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The Bride

August 16, 1985

Two John Candy movies in a row, and now all the sudden we’re back to weird science? THE BRIDE asks the question “What if WEIRD SCIENCE happened not in the modern day with teenagers, but with adults a long time ago, and instead of Gary the main guy’s name is Frankenstein?” Or “What if FRANKENWEENIE was a Franken-adult-human-lady?” Or I guess if you want to be a wet blanket you could call it a riff on BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. But it’s totally different. The hair is not even the same, to name only one example.

Director Franc Roddam had done QUADROPHENIA (1979) and THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE (1983) and was attempting his first big mainstream movie. According to his refreshingly frank DVD commentary track, he had Sting (who had been in his first film) originally slated to play the small part of Josef, but “we said to ourselves this could be a great movie for young people” if they had it star this huge rock star, with his first solo album coming out in June, alongside Jennifer Beals, the hot newcomer fresh off the massive success of FLASHDANCE. So they gave the Josef role to some schmuck named “Carrie Elways” or some shit and Sting played Baron Charles Frankenstein opposite Beals as the titular Bride. But it’s only modernized in some of its themes, while being fairly classical in form and content. It’s not rock ’n roll or flashdancy at all. So I’m not sure the young people much noticed.

This take on the story opens with the creation scene. Charles, who unfortunately nobody ever calls Chuck, bosses around an Igor-ish intern or whatever named Paulus (Timothy Spall, credited as Tim Spall) and unexplained colleague Dr. Zahlus (The Naked Civil Servant author Quentin Crisp, in his usual makeup) as they raise and electrify the Bride’s bandaged body with a big glass orb that’s kinda like the steampunk version of those electrical spheres they used to sell at The Sharper Image (or, come to think of it, the “Gizmo” in MY SCIENCE PROJECT).

The lab set up is really cool, with the body harnessed in a web of stretchy white cords, and a system of pulleys and weights controlled by Paulus pouring sand out of a bucket. I especially liked that the sand pours out of a metal sculpture of a face, as if it’s puking (especially when Paulus puts his hand over it tryin to stop the flow).

I wondered what that said about Frankenstein, or whoever designed that part of his contraption, that he would take the time to add that artistic touch. I don’t know the answer, but Roddam says to make the scene original he brought in an “avant garde inventor” and “crazy guy” named Jim Whiting, who also plays a living head in a jar in the lab. What Roddam does not mention is that Whiting is a renowned installation artist who was coming off of creating the robots for Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” video! (His one other IMDb credit is as a carpenter on MY COUSIN VINNY – I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that was a different Jim Whiting.)

Hats off to Whiting, because this is a cool take which I bet was an influence on Kenneth Branagh’s also cool, and much wetter version in MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN. This may also be the first long-haired hunk version of Dr. Frankenstein, and since Branagh couldn’t compete with Sting on looks he was forced to do a bunch of scenes shirtless, grunting and pulling on large levers. (There are also times when Sting seems to predict David Bowie’s look in LABYRINTH, especially when he’s covered in glitter at a masquerade ball.)

We can see that this is not this particular Frankenstein’s first rodeo, because also in attendance is a very tall, large-headed and stitched up, grunting individual who will later be named Viktor (Clancy Brown between THUNDER ALLEY and HIGHLANDER). And there is a conflict here when the experiment is successful and Charles realizes just how good of a job he did, somehow creating Jennifer Beals. I don’t think he had any idea how much he was upping his game between the first and second monsters. Much later it’s confirmed that he did stitch her together from bodies, but I’m unclear why there aren’t any noticeable imperfections.

There’s an important conversation. Viktor says, “For me.”

“Yes, she’s for you,” says Charles.

“For me!” Viktor says.

