I love an eclectic cast me, but you perhaps know 1985's The Bride has taken things too far in its opening ten minutes which features Barry the radish off Auf Wiedersehen Pet, The Kurgan from Highlander, the girl from Flashdance, The Naked Civil Servant himself and Sting! The Bride is just one of those kind of films, littered with so much stunt casting that even the third peasant on the left is portrayed by that bloke off Metal Mickey.
For his third big screen directorial effort, Franc Roddam chose to tackle something more epic yet also more traditional than Quadrophenia, the debut he is perhaps most famous for (although he's probably most famous for devising Masterchef now thanks to TV's utter fascination with the cookery show format) with this take on Mary Shelley's Prometheus myth, which he updates for the modern day audience with a quasi-feminist slant.
Unfortunately, the female empowerment angle is rather scuppered by the fact that he entrusts these scenes to Jennifer Beals as the titular Bride, Eva, and possibly The Worst (and certainly most arrogant) Actor In The World, Sting as her creator, Baron Frankenstein. Seriously, whoever told Sting he could act wants shooting; along with whoever told him he should have a career in music, and whoever suggested he was handsome. He's far too weak an actor to convincingly portray the mad man of science, Frankenstein, and tackles the film in the same way he'd tackle a music video - preening and posing throughout.
Beals earned a Razzie nomination for her performance here, but that's not strictly fair. Granted she's a little more out of her depth here than she was pretending to be a welder-by-day, exotic-dancer-by-night in Flashdance, but she brings a certain naivety to the role and a blankness that actually befits a character who has no clear understanding of how she came to be in this world, and her wide haunted eyes suggest this where, all too often, the script fails her. It's unfortunate then that her storyline, which you'd presume, going off the title and both her and Sting's star billing, was the main thrust of the film is actually its weakest element; the pair wander rather mournfully and stiltedly around scenes set inside Castle Frankenstein and Bavarian high society (watched over by a countess played by 60s supermodel and Blow Up star Veruschka) with the feminist themes being clumsily handled and conveyed, beyond Anthony Higgins as Sting's mate suggesting that a more compliant female companion ought to have been the ideal. The transformation within Frankenstein from creator of Eva to abusive pursuer of her unwilling affection is poorly developed and seems to spring entirely from the fact that Beals' Eva was catching the eye of young cavalry officer Cary Elwes, alerting Sting to his inner neanderthal 'My woman, my property' attitude.
Thankfully, the other major plot in the film is much better. In the opening ten minutes, on the night of Eva's creation, Castle Frankenstein is partly destroyed by lightning which causes a fire (unfortunately killing off Timothy Spall's Paulus, an Igor-like assistant, and Quentin Crisp's Dr Zalhus - this is a real shame, Spall deserves more screen time, and indeed some actual lines, whereas Crisp could easily have been retained to take up Higgins' role whose character is barely developed beyond being a sounding board for Sting's pompous scientific and philosophical babble) from which Frankenstein's original creation, The Monster (Clancy Brown) flees from and is presumed dead. Taking to the road, he meets David Rappaport's circus dwarf, Rinaldo, who convinces him to accompany him to Budapest to join a circus run by Alexei Sayle and Phil Daniels (more eclectic casting!) and along the way he shows The Monster, whom he christens Viktor (his creator, the Baron, is called Charles in this film to avoid any confusion) kindness and compassion, as well as a sense of self worth.
This storyline really flies despite it perhaps being a bit sugary and diverting us from the things we normally expect from a Frankenstein film. It is helped immeasurably by Rappaport who pitches his performance just right to effectively engage our audience sympathies both for him and the previously unloved, unnamed and tormented Monster. It also helps that the circus setting is a naturally vivid and eccentric one and, shot in the sunkissed South of France, it seems Roddam is naturally in his element here, capturing the rogues gallery beautifully with Sayle, Daniels, that other Quadrophenia (and Metal Mickey!) star Gary Shail and a woman with the biggest pair of boobs I have ever seen! Each time the action moves from this plot back to Sting I must confess my interest dipped enormously. Even when we must sadly say goodbye to Rappaport's kindly dwarf, Viktor's plotline still holds some interest, with a rather lovely scene between Brown and Ken Campbell as a forest dwelling trader of baubles, bangles and beads. Eventually, the plotlines converge by way of a psychic link between both Viktor and Eva (which has sadly only been half-heartedly developed throughout the film) and a contrived, too coincidental chance meeting between the pair which ultimately leads to their reunion, and the union the Baron originally promised for them, once they've got rid of Sting that is.
There, a plot spoiler - Sting carks it. But let's face it, that's got to be good news in anyone's books, right?