Bride of the Gorilla
Her marriage vows were more than fulfilled!
Year of Release: 1951
Running Time: 66 minutes (1:06)
Director: Curt Siodmak
Barbara Payton ... Mrs. Dina Van Gelder
Raymond Burr ... Barney Chavez
Lon Chaney Jr. ... Police Commissioner Taro
Tom Conway ... Dr. Viet
Paul Cavanagh ... Klaas Van Gelder
Gisela Werbisek ... Al-Long
Carol Varga ... Larina
Steve Calvert ... Gorilla (uncredited)
Barney has a yen for the beautiful wife of his employer, and decides to murder the old man to have her for himself. Unfortunately for Barney, a native sorcerer witnesses the crime and puts a curse on him that transforms him by night into a murderous gorilla.
Bride of the Gorilla, remindin' us that when you decide to tie the knot with a resident of the primate house, the church may expect you to convert to Apeiscopalian before they'll give their blessing.
An speakin' of guys who could use a flea dip, I'm pretty proud of myself this week, havin' struck a blow against drive-in tyranny an secured myself a Windsor kerosene heater for the deck of the Grime Time projection booth. An all it took was a well orchestrated terrorist strike on a few dozen rubes during the screenin' of Portrait of a Showgirl. I griped all winter last year but never could get Skunky Hernandez to cave to my demands. Most of our exchanges went somethin' like this:
"Skunky, it's coldern' the other side of the bed on Bill Clinton's weddin' anniversary up there, an I wanna know whatcher gonna do about it."
"Ees heat een booth seesee, why no just seet there?
As you can see, we're not exactly talkin' rocket surgeon here. So I used a burn barrel for awhile until he eventually caught me grillin' burgers on the ash screen an found out Juanita'd been sneakin' me a coupla patties every night, an that pretty much ended that.
"Thees not luxory resort pendejo, ees DRIVE-EEN, no money for freels," he explained after confiscatin' my barrel. "Why you no use booth? You ees stobborn as padre's burro ane twice as ogley!"
"Skunky, I ain't got time for these stupid questions. It's bad enough that I'm not watchin' the flicks from the Topaz, but I sure's hell ain't gonna sit at the drive-in with a roof over my head like some highfalutin desk jockey."
"Times hard, nobody want leef car for consaycion staind ween thees cold out. Some breeng bottole just to avoid outhouse," he insisted.
"I've been in those outhouses Skunky, that ain't why they do that."
"Ees not mattare, no money for heatare now. Maybe thees sommare," he yelled back over his shoulder as he headed for the pond to make sure no drunks busted through the ice. But I wasn't done with the conversation just yet.
"Spoze I increase your sales by 100%, then can we talk heater?" I hollered back at 'im.
"You increase sales 100% I getchu heatare, bear skeen rug, ane cheap date," he yelled back in between chuckles.
That's all the openin' I needed. Now all I hadda do was figure out how the heck I was gonna get more asses outta their cars without committin' any major felonies, so I stuck Losin' It in the VCR to help clear my mind an see if it wouldn't bring me an epiphany or two, an right about the time the big bar brawl scene came on it hit me. It was all so simple, providin' I could secure the right accomplices, so I waited around the elementary school playground like Mary Kay Letourneau until class ended an got ahold of Bambi Pankins' kids after they finished trash cannin' this fifth grade band nerd wearin' a Charlie Brown sweater.
"Your Mama know you're doin' this?" I asked.
"She's the one told us to; this geek's Mom called 'er 'trashy' at parent-teacher conference night just cause she wore a miniskirt an a tank top," they explained.
"Atta boy," I told the one with the skull tattooed on his neck. "Now look, I need you kids' help, an there's a free movie in it for ya if you'll gimmie a hand."
"Those movies su..." was as far as the one with the missin' front teeth got before I grabbed 'im by his mullet.
"Boy, you can insult the owner, an you can insult the food, but don't you EVER talk about the Grime Time that way or I'll marry your Mama just to ruin your pathetic little lives." I was only bluffin' of course, but he didn't know that.