Two men just bluntly negotiating ownership of a woman before they introduce themselves. But Charles changes his mind right there on the spot. The fight results in an explosion and the collapse of a tower, and Viktor runs off, presumed dead. So Charles names the Bride Eva and tells everybody she’s his patient/ward who got struck by lightning and lost her memory. And he tells his misogynistic lothario bro Carvell (Anthony Higgins, TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, VAMPIRE CIRCUS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) that he’s teaching her to be “independent, free and bold” and “a woman equal to ourselves” so he can experience “a love of equals” with her.

Carvell thinks Charles should groom her into a sex slave, which the Baron fortunately dismisses (though I figure maybe don’t be friends with that guy anymore, which doesn’t occur to him). Charles does not show any sign of lust when Eva first leaves her room, butt naked, and curls up next to him in his throne. During the creation scene there was a shocking sight – the nude lower half of a woman, jiggling around in a water tank. And as the experiment goes awry the tank gets shattered and it flops onto the floor with a disgusting sploosh sound.

When Eva walks into the room naked, a shadow covers the top half of her body, echoing that disturbing earlier image, contrasting the beauty of a naked body with a reminder that to Frankenstein it’s just spare parts.

Or that’s how I read it. Then in the commentary track Roddam mentions that Beal didn’t want to do nudity, so it’s a body double. I guess that’s all it is.

(Note: That this was rated PG-13 – in the first year that that designation existed – shows how much the rating has changed over time. I’m confident that either the naked corpse or the naked live woman (any type of bush, really) would necessitate an R today. But like I’ve been saying, PG-13 was thought of as “wow, that’s a little too hardcore” instead of “what is this sissy watered down from R bullshit?”)

Eva seems to vaguely remember a few words from whatever form her parts once existed in, and struggles to communicate. Charles tasks his servant Mrs. Baumann (Geraldine Page, THE BEGUILED) with teaching Eva etiquette, and gets her reading books and what not. After an indeterminate passage of time the training has worked so well that he presents her to a Countess played by the supermodel Veruschka (BLOW-UP), and now she can speak eloquently and pass herself off as royalty… until a cat comes in the room and she starts to hiss at it. (“You never told me about cats,” she explains later. “I thought it was a tiny lion.” A rare joke in this movie.)

Charles really does turn her into an independent woman, but for his part he’s that familiar figure of the man who talks a good feminist game but turns out to be a total sleaze. When the young captain Josef (Cary Elwes in only his fourth movie) starts to court her, Charles gets jealous, the two almost fight, and she realizes they’re both dipshits. Since she hasn’t really been out in the world to experience the wide world of sexism she seems completely befuddled by him acting possessive of her. He asks “How could you do this to me?” and she’s like, what the fuck? What on earth does this have to do with you?

Another incident so timeless that it would seem too timely if it came out right now is when his know-it-all ego is wounded by her correcting him.

“Keats’ Prometheus is a case of—“ he starts to blather to Carvell.

Shelley’s Prometheus,” Eva interjects.

“Keats, my dear, if you don’t mind.”

The idea is ridiculous to her. “Keats never wrote anything remotely—“

“Don’t interrupt us!”

Charles actually doesn’t even recognize that Eva’s right and he’s wrong until his friend picks up the actual book and reads off the author. Even then, Charles has to grab it from him and read it with his own eyes. I mean, how could a woman remember a book thing better than me? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?

So this is a pretty interesting take on the BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN story, shifted to be specifically about sexism, and men’s possessiveness and entitlement toward women’s feelings and bodies. And that’s sort of what I expected. What I did not expect is that all of this I’ve been talking about is almost a subplot. Because much of the movie follows Viktor, the monster, and that part of the movie is much more involving (partly because it’s filmed on location and not mostly confined to one castle, Roddam points out on the commentary).

Early in his journey, Viktor scares away a bunch of shitty kids who are harassing a dwarf named Rinaldo (David Rappaport, TIME BANDITS. Rinaldo sees a good opportunity here and convinces Viktor to lift him up and carry him around. Now all the sudden he’s got a beast of burden and a bodyguard for his long walk to Bucharest. They’re kind of a Master Blaster!

