Considered by many to be the worst director ever, you still have to give Ed Wood credit, for each one of his films has a sense of accomplishment to them. Not in that he produced a competent or even entertaining product, but in that somehow he pulled it all off. He was passionate about his pictures and it shines through. It’s just too bad that some talent couldn’t have shone its way through as well. That being said, Ed certainly gave it his all with BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and while the finished product may not have you petitioning for a retraction of its “turkey” labeling, its camp value and a memorable performance by Bela Lugosi are worthy of notice.
Screen legend Bela Lugosi plays Dr. Eric Vornoff, a mad scientist who desires to create a race of atomic supermen. Aided by his behemoth henchman Lobo (Tor Johnson), Dr. Vornoff conducts experiments on anyone foolish enough to trespass on to the old Willows place. He may be mad, but the good doctor knows the first rule of real-estate; location, location, location. Thought abandoned, Dr. Vornoff has moved into the decaying abode, finding its adjacent swamp the perfect habitat for his latest monstrous creation, an overgrown octopus. With reports of disappearing loved ones on the rise, newspaper reporter Janet Lawton (Loretta King) finds little help in her copper fiancé, Dick Craig (Tony McCoy). When neither her beau nor police captain Tom Robbins (Harvey B. Dunn) take her inquiries into the unexplained reports of a monster in the swamp seriously, the intrepid reporter sets out to uncover the mystery once and for all, a proposition that Dick is none too pleased with. Stuck babysitting monster hunter Professor Vladimir Strowski (George Becwar, WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST), Dick is in for an eventful night as his future bride willing heads straight into the clutches of Dr. Vornoff and his nuclear monster.
While GLEN OR GLENDA and PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE are undeniable staples of “bad” cinema, BRIDE OF THE MONSTER might just be Ed Wood’s most cohesive and underrated film. Considering the director’s filmography, such a statement is certainly far from a glowing recommendation, but if you can make it past the numerous lulls in action, dialogue and common sense, you might be surprised just how enjoyable the picture can be. It certainly has all the proper elements for a classic drive-in attraction. A crazed scientist (steadfast in his desire to prove those that doubted his radical theories wrong) a brutish henchman, a damsel in distress and an oversized monster that appears to be operated by a fishing line and wishful thinking. Hell, there’s even a little light S&M thrown in for good measure. All of that coupled with some of the worst dialogue spoken by man and you end up with a bad cinema aficionado’s best (or worst) dream, a movie so bad it somehow evolves into an entertaining effort despite itself.
Tim Burton’s biopic ED WOOD, released theatrically in 1994, paid
special attention to the filming of BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, originally titled
BRIDE OF THE ATOM, with particular focus being given to the claim that the large,
supposedly animatronic octopus used for Dr. Vornoff’s monster was stolen
from the Republic Studios back lot. If such a tale is true or not, one thing
is certain, the final product is about as far from menacing as you can get.
Spliced together with random bits of grainy stock footage, the octopus sits
lifeless throughout its screen time -- its only movements aided by however many
tentacles its hapless victims can grasp and flail around. Wannabe Cthulhu aside,
the feature's star attraction is also its most memorable, be he on or off barbiturates.
Lugosi‘s portrayal of Dr. Vornoff is a fitting swan song that allowed
the stage actor to vamp it up one last time and provided the actors with one
of his most memorable monologues.
Having long languished in the public domain and ripped a new one by Mystery Science Theater 3000, BRIDE OF THE MONSTER first saw an official DVD release courtesy of Image Entertainment in early 2000. Image would later re-release BRIDE as part of its Ed Wood box in 2004 before Passport/Koch Entertainment included the title in its Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi collections in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Legend Films' latest however appears to trump all previous releases presenting BRIDE in a surprisingly crisp 1.33:1 full frame transfer. Blacks are rich and while there are several instances of debris and scratching, in comparison to its previous VHS and DVD releases, both official and non, picture quality is rather commendable. The 2.0 mono audio is easy enough to follow, even when Bela is not, but the levels between the dialogue and the score often get muddled together. As Legend likes to do, BRIDE OF THE MONSTER can be viewed its original, glorious black and white or in a updated colorized version. The opening scene, which takes place on a stormy night just outside of the old Willows place, is much too dark in the colorized versions, and while I appreciate the subtle touch obviously used in the coloring process, in comparison to the original black and white, I couldn’t tell what the hell was going on. Fleshtones where also an added annoyance as they appeared pastel in contrast to the dark, murky green walls of Dr. Vornoff’s swamp-side home.
Special features include a four minute interview with Bela Lugosi apparently conducted just after filming VAMPIRE OVER LONDON (MY SON THE VAMPIRE), as Bela drops numerous plugs for the film. The quality of the extra is atrocious, with the source print obviously kept in far from ideal conditions. Covered in lines and scratches and fading to a white screen and back, the brief interview feels more like filler than it does a supplement to the feature. Faring much better, at least in terms of its picture quality, is a three minute segment titled "The Strongest Man In The World" that feature Tor Johnson playing the title role. A carnival barker offers a couple hundred dollar bills to anyone that can last three minutes in the ring with the sweaty brute. When none of the male patrons are willing to take on such a challenge, a little girl, who is the spitting image of the Wendy’s mascot, surprises everyone with her dramatic, yet effortless feats of strength. Colorized trailers for PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, CARNVIAL OF SOULS and REEFER MADNESS, all currently available from Legend Films, round out the disc's extras. (Jason McElreath)
BACK TO REVIEWS