My friend Max at Drunken Severed Head once asked me who I thought was the best interpreter of the Monster role, Karloff aside. I pitched some names, I even stretched it, including Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands. One name that I have to put up there among the very best is Clancy Brown, in Franc Roddam’s atypical Frankenstein movie, The Bride (1985).
It’s an elegant film, beautifully photographed, with a temerarious script by Lloyd Fonvielle, a pseudo-sequel that riffs off James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. It picks up right where the original left off, with the Bride’s frantic creation scene. There’s even a Dr. Pretorius-like character, Quentin Crisp in the Ernest Thesiger part, an inspired bit of casting if there ever was one. Casting the principals had more to do with commercial appeal, though. The Baron was played by Sting, then at the height of his rock-star popularity, and The Bride was played Jennifer Beale, fresh off her breakout in Flashdance.
The film follows two parallel paths: A cruel Dr. Frankenstein’s troubling relationship with the ingénue Bride, and The Monster’s adventures as he clomps his way through a world he’ll never understand. The difference between the Maker and his Creation is exposed in broad strokes and we are made all too aware, well before we get to the inevitable, climactic confrontation, of who the real Monster is.
Clancy Brown plays The Monster as a big-baby innocent, utterly guileless, trusting, and easily fooled. Brown’s performance is nuanced, genuinely moving and totally convincing. There’s decency in this Monster’s sad eyes, and real warmth in his easy smile.
Another memorable performance is given by David Rappaport as the circus dwarf who befriends and educates The Monster. Sting is solid as a ruthless Frankenstein who grows more despicable as the film progresses, but Jennifer Beale’s is curiously bland and unengaging as the artificial woman.
The Bride deserves to be revisited. It remains one of the more interesting takes on the legend. It is at it’s best when Clancy Brown’s big-hearted Monster and Davis Rappaport’s artful Rinaldo share the screen, the giant and his little protector, abiding in a world where they are both unwelcome.