The relationship starts off exploitative, and Rinaldo never entirely stops being kind of a condescending dick, but honestly beggars can’t be choosers. He becomes a pretty good friend to Viktor, showing him the world, teaching him a few things, giving him pep talks. He brings him to a pub and gets him drunk, but Viktor eventually passes out and the rest of the bar-goers dump them off a bridge! A pretty cool stunt:

Rinaldo is able to negotiate jobs at a circus, working for this guy named Magar (Alexei Sayle, The Young Ones) who we only ever see being a rude dick, except for when he occasionally has a greedy rubbing-his-hands-together type smile when their act is going over well. Magar has a thug named Bela (Phil Daniels, star of QUADROPHENIA) who is just as bad, rarely talking and always having a bullying smile on his face. Eventually things go bad and SPOILER Rinaldo gets murdered and Viktor tips over Magar’s trailer with him inside and impales Bela. Good stuff.

Viktor tries wandering on his own, but now he’s a wanted murderer. A funny little play on Mary Shelley’s book (as well as James Whale’s BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN) is that he seems to be cornered by a mob and he runs into a blind man (Shakespearian actor Jack Birkett, who really was blind). But instead of giving him shelter and being kind to him this blind man feels his face and then immediately yells out that he found him. A fucking snitch!

Brown is really good in this role. At times it’s a little silly how powerful he is, like when he can jump through a brick wall. Clancy’s a big guy, but he’s not the Incredible Hulk. It doesn’t matter, because he really captures this simple character who is basically innocent, but has a hard time understanding things, and through his experiences learns a few things, including riding horses, and having a little bit of a sense of humor. I really liked him after a while. This is a monster who, when he needs to steal a horse to escape, says to the horse, “My friend. My friend. Help me. Please?” A good dude.

In the end the stories come together, and I was skeptical about the two monsters ending up together as originally intended by their maker, but it kind of works; Viktor has grown and learned and comes to Eva with a different attitude than at the beginning, and Eva has experienced the world of the elites and come away thinking it’s bullshit. (Also their creator has fallen off a tower with a pretty great shot of hitting the ground and his torch flying out of his hand and bouncing.)

Both the director and the reviews say it’s a silly, abrupt ending, which is true, but it does feel like where the story is supposed to end, it didn’t take me by surprise. And I like that they get a happy romance ending! They’re on a boat together, arriving in Venice during a sunset. A far cry from Shelley’s ending where he’s on a ship but considers himself alone, and leaves on a raft to kill himself.

Roddam on the commentary track is open about things he perceives as shortcomings. He feels he got carried away with the visuals and didn’t pay enough attention to getting the script right. (Personally I don’t think it looks as good as you’d hope for from cinematographer Steven H. Burum [RUMBLE FISH, BODY DOUBLE] and production designer Michael Seymour [ALIEN, OUT FOR A KILL], but maybe an HD remaster would change my mind.) He also theorizes that it’s easy for directors doing period pieces to forget to have modern pacing. Not too far off.

But you know what, this is still pretty decent. I can understand why it hasn’t turned into a much-discussed favorite over time, but it’s a pretty entertaining take on a Frankenstein premise that feels original without being some drastic reinvention. I think both Brown and Beals bring some heart to their characters, and Sting is fine. He doesn’t manage to make the character seem very relatable, and then that turns out to be appropriate.

His casting didn’t seem to generate the intended interest, though. The movie opened in 11th place, below COCOON in its ninth week, and it made less than $4 million on a reported $13 million budget. Reviews were terrible. In the New York Times, Stephen Holden said that it “never makes up its mind whether it is a horror movie spoof or an earnest exploration of the genre’s myths.” (I honestly can’t fathom interpreting it as a spoof!) He says that “Miss Beals’s performance sinks this already muddled mess of a movie like a stone.” Gene Siskel called it “a monstrous failure” in the headline, and “a letdown” and “complete failure in telling its principal story” in the review. He says “That it succeeds in a subplot we don’t care a whit about is even more annoying,” which sounds to me like it doesn’t succeed, right? He elaborates about what “our expectation, given the film’s title and star billing.” I never understand that attitude that a movie objectively bad if you thought it was going to be something else. Those are the most frustrating movie conversations. Personally, THE BRIDE being not at all what I thought it was going to be was its main strength.

