A Bizarre Frankenstein Movie Cast A Rock Star As An Evil Mad Scientist
The Bride stars rock star Sting as an evil version of Frankenstein, fighting with his own creation over the titular character.
For a story that is as incredibly specific and grotesque as an obsessive scientist flouting the laws of God and man to build a living creature from corpses, only to have it turn on him, Frankenstein has managed to go through a lot of changes. There is the famous Universal Pictures Boris Karloff interpretation, the comedic Mel Brooks-Gene Wilder version, that time he teamed up with Hugh Jackman to fight the bad guy from Moulin Rouge!, and literally dozens of others. However, one of the very strangest versions cast the rock star Sting as Baron Frankenstein and also decided he was a weird, horny villain: The Bride, which is currently streaming for free with ads on Tubi.
Even among revisionist retellings of Frankenstein, The Bride stands out as a particularly odd film. The 1985 film stars Sting (or Gordon Sumner, if you’re nasty) as Baron Charles Frankenstein, who begins the film already having constructed his creature (the great character actor Clancy Brown) and is now in the process of creating a female companion for the unnamed wretch. In Mary Shelley’s original novel, this happens approximately three-quarters into the narrative, but The Bride decides to make a pretty change to the story: in this version, Baron Frankenstein falls in love with his flawless female creation (Jennifer Beals) and decides to keep her for himself.
The opening moments of the film see Baron Frankenstein animating the Bride in a sequence that sees her wrapped like a mummy and suspended from the ceiling in a web of gauze. Upon seeing her alive, Sting refuses to honor his agreement with the creature and after a fight that destroys the laboratory, assumes his first creation is dead. However, the creature survives, teams up with a fellow outcast Rinaldo the Dwarf (David Rappaport), and tries to make his way in the world as a circus performer.
As a film, The Bride seems unsure whether it wants to be a feminist take on Frankenstein or simply a misanthropic one. As directed by Franc Roddam and written Lloyd Fonvielle, the film makes a point of how the Baron wishes to literally create a “perfect” woman completely to his liking, except that he cannot bear that she has wishes and desires of her own. But while the Baron is undoubtedly a symbol of entitlement, nearly everyone that the creature and Rinaldo encounter is as selfish, callous, and brutal to the innocent as the Baron.
The Bride both wildly deviates from the source material and, in a way, stays oddly faithful to the spirit of Frankenstein. While the novel has Doctor Frankenstein destroy the female creature after becoming horrified that his creations might parent a race unto themselves, The Bride has Baron Frankenstein fight with his creature over a pretty girl. However, the conflict between the creator and the creation is central to the themes of the novel, so is this really that different?
The Bride posits Frankenstein as the overt villain of the story, an arrogant, violent aristocrat who has as much in common with the likes of King Joffrey from Game of Thrones as he does the guilt-ridden scientist of the novel. In 1985, Sting had just begun his career as an actor, most notably starring in David Lynch’s notorious adaption of Dune and looking to expand his resume beyond being the frontman of one of the most famous bands in the world. If The Bride gets anything right, the casting of Sting at the height of his beauty and charisma as the imperious, haughty Frankenstein is spot on.
Clancy Brown is also well-cast as the creature, lending his imposing physical presence to a mostly wordless character. Brown had also just begun his career in feature films, and would go on to star in Highlander the next year and then other future classics that required an intimidating presence like Starship Troopers and The Shawshank Redemption. For her part, Jennifer Beals had made an enormous splash in the massively successful, critically panned film Flashdance and would go on to become a respected character actor.
The Bride makes a number of odd changes to the story of Frankenstein, such as renaming Victor Frankenstein “Charles”, while the creature himself is eventually dubbed Victor by Rinaldo. Unlike almost any other adaptation of the story, it also takes for granted that no one takes the creature for a monster, just as a large, slow-witted man. At the same time, it echoes previous versions of Frankenstein, with electricity animating the Bride, the creature’s fear of fire, and a mob of angry villagers hunting down the creature at one point.
The Bride was a flop when it was released, not coming close to making its $13 million budget back and being roundly panned by critics. While all three principal actors would go on to successful careers, it did not make any of them bigger stars than they already were. In a world filled with strange adaptations of Frankenstein, it is one of the strangest, but sadly, not one of the most successful.