"Free movies an a corn dog each," he demanded.
"Done, but you gotta sneak your own pop in," an we all shook on it an I headed for home.
So finally Friday rolls around an I get 'em in an turn 'em loose with their corn dogs til I'm ready to give the signal, an when Skunky made his rounds about 15 minutes into the first flick I says to 'im: "you're gonna have that heater for me by tomorrow night then, right?" an he just laughed. For about 10 seconds, he laughed. That's when I ran my hand in front of the projector an set two of the kids peltin' the vehicles of Marv Chintzley an Dick Buford with snowballs. I figured that'd be the place to start on account of 'em hatin' each other's guts an neither one bein' the type to let that kinda thing slide, an sure enough, it wasn't long before they were both outta their rigs cussin' up a storm at the kids. The third little booger (the one with the mole in his unibrow) had positioned 'imself behind Marv's Ford Highboy, an once the two hotheads were facin' away, uncorked an iceball that nailed Dick right in his lower back an immediately ducked back behind the truck so that when Dick whirled around all he saw was Marv, an next thing you know they're rollin' around on the ground; bitin', punchin', an kickin' the crap out of each other until some other guys jumped outta their cars to pull 'em apart. Then the kids unleashed a volley of pre-stashed arctic artillery on the people tryin' to break up the fight, an within about five minutes I had three dozen P.O.'d movie-goers wrestlin' in the snow, white-washin' each other worse than an Amos & Andy marathon, until half the patronage was soaked to the bone an - you guessed it, in dire need of somethin' deep fried, disgustin', an most importantly, hot, to stave off hypothermia. Skunky never did get his jaw raised back up into its fully upright an locked position after seein' the crowd mob the concession stand, but he didn't fight me on it, an this mornin' I had my heater, just like he'd promised. Thing's used an older'n Gorbechev's birthmark on account of the man bein' cheaper'n a Skid Row lap dance, but it works just fine, an that's all I care about. You watch, someday I'm gonna teach that guy never to doubt the ingenuity of a man with this much time on his hands.
I could make a buncha jokes about how I snowed the lot of 'em, but that'd be tacky an pathetic, so I won't do that. I'm pretty sure you all caught my drift anyway, so let's plow ahead into this week's flick - Bride of the Gorilla, which I don't mind tellin' ya could very well be the single greatest movie ever made to feature Hispanics, Asians, an blacks all in the same tribe of natives. Those Montilone Indians man - they've really got their stuff together when it comes to racial harmony; we could learn a lot from these simple peoples an their customs if we weren't so busy rapin' their rain forests an sellin' 'em Super Bowl XXIX Champion San Diego Chargers t-shirts on the cheap. So to honor these and ALL the enlightened indigenous peoples of the world, I've plucked a few priceless philosophical gems from their sacred temple to put on display for you, the privileged an civilized folks of the first world. Don't worry, I traded 'em a coupla snow globes for 'em, trust me, everybody's happy. First, it doesn't matter how far you run from civilization, cause whitey's always gonna be on your case about those secret herbs you got hidden away in the back room. Second, even though not all strains of Jungle Fever are created equal, they all end with sexually repressed white women worried about what the old men in town might say. An third, whatever you do, don't buy any Bride of the Gorilla DVDs from Argentina. Nevermind why, just DON'T.