Beals was nominated for the “Worst Actress” Razzie, which seems to fit the conventional wisdom of the time, and seems straight up asinine to me. Those Razzies dicks really had it in for women they perceived as being hired for their looks – she was up against Tanya Roberts, Brigitte Nielsen and Ariane (though they all lost to Linda Blair in NIGHT PATROL, SAVAGE ISLAND and SAVAGE STREETS, because as we all know it’s a sin against the Lord for an established actress to do b-movies).

The fact that they did not nominate Sting, passing up the low hanging fruit of a rock star moving to acting for his second widely mocked flop in a row, proves beyond a shadow of the doubt that all Razzies voters were really into Sting. And nothing against Sting but yeah, that’s exactly what I picture Razzies voters listening to. Or maybe more Peter Cetera.

NOTES:

Summer of 1985 connections:

Maurice Jarre (MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME) did the score. Speaking of which, when Sting had his previous movie role in DUNE, his acting resume was weirdly similar to Tina Turner’s when she did THUNDERDOME. Both were well-known singers who became gigantic solo artists in the ‘80s and took a role in a crazy desert sci-fi epic, having previously only been in a rock opera by The Who (QUADROPHENIA for Sting, TOMMY for Turner). However, Sting did not provide any songs for this soundtrack like Turner did for THUNDERDOME, which would’ve been weird for the movie but more 1985, and likely would’ve sold more tickets.

Tie-ins:

Yep, THE BRIDE got itself a “media tie-in” book: The Bride: A Tale of Love and Doom by Les Martin. And I think it’s made for young readers, because according to Google Books it’s 93 pages (including more than 60 color photographs, as we can see on the cover there), and the author’s other works include kid’s photo books of the first three INDIANA JONES movies and tie-ins to Thundercats and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. But also The X-Files and books about vampires and werewolves. He got to teach kids about adventuring and monsters, it looks like. Not a bad trade. I respect it.

Legacy:

I do think it was an influence on MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN, but that movie’s at least as flawed and not-remembered-much as this is. As you can see in the links above, you can get THE BRIDE on DVD as a random collection with GHOST RIDER, THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES and SECRET WINDOW, which is a decent explanation of its place in cinematic history.

Sting continued to act occasionally (THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, STORMY MONDAY, LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS), but never as the lead.

Screenwriter Lloyd Fonvielle later got story credits on CHERRY 2000 and THE MUMMY.

Director Franc Roddam went on to create the format for the show Masterchef.

And Jim Whiting continued to do cool shit, including Mechanical Theatre at an amazing-looking artist-designed theme park in Austria. But even if he never does another god damn thing in his life he’ll always be the guy who did the “Rockit” video.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 18th, 2020 at 10:21 am and is filed under Fantasy/Swords, Horror, Reviews, Romance, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

32 Responses to “The Bride”

  1. “a big glass orb that’s kinda like the steampunk version of those electrical spheres they used to sell at The Sharper Image (or, come to think of it, the “Gizmo” in MY SCIENCE PROJECT).”

    Not using Google–that’s a plasma something or other, right? Plasma orb? Plasma sphere? Something plasma.

    And apologies to Jennifer Beals, but I think I could be pretty satisfied with pulling off a Clancy Brown. Imagine, all the Highlander sequels failed at recreating the Kurgan, but Sting did it! You’ve gotta feel some sense of accomplishment there.

