dig up much on this other than a thread on a classic horror film message board, but it appears to have been a televised version of the story for kids and may have even been filmed in front of a live audience. It's worth mentioning for a couple of reasons though. First, that's the most faithful-to-Shelley look for the Monster I've ever seen, but also: that's Chris Sarandon under the mask.

Which reminds me that I left The Rocky Horror Picture Show off my list, but you know...I'm okay with that.


Christopher Mills said...

I actually vaguely recall seeing the Chris Sarandon version - did it air on PBS or something? I do remember that it was a videotaped stage play.

Anyway - here's a little-known version of the story that you missed: in 1973, Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows) produced a late-night two-part adaptation of Frankenstein for television. It was shot on videotape and starred Robert Foxworth as Frankenstein and Bo Svenson as the monster.

Considering the low budget and the limitations of the videotape format, it was fairly decent.

Dark Sky Films released it on DVD in '07. I reviewed it for my DVD Late Show column/site:

Frankenstein (1973)

If you can find it, it's an interesting curio.

grandpaboy said...

I don't know if it's on your list, but This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel is a recent YA prequel to Frankenstein. It's an amazing read - like The Princess Bride meets The Hunger Games. Check it out!

Michael May said...

Thanks, guys! One of the fun things about doing this series is that I'm building a great viewing/reading list for myself. I'll add both of those things!

Steamblade said...

I'll take Rocky Horror over The Bride any day.


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