James Whale’s 1935 “Bride Of Frankenstein” is a masterpiece, an accident of genre cinema that retains every bit of its transgressive power now, undulled by over 70 years between when it was made and now. Only a fool would try to remake that particular take on the material.
That does not, however, mean that this material is, or should be, off-limits. I’ve seen several articles today about Neil Burger signing on to co-write and direct a new “Bride Of Frankenstein” for Universal, and those articles, like the one in the Reporter, all talk about earlier versions written by Robert Pulcini and Sheri Springer Berman or Jacob Estes, none of which made it to the screen. I see no mention of the most notorious attempt to bring the project back to the bigscreen, though, when Anne Rice was hired in the late ’90s for a bucket of money. She turned out a truly wretched script, too, that deserves to be remembered if only for the powerful laughter it induced.
For some reason, though, the best previous script that Imagine developed hasn’t been mentioned yet. Laeta Kalogridis, who is the screenwriter for “Shutter Island” this fall and who worked with James Cameron developing both “Avatar” and “Battle Angel Alita,” is a great writer who has yet to have a great film made from her scripts. That may change thanks to Scorsese this fall, but there was a time when Alex Proyas was flirting with a take on “Bride” that she wrote that was insane. Big and gorgeous and strange.
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I hope this isn’t going to be a straight-faced period remake a la Universal’s upcoming “The Wolf Man.” At least with “The Wolf Man,” there haven’t been 10 jillion versions of that exact same story. The problem with “Frankenstein” or “The Bride Of Frankenstein” is that we see such a limited range of imagination in approaching the material that there’s no real reason to do it.
If Burger’s bringing something new to the table like that Kalogridis/Proyas version did, I’m all for them giving it a try. If not, then please… don’t bother. It sounds like the last update Imagine tried was a modern-day take set in New York, and even if it doesn’t end up working, I admire them taking that sort of route in development. Make it your own. There’s so much room to riff off of this basic idea that if you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be making the film.
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