  2. Sting maybe, although probably in secret, but I can’t imagine Razzie voters being down with Peter Cetera. Too ernest, too easy to be mocked for. Sure they’d get off on jocks going “phfft, that guy!” but they wouldn’t have the satisfaction of thinking to themselves “this clown doesn’t get it”. I’m sure some people here will be offended by the associations but I could see Razzie guys being big on those Barenaked Ladies, Weezer, They Might Be Giants type bands. And whatever Pitchfork tells them is in this week. Not sure what the 1985 equivalents of all these guys.

    Looks like neither Sting or Cetera have ever been nominated for Razzies despite a few opportunities, so you might be on to something.

  3. I refuse to believe the Razzie assholes are down with anything except waiting to be told what’s popular and what’s not so they know who they have to make cheap shots at this week. Probably the most craven bunch of Hollywood assholes who ever existed. Their favorite song is probably the theme to ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT.

  4. Majestyk, you inspired me to check if anyone has done any good covers of the Entertainment Tonight theme on Youtube. There’s a pretty good one of a guy earnestly playing the bassline along with an extended version, and one of a kid rockin out on electric guitar while playing a tape. But the most artistically successful version is this mellow keyboard rendition:

    https://youtu.be/pyNov7wBp7I

  5. I remember the common gripe about this one being that with Sting in the lead everyone expected a hip, modren, rock n’ roll Bride of Frankenstein, and what they got was slow, stodgy, and (the biggest one I heard) ‘boring’.

    Me? Well, I missed it in theaters. Much like Explorers earlier in the summer, it was in and out too quickly for me to catch it. But when I caught it on rental I was surprised to have mostly enjoyed it. Perhaps it was because I was forewarned and knew ahead of time that it wasn’t hip, modren, or rock n’ roll. Maybe I just had a crush on Beals. Who knows?

  6. Sting is a musical genius. His solo albums kind of meandered and were a mixed bag, as they say, but a hell of a lot of his stuff is solid and he has more than his fair share of brilliance.

    I liked him in LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS but otherwise what I have seen of his acting could be charitably classified as “mugging for the camera”. I will have to check this out, if nothing else just for Clancy Brown.

  7. I love the marked contrast between the modest, “We don’t want to wake you up in case you fell asleep when our show airs at 2 AM in most markets” Siskel and Ebert At the Movies theme and the overconfident 7pm razzle-dazzle salesthemeship of the Entertainment Tonight song. You know what would be the best, if a rapper or rap group sampled the happily plinky Siskel and Ebert theme song and added lyrics to the melody, maybe some funky and melodic scratching that takes the melody to new places. Please someone do this, good rappers, DJs and producers only though. No trash acts befoul this great idea. Sisqo please do not sing over it. Actually maybe that would be sort of funny. Chicagoans are particularly encouraged, especially if they are two area rappers uniting to share their viewpoints despite a long-running professional feud. Thanks in advance hip-hop artists.

    I wonder if Siskel and Ebert would listen to their mutual theme song at home sometimes. I was shocked to learn John Tesh did not write the “ET” theme. (Also what a bunch of assholes, branding their show as ET after The Real ET claimed the name.)

    Does anyone have the Siskel and Ebert theme as their ringtone? Because I am about to.

    Majestyk, you may have out-Verned Vern with that insult to the Razzies. Vern, thank you for this review – I had been contemplating watching this one a few months back and I think I am gonna finally give it a chance. You sold me with the part about The Monster politely talking to a horse.

    It goes without saying that regular-ass JWha BRIDE OF is a perfect movie, but you know what movie totally rules too, SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. Strangely, this review has inspired me to give REVENGE OF THE CREATURE and CREATURE WALKS AMONG US a chance. Anybody have opinions on those ones?

    Sorry to be so off-topic, everybody.

  8. Vern, Sting more handsome than Kenneth Branagh? Really?

    The scene with the blind man could also be a riff on Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.