There is one thing about this flick that I feel compelled to bring up though, an I hope nobody thinks I'm speciesist for sayin' it, cause I'll go on record as throwin' my full support behind King Kong an Jessica Lange's right to do the funky monkey if that's what they're into. The problem with these kinda relationships ain't that one of the participants is a bit lower on the evolutionary scale. It's just that *sometimes* I don't think people have a clear understandin' of the potential pitfalls that go along with datin' somebody you've got nothin' in common with. Let's start off simple, with the understanding that purt'near half of all marriages that take place in countries who don't stone ya to death for steppin' out end in divorce. So, right outta the chute, we know that almost half the time your marriage is screwed before ever considering compatibility, commitment, an the general ability of its participants to keep both legs in the same zip code. *Any* number of fundamental differences can send your happy union swirlin' down the ole toilet like a dead goldfish, an while politics an religion are the big two, you really don't need incongruities of that magnitude to sink ya. It can be some completely trivial thing that *you might not even realize you're doin',* like slingin' poo on the wall, or diggin' around in your significant other's hair for parasites while they sleep. Now granted, there are people out there who honestly believe they can change a person, or that their spouse will just outgrow the offending behavior(s), but this scenario only works if one person's too stubborn to admit they can't bend the other to their will, *and* the other's willin' to offer up meaningless vows to change cause they can't bear the thought of havin' all their friends know that they got dumped. As for this particular relationship in the movie, we got Raymond Burr (Mr. Perry Mason himself) runnin' loose in the jungle with his wild friends all night long, leavin' his newly-wedded wife at home in 'er decadent winter safari home havin' to explain to all 'er debutante friends about why Ray can't hold down an honest job an sleeps until 4 in the afternoon, while they politely feign sympathy an privately back-bite 'er like a swarm of malaria infested swamp skeeters. Let's face facts here: Perry just ain't got the maturity necessary for for this kinda thing - an that's *fine*, provided he ain't draggin' another human bein' down with 'im. Some people just aren't marriage material, is all I'm sayin'. Although it doesn't help matters when your fiance is a stuck up aristocrat whose every word makes you wanna punch 'em in the face.
The movie begins at some rich folks' safari mansion down in the Amazon that looks like Jesus ran a stampede of demon possessed hogs through it, where Lon Chaney Jr.'s narratin' an promisin' to tell us about how stately Livingston Manor came to be in such a state. I'm not entirely sure I buy his story though, cause it sounds like somethin' a teenager'd make up after all his rowdy friends came over with a keg an started shootin' antique furniture with their 12 gauges. Anyway, it all started around dinnertime one night when Perry Mason stopped by the ole homestead to lament the abolition of slavery an that payin' a buncha native bushmen five cents a day to work in the rubber plant is highway robbery an how if he can just get some strikebreakers in there to bust skulls he's pretty sure he can increase productivity. Then he tells the boss's wife (Dina) that the jungle's no place for a hot white woman like her an that she oughta be someplace civilized where she can buy designer dresses an get catcalled by politicians like God intended, cept then 'er husband (Klaas) comes home an tells Perry that another one of their wage slaves died at the plant today an Perry basically shrugs an says "welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here every day." Klaas is P.O.'d, so he gives Perry a summons form for the ole unemployment line an Perry's about to see 'imself out an hit up his buddy at Zales for a whip-crackin' job in the diamond mine down the way, only Dina stops 'im an tells 'im that if he'll represent 'er in divorce court that she'll dump Klaas an invite 'im over to examine Exhibits T & A. Apparently this ain't unusual, cause while Perry's outside thinkin' it over, another gal (Larina) runs out to clutch at his farmer's tan an beg 'im to take 'er with 'im, an he hasta remind 'er that their love can never be cause 'er skin tone's a little too deep into the forbidden zone for the American censorship board an she ends up blubberin' to 'er Gypsy mama who does the laundry. I guess she's as good a person as any to explain why you can't go mixin' the whites an the colors. Then Perry makes his decision an goes to tell Klaas that he's filin' an injunction against his marriage an ends up punchin' his clock just in time for this big ole anaconda to slither up an bite Klaas' buns. Which is kinda his own fault when you think about it, cause down in anaconda country you can't just run around havin' those an expect 'em not to want some. Bad news though, cause the Gypsy mama's watchin' from up in a tree, an once Perry leaves she slaps some iceburg lettuce over Klaas' eyes an puts a nasty voodoo whammy on Perry that seems likely to deprive 'im of his right to white dude process.
