Bride of the Monster
The Screen's Master of the WEIRD in his NEWEST and MOST DARING SHOCKER!
Year of Release: 1955
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 69 minutes (1:09)
Director: Edward D. Wood Jr.
Bela Lugosi ... Dr. Eric Vornoff
Tor Johnson ... Lobo
Tony McCoy ... Lt. Dick Craig
Loretta King ... Janet Lawton
Harvey B. Dunn ... Capt. Robbins
George Becwar ... Prof. Strowski
Legendary horror icon Bela Lugosi stars as Dr. Eric Vernoff, who with Lobo (Tor Johnson), a crazed man-beast servant, is conducting flesh-burning radiation experiments on humans in an attempt to create a legion of atomic supermen.
Bride of the Monster, remindin' us that every successful marriage is built upon trust, commitment, and a willingness to reveal the location of the local swamp monster even if it means gettin' your significant other captured by a rogue Nazi mad scientist with a pet lummox.
Speakin' of reasons to skip Thanksgivin' dinner at your uncle Elwood's house though, I sure hope Drive-In Jesus gives out partial credit for tryin' your best to help the less fortunate, cause if not my afterlife's gonna end up a terrible cross between Groundhog Day and one of those sappy TV movies where the guy gets hit by a Greyhound bus and sent back to Earth to perform one good deed before Saint Pete'll let 'im through the pearly gates.
Regardless, I wanna go on record right now, before the newspaper gets wind of it, as sayin' the brawl at the soup kitchen had nothin' to do with me and everything to do with Abner Gorch not bein' able to keep his artificial organ where it belongs. Far's I'm concerned this whole thing was Mrs. Sadie's fault anyway, cause ever since she started rakin' in money hand over breast from postin' unboxing videos on Youtube with 'er blouse open two buttons too far she's been lookin' for ways to "give back" instead of just rollin' in the pile of money like our Capitalist American God intended.
"Please, you guys. It's the only way we can be together for Thanksgiving and still socially distance," Mrs. Sadie whined through 'er Rainbow Brite face mask. "And we'd be helping the needy!"
"Lady, I AM the needy!" I barked. "If you wanna give back to society either drop by the house and help me find the float needle to the Topaz' carburetor or gimmie the $39.95 Bondo's demandin' for a replacement. Or better yet - find me the guy that invented shag carpeting so I can beat the stuffins out of 'im," I proposed.
"Can't you ever think about anyone but yourself?" Sadie glared with 'er usual "I've got five good reasons why you're gonna do this" look. It wasn't quite as effective as usual on account of 'er flannel patterned "Loggers do it in the Woods" mask, but I decided I'd better soften my tone a bit in case there were any ladies in the room.
"Yes, Sadie, I can. But those thoughts tend to pass pretty quickly when you're walkin' to work through six inches of slush in boots with more holes than the plot to Plan 9 from Outer Space," I snarled.
"What about you, Billy? Can you pitch in?" Mrs. Sadie proceeded once it was clear Sadie'd get me on board one way or the other.
"Ah guef," Billy shrugged. "Afuh vath yeow ah cah'th wook mama ih the eye ah they 'thuffin'' withow gehin' queevy," he explained.
"Oh for cripes sake Billy, can't you just get over that and be happy for 'er?" I grumbled.
"Unthiw you thee yeow mama 'ooin' puth upth on a fah mah with George Romero glatheth, I thugeth you thut up," Billy concluded.
I grudgingly conceded the argument.
So anyway, this mornin' we all meet up at the soup kitchen, which on any other day of the week would be known as Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks cept the governor shut 'im down again for bein' a potential point of viral dissemination. 30 years that guy's been workin' the grill wearin' a wife-beater tank top and servin' saurkraut on patty melts, but *now* things're suddenly a public heath crisis.
Like I was sayin' though, Mack's shut down, so we're dishin' out all the stuff that woulda gone south in the cold storage over the next coupla weeks, when in walks Abner Gorch. Now, the way this charity dinner thing works is you've got the seven guys in town that're legitimately homeless, about three dozen others who're just flat-out cheap, lonely, or comin' in to see Mrs. Sadie in 'er sexy pilgrim outfit. Abner falls somewhere between the cheap and lonely designations, and for those of you who may not know 'im - he's basically the prankster from the slasher movie that everybody can't wait to see impaled on something rusty that's been hangin' on the wall of a barn since 1964. If Chickawalka County was a Friday the 13th movie, Abner would be Larry Zerner.