  9. This was the theme for our (not as good) equivalent of AT THE MOVIES

    I don’t get it either

    YouTube

    Disfruta los videos y la música que te encantan, sube contenido original y compártelo con tus amigos, familiares y el resto del mundo en YouTube.

    the

    (In case this doesn’t work it’s I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free by Billy Taylor Trio

  10. The main problem with Shelley’s story is that it’s a tragedy rather than a horror or suspense story. There’s not much you can do with it, and if you’ve seen it filmed a couple of times – and I’ve probably seen dozens – you’ll have a hard time getting into it. A Swedish/Irish adaption from 1977 called VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN shows this in an excellent way by leaving out almost all the horror elements.

    I once visited the German city of Ingolstadt where Shelley wrote the novel, and it was clear that she was inspired by the surroundings. This one evening, some time after midnight, the owner of the pub we were drinking in came over to our table and said “You must leave now” in a very loud voice. It could of course be that they were about to close, but I think he wanted us to go to our hotel before the monster started roaming the streets.

  11. I apologize for not doing my research. Clearly, the ET theme is a stone-cold jam that in no way deserves to be associated with the Razzies.

  12. I would also like to state that, for the record, I also enjoy the Entertainment Tonight theme and bore no grudge against it. (It’s not as good as the Tesh-penned NBA song though.) It’s just that what it stands for is kinda hollow, though one has to love Leonard Maltin.

    The At The Movies theme, however, represents wide vistas of personal expression and the noble fearlessness of thoughtfully-considered individual truth through its gently peppy morse code.

    I am sure the Entertainment Tonight theme forgives you, Majestyk.

  13. Pacman, “was” is the key word there, as the BBC seem to’ve given up all pretense of making a mainstream film review show for TV, presumably on the assumption that the world is now full of that kind of content.

    But to get the full effect of I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free you really need to hear Nina Simone do it:

    Nina Simone - I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free (Audio)

    Silk & Soul: Buy/Listen - https://lnk.to/SilkSoul!ytiwish About the album: Silk & Soul is the thirteenth studio album by American musician Nina Simone releas...

  14. Pegsman, I think the thing is that Branagh has aged much better than Sting. In his early-to-mid-90s new Olivier/Welles Ken&Em puppyish ubiquity Branagh was about as insufferable as Sting has managed to be for most of his career. But time and experience beat it out of Branagh and he’s a better actor for it and better looking man now than he was then.

    As to Sting the actor, I kinda like STORMY MONDAY, but you know Tommy Lee Jones could really eat Sting alive if he wanted to.

  15. My personal opinion: as young men, Sting, all the way. In their current iteration, Branagh, for sure. Not that Sting has aged badly or anything. Rock stars lose the spark of danger that makes them so attractive as life softens their edges.

  16. Am I the only one who really dug (and still digs) The Police? I mean, no thanks to Sting and his snarly bad acting face….

    But the band, including Sting’s bass and voice, really cooked! There’s a certain “old man” appeal to at least some of his solo stuff too, I think, though it’s not really my bag.

    But The Police? C’mon, man! Don’t tell me I’m on an island.

  17. I like the Police. What I’ve heard of Sting’s solo stuff leans too adult contemporary/smooth jazz for me but the Police is just punk enough to counteract those tendencies.

  18. I once saw The Police at Wrigley Field for free. I didn’t like the concert as much becuase there were a lot of songs that I didn’t know (I did know 10 of the 19) and the people I was with barely knew any. But hey it was free.

  19. I like The Police still. But, then again, I like my punk to sell out and go commercial. I am definitely too basic for real punk. I went to a Sting concert back in the late 90s because my college roommate wanted to go and don’t remember a single thing about it. And I was stone cold sober. That’s what I think of his solo career.

