BRIDE OF FRANKIE is more than a love letter to all things Mary Shelley, it's a worthy entry in the adaptation pantheon of the FRANKENSTEIN book.
BRIDE OF FRANKIE is both a love letter and a new take with a feminist spin of James Whale's BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, one of the greatest movies ever made. In this version Frankie (Rachel Sled) creates the titular bride as a mate for the monster while the Doctor is away. Frankie is a much kinder not-so mad scientists compared to her other half and scientific partner who is portrayed as the true monster, a man who is constantly away, detached and possesses a god-complex. Frankie is lonely herself, being neglected by the doctor and projects this need for company into the bride, hoping for the creatures to become mates as Frankie plays match-maker. The male monster is named Monty (Mark Lancaster) while the bride is named Shelley (Jessica Ridenour) a direct nod to Frankenstein's legendary writer Mary Shelley. Frankie tries to train both creatures in the ritual of courtship, teaching them to dance and dine in the hopes that Monty will be able to woo Shelley. However the more Frankie trains them, a growing attraction grows between her and Shelley, Monty is unfortunately not up to the task of attracting Shelley and both women begin to grow closer to each other. Trouble arises once Doctor Stein arrives, immediately disapproving of the experiment and humiliating Frankie for her needs and ambitions. In the end, everyone rebels against the patriarchal bullying of Doctor Stein.
BRIDE OF FRANKIE manages to pay homage to Mary Shelley's literary classic and James Whale's legendary adaptation. Both in look and themes, from the laboratories and sets to the black and white cinematography that feels straight out of the Universal monster catalogue. Doctor Frankenstein has been divided in two with Frankie and Doctor Stein as to sides of the character's psyche. In one we have the creative, dotting side that wants to soot her loneliness by bringing into the world a companion, although she disguises this need by pretending to create Shelley for Monty, it is actually Frankie who needs companionship after Doctor Stein has done nothing but stay away from her and neglect her at every turn. Frankie and Shelley grow attracted to each other because they recognize in each other a worthiness that both Monty and Stein lack. Monty as noble a giant as he may be is unsophisticated, uneducated and brutish, while Shelley possesses a grace and elegance that would be wasted on the creature, a grace and elegance that Frankie recognizes and is better suited to reciprocate. Doctor Stein represents a patriarchal form of repression, he's never there and when he is around he bullies and tries to discredit Frankie's achievements and tries to demoralize her by seeing her not as an equal (Frankie is after all not an assistant but a scientist partnering with Stein) but rather as inferior and a lesser scientist crippled by her feelings and needs. Monty represents the brutish side of Stein, stripped of the education he is a pure brute, but Monty unlike Stein is not beyond redemption, Monty is a clean slate and Frankie does her best to educate him and make him the best version of himself. This is perhaps the most feminist angle in the short-film, Frankie tries to change Monty's brutish ways, teaches him to be a gentleman and to be considered towards Shelley's needs, doing this through patience and education, while Stein tries to teach Monty his own misogynist ways. Monty rejects these teachings and rebels against Stein, accepting that Shelley has chosen Frankie and stepping aside for them to stay together.
BRIDE OF FRANKIE makes a fantastic effort in replicating the style of an old Universal monster movie. The Black & White cinematography is lush and gorgeous, it doesn't look like a parody of the real deal but instead like part of that cinematic universe. While we don't doubt that the filmmakers have seen BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN more than once, there is an attention to detail here that transcends fan-film and does it's very own thing, this is definitely a pound for pound honest entry in the pantheon of Shelley adaptations. The make-up is fantastic, both Shelley and Monty's designs are familiar yet all their own without ripping-off the iconic flat-head look and the Bride's signature tower-braid. The casting is all around fantastic with Rachel Sled providing Frankie with smarts and plucky charm and Jessica Ridenour big expressive eyes doing all the heavy lifting of communicating volumes without dialogue. Mark Lancaster's Monty switches between aggressive savage and noble brute with ease, always endearing but capable of violence giving Monty that classic tragic monster quality that Frankenstein's creature deserves. As for the despicable Doctor Stein, Circus-Szlalewski embodies the arrogance and misogyny of the mad scientist making him easy to hate. Overall this is a true fan-film, full of love for the original and exploring its feminist themes in an economic and timely manner. The visual FX work employs the same techniques used in the original classic such as the homunculi ballerina. This is an entertaining, funny and fun charming take on a horror classic.
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