Course I've seen this movie before, and as he's strollin' up to the counter I can tell from the gleam in his eye that he's about to pull his glass one out, extend it to Mrs. Sadie, and cackle the line: "it's soooooo good to see you!" like he does every time he runs into somebody he knows can't watch the fried eyeball scene from Bloodsucking Freaks without spendin' the next three weeks in therapy.
Now, I don't wanna toot my own tuba or anything, 'cause that's a pretty pitiful thing to do and besides that, I saw Sheriff Hardassian lock Rusty Dockweiler up for a week for doin' that in public, but I'm a pretty chivalrous guy when the situation calls for it, and I know that the best-case scenario here is Abner scares the tar outta our Mrs. Sadie and she ends up cowerin' under the sink the resta the day; worst-case scenario, he drops that disgustin' thing in the turkey gravy. So I hurdle the counter, taking only a brief moment to clutch my shin where it smacked into the sneeze guard, and grab for Abner's arm just as he's thrustin' it toward Mrs. Sadie... only to knock it clean outta his hand and down 'er blouse, where it became temporarily lodged between 'er Plymouth knockers.
I don't wanna get into the gory details, but once she realized what'd happened she ripped 'er blouse halfway off in an effort to extract the Eye of Moron, 'cept once she got 'er bra unhooked it rolled into one of the cups and she ended up gettin' so freaked out that she slung the bra off and fired that mammary marble clean across the room and hit Buzz McCullough right in the ear.
Buzz was up to his mustache in mashed potatoes at the time, and so when he turns around all he sees is Arvin Spickle behind 'im puttin' somethin' into his pocket and slams the poor guy's face into his plate and proceeds to try drownin' 'im in his cranberry sauce. Course everybody knows Arvin ain't been responsible for anything in his entire life, so Satchel Gast gets up and shoves Buzz back towards his seat, only by this time Abner's crawlin' around on the floor lookin' for his porcelain peeper and Buzz trips over 'im, lands on the table, snaps it in half, and launches everybody's dinner into orbit.
Last thing I saw as the four of us were beatin' cheeks outta there was everybody from the busted table jumpin' the guys at Arvin's table and everyone in attendance attemptin' to maim each other with their dinner utensils. At last count, the police scanner'd reported five people in the hospital with spork related injuries, and another 13 bein' lodged in the crossbar hotel for wanton destruction of a biological curiosity (that stuffed two-headed buck Aesop Marlin killed back in '97) and assault with a delicious weapon.
On the plus side, there is somethin' to be thankful for in all this, cause I'm pretty sure I saw Dale Whelchel crush Abner's glass eye under the heel of his steel-toed boot, and better still - there's virtually zero chance any of us're ever gonna be allowed to volunteer for soup kitchen duty again. I guess Sadie musta saw what happened and realized I meant well, cause she didn't even stuff my head in the glove box on the ride home or nothin', and once she'd calmed 'er better-looking half down she dropped a dinner plate off for me on the porch. Course I didn't know that till I got up to let Apollo out to do his business a couple hours later and hadda wrestle 'im down in the snowbank to get my drumstick back, but on the whole it was prolly the least ridiculous Thanksgivin' I've had in five years.
After Apollo and I came to an understandin' over ownership of the remainin' foodstuffs we headed back inside and I stuck Bride of the Monster in the VCR to set the cinematic mood for our annual turkey dinner. Kinda strange to say this about an Ed Wood flick, but Bride of the Monster comes pretty dang close to bein' an honest-to-God B-movie despite the presence of a giant inarticulate animal, and a rubber octopus. I'd go so far's to say it's Ed's best picture, even though it doesn't really have the kinda rewatch value Plan 9 has due to Bela Lugosi's stubborn competence and commanding stage presence. In any event, Ed's flicks *always* deliver a unique educational experience even if he sometimes forgets to spray a little WD-40 on the tripod so it don't give the audience whiplash, so let's all take a minute to give our thanks for Ed's relentless pursuit of cinematic excellence and partake of his worldly wisdom. First, never feed the stray octopus or you'll never get rid of it. Second, if you're in the market for world domination, spring for the $8 deadbolt from True Value Hardware. It's far cheaper than the upkeep on a 400lb sumo wrestling pork golem. And third, when a Lobo comes along, you must whip it.