  20. Borg9- Yep, although probably a mercy killing given the genuinely dismal final light entertainment-tinged incarnation of the show they unveiled at the turn of the last decade. I mean maybe it improved after the first year, but the episodes I saw around that time were genuinely cretinous, with sub-clickbait nonsense like a segment about “films which involve the moon”, which included some Razzle-like sneering at MOONSTRUCK, of all things.

  21. *Razzie-like*

  22. Ah, Sting. The man who makes Rod Stewart seem humble and down-to-earth by comparison. It’s confession time: I was *obsessed* with both Sting and The Police from 3rd through 7th grade and drew no distinction between the two. I didn’t grow up with cable, so the music and liner notes were all I had to go on. The Police were full of way more surprises and had an element of mischief and true weirdness that fascinated me, but I found Sting’s solo shit more hummable and thought all the saxophone was cool. Nowadays I still think The Police kick all kinds of ass. Sting, on the other hand…… not so much.

    Although. I’ll say this about Sting’s early solo stuff. Because of how he carries himself, it’s very tempting to write off everything he did after the Police as irredeemable bullshit. And after 1993, it is. But it’s not quite that simple— right after The Police broke up, Sting made the conscious (and not uncomplicated) choice to hire a backing band who were all Black jazz musicians, and he made his first 2 albums with them. Say what you will about that priority and I will probably agree with you, but the people he hired were at the absolute top of their field and top of their game, and it fucking sounds like it! I’m not saying it’s all great on a songwriting level, not by a long shot. Earnest political songs like “Russians” and “Dancing With The Missing” blow right past self-parody in their idiocy. The love songs mostly presage “Fields Of Gold” in how corny and embarrassing they are. Overall, the burbly, peppy exuberance of the music is a real turnoff no matter how well it’s played, and the lyrical/tonal content is often silly conceptual shit about werewolves or the Bible. But once in awhile, everybody gets get moody and vague, and some truly cool shit happens. If you, the equally cool person reading this post, care, check out “History Will Teach Us Nothing” or “Fortress Around Your Heart” if you’re feeling open-minded. And I’m not saying he’s earned the right to write it with the life he’s lived, but the lyrics of his song “Fragile” are still one of the most beautiful anti-violence statements I’ve ever heard put to music. I can remember my mom being moved to tears whenever she heard it when I was growing up; now I get it too. (Maybe find a cover of that last one, though; the overly lush production of the album version makes it pretty hard to take seriously)

    But Sting himself, as a dude, was and continues to be one of the most ridiculous famous people alive. It’s hilarious that the director of this movie thought he’d bring in a young crowd by giving Sting a starring role; a few years ago I found an MTV UK interview from when “Brimstone & Treacle” came out, and the VJ just teases him about being most popular with “mums” and asks him why he needs to be naked in every movie he’s in. He’s so vain, and yet he’s so spectacularly un-self-aware of how douche-chill-inducing his every public move is. I was fine with the rain forest/Amnesty International phase. But then we got the yoga phase. The lute-and-poofy-hat-that-looks-like-a-beret-with-a-large-feather phase. The time where he wrote a Broadway musical about schooners. The Shaggy collaboration. I’m sure I’m forgetting some other stuff. And let’s not forget the fact that he literally founded a fucking fusion jazz band after his ego got too big for the band that made him famous in the first place! He’s a Spinal Tap character come to life! The one thing I can’t believe is that he never had a Sisters-Of-Mercy-copying phase, like literally every other English musician did in the 80s, but I guess he was just that uncool.

    (Oh, and he had the balls to put a cover of Little Wing on his 2nd album, too. Fuck him twice for that.)

  23. Thanks for the clarification, Pacman. I’d hate to have to think for long about “Razzle-like sneering”.

    I think I’m just old and haven’t yet been able to abandon the idea that TV might be interested in things that interest me. Clearly younger generations have no such expectations and TV companies have got busy not meeting them. Which is not, of course, to deny that we live in a golden age of TV drama. But how hard can it be to make a regular show with basic film news and criticism? It’s a shame that mainstream broadcast film criticism in the UK has coalesced around Mark Kermode. I have nothing against him, but without contrasting voices his hobby horses can get tired, even when he’s basically right, e.g THE EXORCIST.

