BRIDE OF THE MONSTER/1956/ED WOOD JR./BELA LUGOSI

BRIDE OF THE MONSTER
1956/Director: Edward D. Wood Jr./Writers: Edward D. Wood Jr., Alex Gordon
Cast: Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, Tony McCoy, Loretta King, Harvey B. Dunn, George Becwar, Paul Marco, Don Nagel, Delored Fuller
I have actually always liked Ed Wood’s films long before the Tim Burton docu-drama made his name a little famous with mainstream movie goers. I once had almost everything he did on VHS and watched them a few times. Again I have most everything he did and still find I enjoy watching them. It is not fair to say the guy had no talent whatsoever. In fact in Bride of the Monster some of the scenes are shot fairly well. The same can be said for the “sequel” to 1955’s Bride, Night of the Ghouls, which came out the same year as Plan 9 from Outer Space, 1959. Some moments show skill and focus but of course in the big picture we get a sense of real disorganization on the part of Wood and his crew. I have never cared much for the Mystery Science Theater or Cinematic Titanic type shows that rip apart a bad movie scene but you can really see this type of film sets it self up as a sitting duck for such a show.
But then you have to belong to the camp that can enjoy a poorly made film, one that is a production shambles from the word go. I certainly can enjoy such films, as I did with the much worse The Creeping Terror. What shines through in Wood’s films, as opposed to other Z quality bad films, is the desire to really make movies and tell a story. I have seen my share of films, many of them modern horror, that lack any real passion or inspiration on the part of the filmmakers and a big budget and spiffy post production tricks cannot hide that lack of zest.

Bride of the Monster is one of the films Tim Burton focused his Ed Wood film on and accurate the characterizations are is a matter of dispute. I have read statements by both Kenneth Anger and Forry Ackerman that the foul mouthed portrayal of a Karlaff loathing Bela Lugosi simply is an invention of Burton’s imagination. Both men have said that Lugosi was gentlemanly on all occasions and he and Karloff were life long friends and not rivals. Wood was introduced to Lugosi through future API cofounder Alex Gordon, who also helped co-write Bride. Wood’s original plans with Lugosi to star in a TV series called Dr. Acula (a name that would appear in Night of the Ghouls) fell through and he began work on Bride after he had completed the very odd delinquent styled film Jail Bait in 1954. By the time Bride began Wood had surrounded himself with the crew of misfits that became his entourage. This crowd included the flamboyantly flaming Bunny Breckingridge, Criswell the psychic, wrestler Tor Johnson and Maila Nurmi, better known as the TV spook show hostess Vampira. He cast Lugosi, in his last speaking role, as the evil scientist Dr. Vornoff. Lugosi looks weak and ill but is alive and animated in a few scenes, the most famous being the “I have no home” monologue.
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It has been about a week since I watched the film and typically I will fast forward through a movie to refresh my often failing memory, but I really do not think it that necessary in this case. I worry I may mix up some of with Night of the Ghouls which I just watched two nights ago and am setting up a review in my draft folder. The story centers on the activities that are taking place in a swampy marsh about Willows Lake. There are constant electrical storms and disappearances of people, so far a dozen or so. The people are either being killed by Dr Vorloff’s horrible monster (an octopus that snatches you from the shore) or have become failed experiments in Vorloff’s attempts to make a race of atomic supermen. The latest experiment failed yet again when a local redneck, captured by his assistant Lobo (Johnson of course) died in Vorloff’s rather interesting looking contraption. The cap looks like some sort of cooking utensil with wires attached to it.

The local police soon decide that thirteen deaths in one area warrant an investigation. Police Captain Tom Robbins (Harvey Dunn from Teenagers from Outer Space and Night of Ghouls) sits around his office with a parakeet on his shoulder having witty chat with Wood’s regular Paul Marco as bumbling, cowardly Officer Kelton. He decides to send out hi best man Detective Dick Craig (Tom McCoy, who got the role because his meat packing daddy, Donald E. McCoy, footed most of the cash for the film).While they are discussing the case in classic Woodsian dialog utterly annoying leading lady Lorretta King, as reporter Janet Lawton, barges in wanting all the scoop on the case as well as an explanation why fiance Craig has not called her in a while. One reason might be because this gal is a royal shrew. She is told not to go to the area around Willow’s Lake, that the police will handle it, which of course means she will now certainly go to the area where thirteen people have vanished. Once there she wrecks her car and then passes out after she sees a boa constrictor in a tree. Lobo carries her back to Dr. Vorloff, who has only recently dispatched the troublesome Prof. Vladimir Strowski (George Becwar), who had traced Vorloff through the appearances of monsters (i.e. the Loch Ness one) around the world to his current unlisted address in the middle of a swamp somewhere. In a great scene we see Strowski battle the obviously rubber octopus in its strange almost waterless holding cell.

Vorloff mesmerizes the agitating Janet and later has her tied to the table in a wedding gown. Exactly why he put her in a wedding gown or even why he had one lying around is never explained, but Lobo has a crush on her now and soon she is free and Vorloff is tied to the table while Lobo turns on the juice from the “complicated” control panel. There is a fight between Lobo and Dick Craig and Dick get his ass beaten. But soon Vorloff arises as an atomic superman (all we needed was Lobo the idiot operating the control panel all along) and he is now bigger and stronger and whoops Lobo. The final confrontation occurs in the swamps and Vorloff falls victim to his one octopus, which is lurking in the shallow waters of Willow’s Lake. In the most confusing scene of all the film closes with stock footage (something Woods loved to no end) of an atomic bomb explosion. Why this happened, much less how Dick, Janet and Captain Robbins survive is left up to the viewer to ponder.

I cannot argue that the plot and sets are full of holes. The acting is exaggerated and simply poor at times, but Lugosi is great in his last role and Tor Johnson is classic as Lobo. I like the cowardly character of Officer Kelton and Harvey Dunn has more of a role here than in Night of the Ghouls. Yes this is a bad movie, but it is a bad movie you will love. Anyone who stops in here regularly will probably have seen it already or it is now their destiny to rush out and get it. There is an Ed Wood Jr. boxed set with this, Jail Bait, Night of the Ghouls and Wood’s opus Plan 9 from Outer space. That about covers the films he did that are not really softcore 60’s exploitation style films. In fact I have Bride linked up for your viewing under the new Uranium Cafe Matinee category. Next under that category will be Teenagers from Outer Space and a review of Night of the Ghouls is on the way soon. See what a great little site this is. All done with fiendish love. I will quickly add that during some of the police office scenes Wood’s girlfriend Dolores Fuller has a brief part as an office worker in the hallway. After she and Wood broke up she had a successful career as a songwriter, even having some tunes recorded by The King himself.

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2 Responses to “BRIDE OF THE MONSTER/1956/ED WOOD JR./BELA LUGOSI”

  1. Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. are the best movie monsters in cinema–hands down. Way back when monsters were actors, not cgi creations. Those were the days.

  2. For as much as I love him, Bride of the Monster is the closest thing to a good movie that Ed Wood ever made….

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