The next mornin', Officer Lon Chaney drops by to jerk Perry around a little bit, but Dr. Viet confirms that the python that killed Klaas wasn't either of the two 24 inchers growin' outta Perry's shoulders, leavin' Lon no recourse but to give up an go back to investigatin' Juan Valdez' involvement in the black market coffee trade. Next thing, Perry an Dina decide to make it legal, only the Gypsy mama serves Perry a spiked Dos Equis at the wedding an right after Perry signs the marriage license his arms start gettin' hairier'n the armpits at a feminist rally an he hasta call up South American Airlines to see if they've got any flights goin' to Rio so he can consult a waxin' expert. Lon watches the whole thing play itself out an tells Dina not to worry cause he's been there, an that if things get too hairy a little silver'll clean the problem right up. Fortunately, Perry starts sheddin' like a Pomeranian with mange, an by the time the doc gets a look at his hands they're back to their baseline level of fur so everybody just kinda goes "no big deal" an heads home. Unfortunately, when nighttime rolls around, Perry starts hearin' the jungle callin' to 'im an bolts into the darkness, an next thing you know he thinks he's turning chimpanzee, he thinks he's turning chimpanzee, he really thinks so, an by the time Dina finds 'im he's got Jungle Fever an a bad case of the night sweats. The next mornin' she calls the doc an informs 'im that Perry's hot blooded, an so the doc heads on over to check it an see, an sure enough, he's got a fever of 103, at which point the doc tells 'er it's Bedtime for Bonzo an shoots 'im up with about 1200ccs of baboon sedative. Then some natives call up Lon on their Gilligan's Island coconut telephone an tell 'im about how there's a jungle devil on the loose killin' their livestock an that this chupacabron walks like a man, until a light bulb goes off over Lon's head an he decides to get on the horn an interrogate the Four Seasons. Cept now Lon an the doc're worried about Perry grabbin' Dina by the hair an climbin' Machu Picchu, an so they truck on over to Dina's place to warn 'er about Dr. Rayus but she's convinced that with a few banana daiquiris an a little electrolysis their relationship's gonna be just fine. Then Janet of the Apes goes out lookin' for Perry an finds 'im hung up in a panther snare where he explains that the steel jaws currently engulfin' his shin bone are the perfect metaphor for how trapped he's feelin' in this oppressive marriage, an Dina hasta lug 'im back to the house before anybody from the country club sees 'em an kicks 'er off the membership committee on trumped up moral turpitude charges.
Needless to say, Perry's got some serious schmoozin' to do to if he's gonna keep Dina around as head zookeeper, so he takes 'er out under the moonlight an makes goo-goo eyes at 'er an tells 'er about how that trashy bonobo bimbo in Buenos Aires meant nothin' to 'im an promises to travel the world with 'er an buy 'er everything she's ever wanted with Klaas' money until they start suckin' each other's uvulas. So the next mornin', Lon comes by with the paperwork Perry needs to sell the plantation to this big fat guy who looks like he's been hijackin' all the Children's International rigs destined for impoverished villages an eatin' everything inside, only Perry gets Jungle Fever again an ends up stayin' out all night doin' God knows what (prolly hangin' out with some freaky dominatrix who likes to spank the monkey or somethin' disgustin' like that), an by the time he finally comes home he's decided he's keepin' the plantation so he can afford to party with Johnny Weissmueller an Miles O' Keeffe at the Bamboo Bordello an have orangutang bangs with the staff. She tries to plea bargain with 'im, but Perry dismisses 'er case an tells 'er to quit badgerin' the witness after citin' the Scopes Monkey Trial verdict of 1925 as precedent. Then Dina goes to get the doctor's professional opinion, an while the doc can't be 100% sure just exactly what kinda frogs Perry's been lickin' without runnin' some tests, he's pretty confident that at the end of the day it's not all that important because sooner or later somebody's gonna fall into Perry's enclosure an end up gettin' 'im shot anyway. Dina remains undeterred on the basis that she's taken a vow to remain by Perry's side in chimpness and in health. So later that night Perry goes ape an heads out find Muhammad Ali so they can rumble in the jungle, cept this time Dina goes after 'im an begs 'im to come home an tells 'im she thinks she can get Jane Goodall to counsel their marriage an help 'em work through their problems, but it's too late, cause by now Perry's pretty much gone Honkey Kong an landed 'imself an audition for a Ronald Reagan flick. I hate to be a wet blanket, cause I know all three of ya're just dyin' to know how this thing ends, but this is where I draw the line. Bride's in the public domain though, so if you really wanna torture yourself with this one, there's a link for ya down below.
