The Bride of Frank starts off with a nasty sucker-punch. A cute-as-pie little girl has her head run over by a truck. By the titular “hero” of the film. “I wanted to start the movie by grabbing the audience by the balls. Maybe I grabbed too hard. Most people can’t get past the first scene. I originally thought that first scene would set the tone, and be perceived as what it is: a cheap, over-the-top despicable shocker not to be taken seriously. I guess people did take it seriously. Even though it was a nightmare sequence, I guess most normal human beings don’t like seeing a little innocent child murdered. That first scene is still causing problems with the distributor today.”
But love it or hate it, “The Bride of Frank” is consistent in tone and character throughout. The main character, “Frank”, is indeed played by ex-homeless man, Frank O’Brien. And his quest throughout the movie is to find himself a bride. Now Frank has a severe anger problem, and the folks populating the world around him are vile, despicable people, most of whom get what they deserve. The movie made cult history with the actual on-screen depiction of Frank tearing off someone’s head and literally shitting down their neck. This is the movie. Everyone—including myself—was warned right on the box. This movie is a sick, disturbing black comedy. You will not be the same after watching it. And some folks are surprised, upon viewing, that it lives up to its disclaimer, and then some.
“It was purposefully made as offensive as possible,” says Ballot. “Those who are offended easily, and those who take it seriously, and those without an appetite for trash cinema will find it more inflammatory than a 25-inch rectal hemorrhoid. Did it meet my expectations? No. But my hopes were ridiculous to start with. I wanted ‘The BoF’ to revive the midnight movie culture. I wanted somebody to blow it up to film, and play it in movie theaters at midnight. A little unrealistic huh? I also hoped ‘The BoF’ would lead to more work and more projects. I hoped that somebody would see this movie and say, ‘this guy made this move with a consumer camcorder and edited it together with two VCR’s and a mixer. I could use a guy like this in my production company.’ Or ‘if I gave this guy a real budget and a crew, imagine what he could do.’ But it led to nothing far as employment in the film or video business. I also hoped it would make some money. So far, almost ten years later, I haven’t seen penny one.”
It took years—almost a decade—for “The Bride of Frank” to find a home on DVD. Sub Rosa finally took a chance on it earlier this year, cleaning it up as best they could, and filling the disc with extras, deleted scenes and a never-before-seen ending. Prior to that, however, no one would touch it.
“Troma wanted it from the beginning. The distribution deal they offer is basically “lay down on your stomach, spread your cheeks, and let us butter you up”. If (I’d) given it to Troma, they’d own it forever. You no longer own your own movie, and you’ll be lucky to receive fifteen cents in the next fifteen years from them. As far as every other distributor goes, it’s a long story, and I did approach practically every single distributor on Earth. No one wanted it and no one wanted to be associated with it. Yet it was a great success in a way I never imagined. Traveling to Film Festivals in Chicago, Basel Switzerland, and Rome, where Frank was treated like a star, was awesome.”
For some, a single movie leads to worldwide success. It’s strange to think that “Clerks”, in comparison, was a “safe bet” for Miramax. Despite its cult status, “The Bride of Frank” to this day has serious detractors. On the other hand, it has serious support, particularly among peers in the industry. Scooter McCrae—no stranger to controversy himself—has continued to laude “Bride of Frank” as brilliant. Most of the support, however, comes in the form of immature fanboy sound-bites: “It’s sick! It rocks!” Seldom is there serious discussion about it, in the same way as there has been with the “trash classics” before it in Waters’ canon. In many ways, “The Bride of Frank” is a sub-blue collar fantasy. Frank’s delusions, brought on by a lifetime of poverty and homelessness, have crossed over into his waking life. It can be seen, also, as an indictment of our society’s treatment of the invisible class. Or, perhaps, “It’s sick! It rocks!”
“I dunno. As I get older, I’m losing patience with movies in general,” Ballot says. “Maybe one day I’ll be able to sit down, watch ‘Bride of Frank’, get a cheap laugh for what it is, and enjoy sittin’ through it. For now, I can’t really bring myself to watch it. When I do see bits and pieces, I either see things I could’ve done better, I get bored, or I think it sucks. How do I think it’s stood up? Fine. It is what it is. Technically, I’m happy that it looks as decent as it does considering it was shot with a consumer camcorder. About four years ago, I stuck the movie into my computer, applied chemicals and film-look filters, and tried to make the movie look less like video and more like 16mm film. That’s the version I released onto DVD. Some critics complain that it was better in its’ video version, others say its’ new incarnation is better, and some morons actually think it was shot on film. In a recent review, some “film critic” at dvdmaniacs, while talking about how bad the movie looks, said, ‘The colors are pretty dulled but the print is clean of any serious print damage’.”
For now, Ballot has abandoned ambitions of “working artist” and settled into the position of “working craftsman”—a position just as coveted in many ways. “It’s nice to be young and be in a position to spend years working on a project for no money. I’m not so young now, and I have this small issue of having to go out into the world and earn an income due to my mortgage and the fact that I need to buy food to eat. About 5 years ago, I told myself that every time I pick up a camera, or edit anything on my computer, I gotta make money. As a result, since then, everything I’ve done with few exceptions has been shit. The only time I veered away from my make money with video rule was in response to 9/11. In response to the attacks on our country, and in response to what was going on around me, I was possessed to express how I felt with a video. I created ‘World War Three – Half-A-Comedy-Hour’. Few people ever saw it. Like ‘BoF’, some hated it, others thought it was great – no one was in the middle. A small piece of it was thrown onto the BoF DVD as one of the Easter eggs. One critic (at cultstich.com) called it ‘a rather silly take on Al Jazeera TV’. I don’t plan on single-handedly creating another feature length production that takes years to put together.”
But does he have anything in the works? “This Sunday, I plan on consuming more bagels, cream cheese with lox, and coffee. Then I’ll see what other shit I come up with.”
Check out “The Bride of Frank” at www.b-movie.com.
Posted on October 19, 2004 in Interviews by Mike Watt
If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
- THE BRIDE OF FRANK (DVD)
- STEVE BALLOT: FATHER OF “THE BRIDE OF FRANK”
- KISS THE BRIDE
- THE LAST WAY OUT
- OTTO FRANK, FATHER OF ANNE
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