  24. As I think I said elsewhere, I was a fan of The Police, and I did pay my own money to see them live on their Synchronicity tour. And I challenge anyone to see Sting live and remain a fan. I’ve hardly listened to those Police albums since and I’d struggle to name any of his solo work beyond Russians and Fields of Gold. But the Shaggy collaboration was so many kinds of wrong I have to laugh.

    But it never ceases to surprise me that he wrote I Hung My Head on Johnny Cash’s American IV album. Truly, Cash and Rick Rubin could make anything sound great.

  25. Love The Police, and even a lot of Sting’s 80’s and 90’s material. I’ll even stick up for his cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing”, as it was originally done as a collaboration with Gil Evans, he of several formative Miles Davis albums that employed a lush semi-orchestral backing to Miles’ trumpet. He covered “The Wind Cries Mary” later in the 90’s with John McLaughlin on guitar and his drummer at the time, Vinnie Colaiuta. I’m even a fan of the DEMOLITION MAN soundtrack EP which is also a live record. It features an explosive take on “King of Pain” and the Beatles track “A Day In The Life”.

    When I finally saw the movie version of QUADROPHENIA (which I like more as a movie on it’s own instead of something more tied to the album, it’s a shame it wasn’t done in B&W like the album artwork was) I was surprised at how little he was in it. He has maybe a few lines, and is more of a visual presence then a character. I knew that it wasn’t a musical like TOMMY but I would have been interested in hearing him sing the songs that feature the Ace Face character. Ironically Billy Idol (who Sting famously portrayed on SNL) was the Ace Face when The Who did a tour of QUADROPHENIA in the 90’s.

  26. @onthewall yeah, I remember from the liner notes that Sting brought in a ringer for the Little Wing butchering. My book doesn’t have a whole lot of rules in it, but I guess one of them is “You don’t try to cover Hendrix if you’re Sting.” But I agree that the Demolition Man self-cover was fucking awesome! Might be even better than the Police version– didn’t Grace Jones join him for it?

  27. Borg9- Yeah I don’t mind Kermode but I stopped watching\listening to him on a regular basis when I realised I could guess, most of the time, not just whether or not he would like a film but what he would say about it. And you’re right that he has several obsessions he can’t seem to get over. Film that involves magicians? Redundant; it’s not THE PRESTIGE is it? Quirky genre film with a sense of humour? Well, it’s not bad, but it’s no SHAUN OF THE DEAD is it? (The director of ATTACK THE BLOCK actually took him to task over this).

  28. Grace Jones covered “Demolition Man” before The Police’s version came out. She’s not on the 93 remake.

    I liked Kermode for a long time, but I started to sour on him after his semi-effusive review for BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. It was made all the worse by the fact he hated WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY, which retroactively took that kind of movie to task although it had two very easy targets (RAY and WALK THE LINE) to aim at.

  29. I sincerely appreciate the clarification, onthewall.

  30. psychic_hits, I would like to subscribe to your rule book. It sounds like a blast!

  31. It’s a shame that mainstream broadcast film criticism in the UK has coalesced around Mark Kermode. I have nothing against him, but without contrasting voices his hobby horses can get tired, even when he’s basically right, e.g THE EXORCIST.

    I had to chuckle because being in the US I know very little about Kermode EXCEPT that he seems to tirelessly champion Friedkin (not just Exorcist, but deep cuts like Cruising and Sorcerer), and that makes him okay in my book

  32. I don’t get the feeling that any of the Brits here are saying Kermode’s not OK, it’s just that most of the time he’s all we get in mainstream broadcast media. And that can get really tired. Essentially the fault is not with him but with broadcasters, who no longer think films are worth devoting much time to, and when they do, they call Kermode.

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