I suppose you can't fault Curt Siodmak for sticking with the plot that brought him to the dance for his first real directing gig, but this rehashing of his script from The Wolf Man illustrates perfectly the need for sympathetic characters. Not a single likeable or interesting character in this flick survives beyond the first reel (Paul Cavanagh is sympathetic, though not interesting), and that single misgiving is one that always dooms any low-budget movie incapable of compensating with special effects. Essentially, any Horror title in the days before Herschell Gordon Lewis needed two things: a good premise and interesting characters, because those were the dark ages of filmmaking. The censors weren't gonna let you get away with squat in the way of gory special effects, and that really put these lower budget titles in a pinch, because they couldn't do anything controversial, and they didn't have the budget to hire on big name actors or directors. All the Universal Classics had big budget studio backing, which meant more talent on the directing and acting fronts, but also more elaborate sets and better musical compositions (at least in the later flicks, as the earliest titles like Dracula and Frankenstein really didn't have soundtracks), the latter of which were critical for building atmosphere. Needless to say, the planet Mercury has more atmosphere than this movie, and when coupled with Raymond Burr as your lead actor, I prolly don't need to tell ya the flick moves like a 1973 Dodge Dart that's up on blocks. Gettin' back to The Wolf Man connection though, I'd also like to add that the werewolf is a far more interesting monster than the gorilla. Gorillas went out of fashion by the end of the 1930s, and here we are, in 1951, tryin' to work the killer gorilla angle again. Now, admittedly, this particular gorilla has a fancy folkloric identity as it concerns the local tribesmen of the area, with some supernatural abilities tacked on for good measure, but when the director never bothers to demonstrate any of the extra stuff that might differentiate this particular monkey (that's beside the fact that he barely even shows the critter to begin with), you can make up all the excuses you want about how the monster isn't *just* a gorilla, but you're not likely to convince anybody. It really coulda used some neck swivelin' or skull crushin' too, cause I'm only even callin' this thing a Horror movie on the basis that nothing else fits better. You could make the argument that it's a Thriller, because even though it has no thrills, it really doesn't have any horror either, but the bottom line is we're talkin' one sorry excuse for a "scary movie."
I dunno how they did it, but they had to've violated several laws of physics where it concerns time and space, because they claim to have shot this thing in seven days, an I'm pretty sure it took longer'n that to sit through the whole thing. Maybe it just seemed that way. Anyhow, I'm gonna try to find somethin' nice to say about this thing so I don't get a buncha angry letters from people's mamas remindin' me what I can do if I can't say anything nice. The plot, on paper, isn't inherently bad. They've taken a concept that was already pretty played out even by 1951 standards, and made tweaks that make it inferior to the original treatments upon which they're based, but in general, it's not a complete failure. And I'm not gonna sit here nitpicking about the "poisonous" python whose venom kills the old man, or the fact that the casting director basically grabbed anyone with a skin tone darker than Elmer's glue and made them natives regardless of their national origin because, let's face it; a *lot* of these older flicks do that kinda crap hoping nobody'll notice (and besides, by 1951 it was considered progress not to just slap blackface on a buncha white guys from Santa Barbara). That said, there's nothing new here, and the important aspects were all done better in previous efforts. The acting, while excruciatingly dry, is reasonably competent and professional. Seriously though, was there *ever* an actor with less charisma than Raymond Burr? The man makes Jack Webb look like Jack Nicholson, and always manages to look like he's in mild pain due to extended periods of constipation. Barbara Peyton is alright as the foxy leading lady, but she also seems a tad stoic, considering her husband's turnin' into George of the Jungle and wrestlin' jaguars by the light of the full moon. There was apparently talk of swapping Burr and Lon Chaney Jr.'s characters, but the director decided not to on the basis that Chaney wasn't handsome enough to play the leading man anymore. I'll tell ya somethin' though, that *might* have actually saved this thing, because Chaney could do crazy, and Burr was tailor made for the role of the "by the book" authority figure. But hey, we wouldn't wanna do anything stupid like play to the actors' strengths when there's more important concerns; like ONE scene where the couple shares a kiss. Whew, really dodged a bullet there, didn't we? I shudder to think what might've happened.
