Written by: Ed Wood and Alex Gordon
Directed by: Ed Wood
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, and Loretta King
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"One is always considered mad if one discovers something that others cannot grasp!"
One of the earliest screen legends in the horror genre, Bela Lugosi needs no introduction to anyone. His performance as Dracula alone would have cemented his legacy as a horror giant, but he continued to star in other notable horror films such as White Zombie, The Black Cat, and Son of Frankenstein. Unfortunately, Lugosi would ultimately end up typecast and addicted to pain-killers before finally falling out of acting altogether until legendary B-movie-maker Ed Wood began casting him in his films. Bride of the Monster is one such joint venture between the two, and it happens to be penultimate film in Lugosi's career, as he died from a heart attack a year after the film's production.
Bride of the Monster is not overly-complicated, even if does almost defy explanation at times. Lugosi portrays Dr. Eric Vornoff, a mad scientist experimenting with atomic energy in his spooky old mansion. The film opens with a couple of guys who unwittingly stumble onto Vornoff's property, only to be promptly dispatched by a giant octopus. Furthermore, this incident is just one of many strange incidents surrounding Vornoff's manor so Janet Lawton, a young newswoman, sets out to investigate. However, she's soon captured and left to the mercy of Vornoff and his assistant, Lobo, a huge, hulking Ygor-like character that does Vornoff's bidding. It's at this point that Vornoff reveals his evil plan for world domination, as he intends to create an army of superhuman beings like Lobo to do his bidding.
Alright, so you should know what to expect here. First of all, this was directed by Ed Wood, which is immediately a red flag. Secondly, Bride of the Monster was lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. As such, adjust your expectations accordingly because this one is a true cheese-fest with very few redeeming qualities for most audiences. The plot is threadbare and hackneyed, the acting is dull, and the "effects" are laughable. The aforementioned giant octopus no doubt sounds cool in theory, and it perhaps would be if the mechanical prop in the film had actually worked. However, it didn't, and, as a result, the prop just sort of sits there as the actors "struggle" with it, and the rest of the effects are just as bad because this was obviously a cheap production.
So, you're probably wondering if there are any redeeming qualities to this film at all. The answer, surprisingly, is yes. Lugosi of course is a highlight, and there's one neat sequence where he induces a Dracula-style hypnosis, complete with an extreme close-up on Lugosi's eyes. It is kind of sad to see that Lugosi's career had descended to this sort of tripe, though, as he truly deserved better than this. Also, the film moves at a brisk pace and is over in a scant 68 minutes; if anything, Wood knew not to wear out his welcome, I suppose.
By this point, Bride of the Monster must sound easily skippable, as it's just another lame, Ed Wood 50s creature-feature. For the most part, you would be right to think this; however, if you're among that elite 1% of the population that can stomach Wood and his ilk, this will be right up your alley. I admittedly find a certain charm in a cheese-fest like Bride of the Monster, as it's the epitome of a "so bad it's good" film, as you can't help but laugh at it. In fact, it almost seems as if the film is inviting you to do so with the lame effects, laughable fight scenes, and a downright ridiculous climax that involves stock footage of a nuclear explosion. Indeed, this one is a must-see if you haven't ventured into Wood territory already because it's truly that bad.
Legend Films is obviously aware of this, as the packaging for their DVD release markets the film as a "an enduring and endearing camp masterpiece" that's full of "thrills and laughs." Okay, so maybe it isn't quite that good, and Legend certainly treated this film better than it deserves with its DVD release, which includes both the black and white and colorized version of the film. The transfer for both presentations are more than adequate and certainly better than any public domain release of the film, and the audio is equally sufficient. As a bonus, there's also a rare interview with Lugosi that's pretty interesting to check out. It doesn't sound like much, but I have a feeling we won't be seeing a 2-disc special edition of this one anytime soon. If you think you can handle this one, I cautiously recommend you to check it out once just out of morbid curiosity. Rent it!
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