DIRECTED BY: Steve Ballot
FEATURING: Frank Meyer
PLOT: Frank, a mentally challenged old man with a speech impediment, kills various people he
meets as he searches for true love from a woman with large breasts.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: As an authentic piece of goombah outsider art, The Bride of Frank is actually weird, but it’s also bad. And I mean real bad, not “entertaining” bad.
COMMENTS: The movie begins with a toothless old man tricking a five year-old girl into getting into his big rig, trying to get her to kiss him, then crushing her head under the wheel of his truck after she calls him a “dirty bum.” If that scenario sounds like can’t miss comedy gold to you, then you’re The Bride of Frank‘s target audience. All others will want to observe that “beware” rating. That opening scene of child molestation played for laughs does have the virtue of driving away most of the audience before the film can even get started; anyone who continues on past that point can’t pretend to be surprised by the senseless killing, simulated defecation, and sexual perversion that follows. Tonally, the opening, which makes us want to destroy Frank with fire, is a huge problem because it’s out of character with the way the rest of the movie wants to portray him—as a hideous-looking but childlike outcast, a la Frankenstein’s monster, who only kills bad people after they insult and reject him. To wit: Frank decapitates a nerd and relieves himself inside the corpse after being insulted at his birthday party, rips the face off a transvestite who tricks him into a sexual encounter, tears the eye out of a 300 pound exotic dancer and violates her corpse because she’s a tease, and so on. Yawn. Are we jaded yet? More conventional comic relief comes from the poetically obscene homoerotic/homophobic repartee between two of Frank’s coworkers, which is slightly amusing, but nothing you haven’t heard before if you’ve ever worked with Jersey teamsters on a loading dock. Frank, the weatherbeaten, dim, ex-homeless killer whose speech impediment is so thick he’s often subtitled, is played by real-life ex-homeless man Frank Meyer. Frank is like John Waters regular Edith Massey, except he’s not in on the joke. He’s not acting, he’s simply repeating lines as best he can as they’re fed to him one at a time by the director. Except for the serial killing part, this is Frank’s real character, including shots of his real living quarters and his real pet stray cats. So if you’re laughing at the way he mumbles out his scatological threats, you’re not laughing at a performance, but at a real person. (In real life, Frank Morgan is actually a skid row hero, a survivor who’s played the bad hand life dealt him as well as he possibly could). If you can stomach Pink Flamingos levels of bad taste, at least Frank‘s not boring; even though it has no narrative plan and looks entirely improvised, there’s always something going on. There’s even a talented person in the movie: one of the blind dates who answers Frank’s personals ad is an opera diva who sings “you’re not a man of society, you’re not a man of wealth/I think that you should be condemned by the Board of Health”—while juggling! She’s so classy, Frank doesn’t even gouge out her eyes. Another high point is a nightmare sequence that features Frank and his mothers’ heads bounding around on their solarized bodies; it has a crude MS-Paint-meets-el-cheapo-VHS-editing-suite charm. Still, the film’s minor amusements don’t make up for its moral and aesthetic bankruptcy—these guys just aren’t smart and witty enough to pull off transgressive. They genuinely think fake feces made out of peanuts and brownie batter constitutes side-splitting prop comedy; the movie’s not even nihilism, unless you’d call it naïve nihilism. If Beavis and Butthead grew up and filmed a tribute to John Waters, The Bride of Frank would be the result.
If The Bride of Frank looks like it was made by a bunch of amateurs fooling around making a gory horror movie on the loading dock after work, well, that’s pretty much what happened. You have to give this to Steve Ballot: against all odds he realized his dream and actually made a movie. The Bride of Frank played a few underground film festivals, but Ballot refused a distribution deal from Troma, comparing their proposed contract to an offer of sodomy. He printed a few copies on VHS and word got out in the underground, where the movie was bootlegged and passed around enough among trash aficionados to convince Sub Rosa to take a chance on releasing it on DVD. This disc is packed with a freakish amount of extras for those who can’t get enough Frank, including audio commentary, outtakes, a thirty minute (!) alternate ending, and even a featurette on “Buttersound,” the faux-surround sound used on the soundtrack. It’s the Criterion edition release of amateur sleaze movies.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“If Fellini had grown up in New Jersey and only had fifteen bucks to make a movie, The Bride of Frank might very well be the one he made… oh, and if he had been really insane too!”–Alternative Cinema Magazine
(This movie was nominated for review by Jason, who correctly predicted it “should be in the beware section I think.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)