August 19, 1985 12:00 PM

Watching this rococo retelling of The Bride of Frankenstein, you begin to wonder if Gloria Steinem worked on the script. The Bride isn’t really a remake; it’s more a feminist revision of the legend. As directed by Franc (The Lords of Discipline) Roddam, this pandering version forsakes Mary Shelley’s plot for sexual politics that are anachronistic in the 1830s, the time in which the story is set. Indeed, without a rudimentary knowledge of the original plot, you may not be able to follow the movie. When Baron Charles Frankenstein (Sting) creates a female companion for his monster in the opening sequence, he announces, “I might make the New Woman—independent, free, as bold as a man.” To make sure no one misses the point, Roddam has cast Jennifer Beals, the video version of the New Woman, as Mrs. Monster-to-be. It sounds noble, but it plays badly, particularly since Lloyd Fonvielle’s screenplay doesn’t practice the equality it preaches. After introducing the creature and her plight, the script ignores her. Instead it wanders off with her male monster counterpart (Clancy Brown), who has fled the castle and teamed up with a dwarf (David Rappaport). They join a Budapest circus and act out a Middle European variation on Of Mice and Men. Although it appropriates both Frankenstein and feminism, this schizophrenic movie is most interested in the character least associated with either subject: the dwarf, whom Rappaport endows with an ingratiating maliciousness. Rappaport and Brown sidetrack the story, but they make a more arresting couple than the monstress and her creator back at the castle. With little dialogue and no sexual chemistry between them, Beals and Sting traffic in the manufactured mooning seen on record-album covers. In the end Beals gets what every idealized movie heroine of the ’80s wants: her dignity, her identity and her man—or rather, her creature. The title is a misnomer: The film should have been called An Unmarried Monster. (PG-13)

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