The movie begins with two guys caught in a torrential downpour of film scratches seekin' refuge at Bela Lugosi's house, 'cept when they plead for shelter he tells 'em to bugger off or he'll tie 'em up and force 'em to watch Tor Johnson perform every part from A Midsummer Night's Dream by himself. Normally he's not this callous, but ain't noBela got time for that nonsense cause he's gotta go down to his mad science lab and wax diabolical and flick the lights on and off to make sure the fuses he bought at Radio Shack can stand up to all the mad science juice he's plannin' to pump through 'em. Only while that's goin' on the two hapless goofs get too close to the octopus tank that Bela keeps outside for emergency sushi purposes and one ends up fallin' in and becoming an unwilling participant in a live hentai act. Tor lugs the other guy back to the lab so Bela can strap 'im to a dentist's chair and attach a mixing bowl to his head and run enough electricity through his skull to light up the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. This is *supposed* to turn the guy into Brock Lesnar, and more importantly, the first member of an army of super suplex soldiers Bela's gonna use to conquer the world, but Bela blasts too many gigawatts into the guy's skull and melts his brain to the inside of the bowl, ruining yet another specimen and leaving Tor without a container to hold his nightly kibble ration.
Elsewhere, the Chief of Police is talkin' to the long lost brother of Rod Serling (Dick) about the recent rash of disappearances around the swamp and the rash formin' on his shoulder where his pet parakeet keeps dumpin' acidic bird doodie. But pretty quick Dick's journalist girlfriend (Janet) busts in and starts givin' this big freedom of the press speech about how the public has a right to know if there's a Montessaurus Rex on the loose turnin' people into fertilizer, and she ends up threatenin' to call off her engagement to Dick if he don't tell 'er where the monster is and why 'er underwear keep disappearin' anytime the director goes into 'er dressin' room. Then the chief gets serious and hires a German cryptozoologist (Strowski) to help Dick track down the Beast of Mucka Flats, but by that time Janet's already gone and gimped her ride out by Bela's place and Tor hasta carry 'er back to the lab while 'er bullet bra drives 6" deep divots into his upper back. The next day Dick finds Janet's car slightly askew and assumes the worst, but with the exception of havin' to watch Bela whale the tar outta Tor with a bull rope for puttin' the salad fork on the wrong side of 'er dinner plate, she's none the worse for wear. Then Janet starts givin' Bela the business and proddin' 'im with questions like where she is, who he is, and why her nylons're saggin' down into 'er socks like they've been recently stretched out by Nordic tree-trunk thighs, but Bela gets fed up with that pretty quickly and starts wavin' his old arthritic fingers in 'er face til the Old Spice fumes become too much and she passes out. Meanwhile, upstairs, the supposed cryptozoologist sneaks into Bela's pad and tells 'im that he's successfully lobbied for Bela's return to the Fatherland on account of the Americans and the Rooskies stealin' all their top science guys after the war. It ain't gonna be that easy though, cause Bela's still pretty P.O.'d about bein' drummed out of a country that considered Hitler stable, and he pretty much tells Strowski to go check Argentina cause Germany had its chance at becomin' a race of atomic Aryan supermen and they blew it.
Then Strowski tries takin' Bela back to Europe at gunpoint and gets as far as the front door before Tor puts 'im in a hammerlock and tosses 'im into the octopus tank where he's reduced to bratwurst. Gettin' Sigmund Fraud off his back puts a smile back on Bela's face, but there's still a lotta world out there that needs dominatin', so he decides it's time to buckle down and make a few tweaks to his atomic love tester machine and smoosh his face up like a Chinese Pug and give the sign for the Death Valley Driver, compelling Janet to creep into the room in a wedding dress in a last-ditch effort to explain the flick's title. Then Dick walks through the front door, finds the secret compartment behind the fireplace, gets in Bela's face, and is immediately set upon by the Torminator, who sneaks up on him with ninja-like stealth and clobbers him from behind. I don't claim to be a licensed audiologist or anything, but Dick definitely seems to be a candidate for a hearin' aid given that he was just ambushed by a hippopotamus with COPD. Anyway, when he wakes up Dick's chained to the wall like he passed out in an S&M bar at last call, with Janet nearby on the operatin' table, and it's startin' to look like her career trajectory's about to plummet all the way down into Newsmax territory. But there's one thing Bela hadn't accounted for in all this, and things suddenly go south when Tor catches the love bug and lowers the moob on 'im despite takin' five gunshots in the Tor-so. Needless to say, Tor tired of being pawn in game of life, and once he releases Janet from the operatin' table he plants Bela in the hot seat, DDT's Dick on the concrete floor, and starts flickin' switches like an 8-year-old in a cockpit until the equipment roars to life and gives Bela's brainpan a triple dose of Chernobyl chemotherapy. Normally that'd be all she wrote, but the machine actually works as intended this time, and I don't wanna give the endin' away, but I will say that Bela doesn't appreciate bein' the guinea pig in his own Phase III human trial.