Here's who matters and why (less Lon Chaney Jr., who made a coupla good flicks about werewolves awhile back): Barbara Payton (Four Sided Triangle), Raymond Burr (Godzilla King of the Monsters, Godzilla 1985, The Return, The Curse of King Tut's Tomb, Tarzan and the She-Devil), Tom Conway (The Seventh Victim, Cat People 1942, I Walked with a Zombie, 12 to the Moon, The Atomic Submarine, Voodoo Woman, The She-Creature, Tarzan and the She-Devil, Tarzan's Secret Treasure), Paul Cavanagh (Tarzan and His Mate, The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake, She Devil, The Man Who Turned to Stone, Francis in the Haunted House, House of Wax 1953, The Son of Dr. Jekyll, The Strange Door), Gisela Werbisek (The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939), Carol Varga (Space Master X-7), Paul Maxey (The Black Castle, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet The Invisible Man, Mighty Joe Young 1949), Woody Strode (The Final Executioner, Scream 1981, Kingdom of the Spiders, Tarzan's Three Challenges, Tarzan's Fight for Life), Martin Garralaga (The Unknown Terror, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla), Moyna MacGill (The Picture of Dorian Gray), Steve Calvert (The Bride and the Beast, Panther Girl of the Kongo, Target Earth, The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla), Tony Urchel (Tarzan and the Leopard Woman). Raymond Burr, of course, went on to play Perry Mason in the TV series of the same name, as well as Ironside in the TV series of the same name. Additionally, Tom Conway voiced the Narrator in Peter Pan, and Woody Strode played Jake in The Professionals.
The special effects... yeah, even if you haven't seen the flick, you already know the score. We got one gorilla suit; shown only in brief flashes until the end of the movie where you get to see the whole thing, but even then, only from a distance. For its time it's okay, but it hasn't aged well, as is the case with most monster suits of the era. The sets aren't too bad, with the entire film having been completed on "The Lot" in West Hollywood. If I had to venture a guess, I'd imagine the jungle set had already been assembled for use in some bigger budget picture from the recent past that hadn't yet been torn down, and the director was able to piggy back off of someone else's construction for a reasonable price. It's not a bad set, but even though they insert old Wild Kingdom footage of jungle animals in an attempt to bolster its realism, there's no question it was a set. It really wouldn't be fair to ding them for it either because, obviously, for a low budget flick in 1951 you didn't just charter a plane to dump you off in the Green Hell (for numerous reasons). You've also got the plantation house, which isn't especially interesting, but does match up well with the kind of ostentatious show of wealth you'd expect to see from white foreigners living in the jungle to be near their business operation. So, not a bad job here, but then, this particular crew probably had very little to do with the sets' construction. The soundtrack is typical of the 1950s, and features that unmistakable generic structure that makes it sound as though the composer was producing something as deliberately indistinct as possible so as to make it viable for later use in other movies. I'm pretty sure that's not typically something that happened, but one really can't help but notice how much longer it took the musical aspect of cinema to evolve and catch up with the innovations taking place in the visual arena. That said, they don't actually utilize music all that often, so the cheesy 1950s aesthetic doesn't feature as prominently as it does in many other low budget titles of the era. Overall, Bride of the Gorilla is a pretty painful thing to behold, despite being borderline-competent in terms of its production values. When a movie features a 66 minute runtime and still drags noticeably, there's just no overcoming that, and I really can't think of even a niche audience that might enjoy this flick, so you'll probably wanna avoid it altogether.