Our ship once had a stowaway. I found him passed out in the bowels of the ship, right next to the poop deck. His name was Jed and he had shuffled aboard somewhere near the Milky Way. Jed was an old crusty fool who spoke monosyllabically and smelled like cashews. After a week with us, Jed accidentally got sucked out of the airlock, which he had inadvertently mistaken for an outhouse door. It was horrible. I haven’t been able to eat a cashew since. Anyway, these sweet, sweet memories of good ol’ Jed came back to me once I laid eyes on the protagonist of a little film that goes by the name of The Bride of Frank!
Any film that begins with an old man running over a little girl’s head and then eating her splattered brains must be good, right? Well, The Bride of Frank is puerile, offensive, and doesn’t make a lick of sense. It’s also brilliant in a retarded way and, despite its sickening scenarios, somehow manages to expose a heart underneath its repulsive chest. Written, photographed, edited, produced, and directed by Steve Ballot (credited as Escalpo Don Balde), The Bride of Frank tells the epic, heartwarming tale of Frank, a haggard and flatulent former bum who works with a group of truck drivers in New Jersey.
While this description sounds innocuous enough, do not be fooled. Frank, in all his garbled-speech glory (which is frequently…and thankfully, subtitled for our understanding), is a no-nonsense, brutally honest sociopath who is obsessed with his numerous cats, has no problem killing people in inventive ways, and who really, really loves tits. In fact, during his birthday celebration, Frank blows out the candles on his cake (which is shaped like a pair of breasts), and wishes aloud “I really want tits.” Thus begins Frank’s adventures in dating, where unsuspecting females (and one transvestite) show up at Frank’s warehouse and proceed to offend him in one way or another. Of course, once you piss Frank off, you better listen closely to his threats, ‘cause this crazy bastard will follow through on them.
“I’ll hit you with a 2 by 4. I’ll cut your head off. I’ll shit down your neck.”
“I’ll put your fucking eye out. I’ll skull fuck you to death.”
Like I said before, Frank is brutally honest and when he says something, he means it. Before you know it, he actually does cut a guy’s head off and shits down his neck, and he does poke a woman’s eye out and skull fucks her socket (after eating her eyeball of course). The unconvincing special effects still manage to be nauseating, mainly due to the context of the situations. And, while these scenes are designed to shock and offend, they are so over-the-top and darkly comic that you cannot help but laugh at their audacity. Laugh or puke? Puke or laugh? The combinations are endless!
Combining the no-budget aesthetics and sensibilities of early John Waters (think pre Polyester) and Troma (think Terror Firmer), The Bride of Frank somehow manages to entertain despite its obvious budgetary limitations. Performances vary wildly (some are horrible, others are downright brilliant), scenes drag on too long (like Frank’s birthday party, which establishes his relationships with his friends and coworkers), and the aforementioned special effects feature obvious rubber prosthetics. But the comedy, no matter how low or profane it gets, still hits rather than misses. And it is impressive that the film solely revolves around a character who is barely coherent, yet somehow makes him engaging and, strangely enough, likeable. By the end of the film, I was actually hoping that Frank would finally find true love, and, of course, tits.
Shot on video over a four-year period, The Bride of Frank exhibits a sleazy charm despite its disturbing subject matter and never strives to be anything more than an exercise in bad taste and potty humor (there is a brief surreal nightmare sequence where we find out the origins of Frank’s literal-minded threats that momentarily digs deeper into his motivations, but this is soon discarded for more fart jokes). Whether or not you can stomach Frank’s behavior depends on your tolerance for fake shit, fake severed penises, fake boobs, a morbidly obese naked woman, and the nastiest pair of feet that a human being has ever walked the Earth on. Since I am the most jaded motherfucker on the planet, I took this all in stride and even enjoyed a cup of chili while doing so. For others like me, check out The Bride of Frank…a cult film waiting for a cult.