Alrighty, well, never did find out who the monster was or who was gonna officiate the ceremony did we? That's prolly because the original title was Bride of the Atom, which makes slightly more sense but wasn't as apt to put cars in the lot as the title that dangled the prospect of monster on woman nuptials. In all fairness, Bride of the Monster's place in the hall of shame isn't nearly as concrete as some of the other stinkers of the '50s, and that's because the one thing Ed Wood did right was hiring his good friend, Bela Lugosi, to star. Yes, the set design is an absurd conglomeration of props with no discernable relevance or connection to plot. Yes, the science lab has a door with a giant octopus behind it that maintains a perfect tupperwarian seal preventing water from flooding the lab. And yes, the film features Tor Johnson in what may have been his most dramatic role since Rocky Johnson, Space Ranger, but even at the age of 72 with a substance addiction, Bela Lugosi is just too talented. His acting prowess always reasserts itself just as you're certain the movie's gonna go completely off the deep end into Plan 9 from Outer Space territory and pulls it back from the brink of complete inanity. Don't get me wrong, it's still an Ed Wood film, but it's by far his best, and it just can't compete with flicks like The Creeping Terror, Plan 9 from Outer Space, or Robot Monster in terms of sheer ineptitude. Sadly, this would be the last speaking role for Bela Lugosi, who passed away a year later. But if there's any doubt about Lugosi's acting abilities, even in his final years, it's worth noting that Bride of the Monster was the only flick Wood produced that made money, and that Wood's follow-up films, Plan 9 from Outer Space, and Night of the Ghouls, positively stink on ice without Lugosi there to carry them. You've gotta give Wood credit though, both for his enthusiasm for the filmmaking process and his Barnum-esque ability to bilk suckers out of enough money to get them funded. Bride's budget was secured almost entirely from the owner of a local meatpacking company with the understanding that his son, Tony McCoy, would be cast as the protagonist, and that the ending would echo his personal sentiments about the use of atomic weapons. Funding was, and is, tough for any low-budget filmmaker to come by, and for that reason, it's always fun to speculate about how some of the random, incongruent aspects of Wood's movies actually made their way onto the screen. Take the bird that's always sitting on the shoulder of the chief homicide investigator, for instance - there's probably a completely ridiculous story about how that came to be, but in the absence of any definitive solution, it's interesting to contemplate, and it's these sorts of mental exercises that make low budget movies as entertaining as they are.
Guess there's nothin' left to do now but speak ill of the Ed, so let's dive in and get kraken. The plot, at least in terms of the big picture, is a pretty standard 1950s cautionary tale about the dangers of atomic power. It does take the road less traveled by pointing its death ray at human subjects rather than the more traditional route of accidentally spawned giant, radioactive creatures, but it's still basic mad science run amok with a cartoonish supervillain attempting to conquer the world. Of course, whenever Ed's involved, it's the details that make the plot so uniquely bizarre. In this case, you really can't beat the scene where Dick's fiancee threatens to break off the engagement because he won't tell her where the monster is. Although I find Bela's refusal to lock the front door while working to create a super-human army powerful enough to take over the world after not one, but two people hostile to his cause walk in unannounced, a close second. The short version is, the farther you drill down, the sillier it gets. The acting, by the standards of an Ed Wood movie, is actually pretty good... which is to say that it's still really awkward and amateurish when compared to any random Roger Corman movie from the same decade; Bela Lugosi's performance aside. The script has its fair share of hilarious dialogue, with lines like: "Maybe it's like the paper says - all these atom bomb explosions distorted the atmosphere." But I think my favorite is Loretta King screaming: "You're insane! My paper knows where I am! You can't hurt me and get away with this!" as Bela hovers over her menacingly. I'll give it this much - the "better" performances are at least given by the more important characters, and at least Tor Johnson was still forbidden from delivering dialogue at this point in his career, but there're still quite a few bit players who should only ever be allowed in front of a camera if it's being operated by a Sears family photographer.
Here's who matters and why (less Bela Lugosi): Tor Johnson (Plan 9 from Outer Space, The Beast of Yucca Flats, Night of the Ghouls, The Unearthly), Harvey B. Dunn (Teenagers from Outer Space, Night of the Ghouls), George Becwar (War of the Colossal Beast), Paul Marco (Plan 9 from Outer Space, Night of the Ghouls, The Naked Monster), Bud Osborne (Night of the Ghouls, The Monster and the Ape, Batman 1943, The Raven 1935), Dolores Fuller (The Corpse Grinders 2, The Ironbound Vampire, Mesa of Lost Women), William 'Billy' Benedict (Adventures of Captain Marvel, The Dead Don't Die, the Magnetic Monster, Spook Busters), Ben Frommer (Psycho II, Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype, Cult of the Cobra, Plan 9 from Outer Space), Conrad Brooks (Plan 9 from Outer Space, Jan-Gel 1 - 3, Plan 9, Super Hell 1 - 3, Psychotic State, Invasion of the Reptoids, Kelton's Dark Corner: Trilogy One, Zappo: Sinners from Beyond the Moon, Shadows in the Woods, Purvos, Gypsy Vampire 1 - 3, 2020: An American Nightmare, Brain Robbers from Outer Space, Corpses are Forever, Zombiegeddon, Minds of Terror, Bikini Planet, Raising Dead, Max Hell Frog Warrior, The Monster Man, The Atomic Space Bug, Silent Scream 1999, Crimes of the Chupacabra, Blood Slaves of the Vampire Wolf, Toad Warrior, Ed Wood, Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000, Puppet Master III, Curse of the Queerwolf, Deathrow Gameshow, A Polish Vampire in Burbank, The Sinister Urge, Night of the Ghouls, The Beast of Yucca Flats, The Mad Magician).
The special effects are perhaps the greatest tragedy when, depending upon whose story you believe, Wood and company may or may not have stolen the giant octopus used in the film from a Republic Pictures storage facility. It really doesn't look too bad for its time, but without someone(s) to manipulate it, we're talking about an inanimate prop, and this produces some of the funniest scenes in the movie given that the actors have no choice but to roll from side to side screaming pretending to be under attack. With a few competent puppeteers and someone on set familiar with the finer points of hiding strings, this could actually have worked - unfortunately, those people were all working on films where the paychecks weren't bouncing at the time. Besides the octopus, there's just a little blood/scarring on Tor and Bela's faces, and these simple makeup effects look fine. The shooting locations/sets are where the film's minuscule budget really becomes obvious, with props that follow no theme or consistency (there's a painting of Ulysses S. Grant hanging in Lugosi's living room while he's supposed to be in exile from an unnamed European country), and a science lab that's decorated with a very old kitchen sink (complete with silverware/utensil drawers), what appears to be a drill press serving as the atomic energy source, and various other appliances and surfaces that were likely scavenged from a poorly guarded kitchen. I'm gonna give Ed a few points for the opening shot of the house, which is fairly creepy and looks pretty good in front of a Universal style backdrop, but for the most part, the interior sets are pitiful. The soundtrack is probably the flick's greatest asset, in that it follows the typical 1950s formula of a single dramatic track playing over the opening credits, while most of the others lurk unobtrusively in the background and provide little in the way of atmosphere. It's movies like this one that really hammer home the fact that soundtracks from this era were simply too generic to be memorable, as even the scores for lesser pictures sound as "good" as their big-budget counterparts. Overall, because it's a better movie on a technical level than Plan 9 from Outer Space, it isn't quite as entertaining, but it's still chock full of Wood's trademark eccentricities. It's best viewed with Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary, of course, but at 69 minutes running time it never bogs down, and Wood's reckless enthusiasm keeps it fairly enjoyable even on repeat viewings.