Bride Of The Monster (1955)
Pickwick Group – 2004
Dr Eric Vornoff – Bela Lugosi! A mad scientist seemingly intent on creating a new race of superior human beings from his remote, probably damp riddled home in the middle of a swamp. I can imagine him creating two or three and then having to quell a minor riot when his atomic progeny decide they've had enough of Alligator Soup and midges. Dies of hypothermia after rolling about in cold water with a rubber octopus. Sorry. Killed to death by a vicious Atomic Octopus and exploded.
Lt. Dick Craig – As an actor, he is terrible. As the son of a meat-packing entrepreneur cast as a leading male, he is terrible. As a fashion icon, he is terrible. As a hero and decision maker, he is terrible. I quite liked him, actually.
Janet Lawton – Jinkeys! That ol' house sure is creepy! Newspaper reporter in a presumably quiet town, which is why she goes looking for news around dark marshes and isolated mansions. Also intimately involved with Dick Craig... some girls get all the luck.
Lobo – Tor Johnson! A man mountain who looks like he was crafted out of very wet clay and turned on a wheel by someone with stumps that end at their elbows. He develops a longing for our heroine and rescues her from the elderly and frail clutches of Vornoff. Impervious to bullets.
Capt. Tom Robbins – Is the bird on his shoulder significant? I kept thinking that it had some sort of Hitchcockian hidden meaning. Then I stamped on my own foot and reminded myself who was directing. Bad Jimmi!
Prof. Vladimir Strowski – Tracks down Vornoff to try and tempt him back to the Motherland, after his apparent 'successes' in his experiments. Vornoff is not for turning, however. Ends up with hypoth... *sound of gun being cocked* Okay! Okay! Atomic Octopus food.
Everyone else – A combination of Ed Wood stalwarts and his then partner, demoted (if legend is to be believed) to the all important part of File Clerk due to the on screen heroine bringing a cheque to the party. Some end up as lunch for the Octopus, some survive. One of them probably had a career in acting at some point.
This is your common garden mid-fifties horror film involving people with Eastern European accents, shady plots in dank swamps, All-American men in high waisted trousers and the word 'Atom'. In other words, this is a Cold War film about nuclear paranoia.
Well, maybe that is giving Ed Wood too much credit. To be fair, this is probably the most complete Ed Wood film. If you close your ears to the clunky dialogue, ignore the glaring errors, wade through the stock footage and drink enough alcohol to drown Oliver Reed there is some semblance of a decent, even coherent, plot in here.
Speaking of which...
The film begins with two people complaining about the weather, the script and the fact that we can barely see them except their heads and hands because the picture quality and lighting are so poor. Oh, and the monsters as well. When one of them suggests that they shelter in an old house, the other chap gets the jitters about a 'monster' rumour. They argue about whether there really is a monster and then are surprised when they approach the door and Bela Lugosi tells them to bugger off. They eventually get their comeuppance with one chewed on by an Octopus and the other one strapped into Vornoff's machine. To a cynic, it appears to be a metal bowl that never really stays on the victim's head. Whatever the hell it is, Vornoff's promise of taking an ordinary person and making him Man Plus ends badly when he becomes Man Deceased.
Cut to the local police station. We learn that twelve people have now gone missing so far in just three months, all in the Lake Marsh area, but the police have no leads. The only clue is the 'abandoned' house but the police aren't allowed to search it because of a lack of facts. Let me just repeat that. The police cannot search a supposed abandoned house because of a lack of facts.
Janet Lawton is the local reporter. Frustrated with the inertia of the police, she opts to go and investigate herself. Meanwhile, the bird-wearing Captain enlists the help of a nutter called Strowski who had previously been hired by the British police to try and track down the Loch Ness monster. Let me just repeat that. A nutter, hired by the police, to track down a monster with a body count of precisely... zero.
He didn't find it, by the way.
Janet tracks down the mansion, pursued by fiancee Dick Craig who has realised what her game plan is. The inquisitive young lady is first to the house when she plants her car into the boonies in the middle of a storm. She passes out and is picked up by Lobo, where she wakes up in the laboratory of Vornoff. Remembering his past as Dracula (ahem) he hypnotizes her into a sleep.
Dick makes it into the swamp with his mate Marty. Turns out that the Loch Ness Hunter decided to go it alone without the help of our hero. The dynamic duo decide to head to the old house, but spot Janet's car planted in the scenery. Rather than search the immediate area, they decide to head back into town on the off-chance that she walked back, thus leaving her in the clutches of Vornoff and Lobo.
Vornoff talks to Janet over tea, her unusually pointy breasts providing ample distraction for those of us bored to tears by the mind-numblingly dull dialogue. Vornoff then puts her back to sleep, thus enabling the audience to identify with her in ways you would never think imaginable. Meanwhile, Strowski has snuck into the old house, displaying the sort of intuition that has probably escaped the local police for years. We learn that he and Vornoff are mutual acquaintances - Vornoff was banished due to his idea for producing a Master Race being rejected. Now that he has been successful, Strowski (on behalf of the Motherland) has been ordered to bring him back.
Successful? Twelve dead in three months? Hmm...
Vornoff sadly bears grudges. Strowski threatens Vornoff with a gun but Lobo sneaks (the hell?) up on him and Strowski ends up another victim of the Octopus.
Meanwhile, Dick Craig and Marty have banged their heads together and finally drive to the old mansion. Marty leaves him behind whilst Dick investigates further. There is a terrible scene here where he falls into 'quicksand' and shoots about eight or nine rounds from a revolver incapable of holding that many at stock footage of an alligator. I don't want to speak any more about it.
Janet is dressed as a bride (whilst still in something of a trance) and prepared for Vornoff's machine. Dick sneaks in through the front door and finds Vornoff's secret lab. Why, after spending money on all the lab equipment, could he not afford (at least) a Chubb lock on his front door to stop all these people from wandering in? Dick confronts Vornoff, but once again Lobo is allowed to sneak up on someone with a loaded gun. The guy must weigh 300 pounds and grunts! Where did he learn to tiptoe!? As a result, Dick is chained up. Everything appears to be going Vornoff's way, when Lobo's small crush on Janet turns him against his master. He subdues Vornoff and releases Janet, who helps Dick escape from his locked shackles... somehow. They watch as Lobo hooks Vornoff up to his own machine and gives him a blast of his own medicine.
Dick then threatens Lobo and shoots him to no avail. Since bullets didn't do the trick, the braindead officer decides to try hand-to-hand combat instead. He succeeds only in being pummelled into heroic unconsciousness.
Whilst all this has been going on, Capt. Robbins has finally decided that after twelve deaths and several more missing, it might be worth checking out the old mansion. Presumably a little bird told him too.
What!? Ouch! Stop hitting me!
Vornoff turns out to be the first success story of his own machine. He subdues Lobo (via the obviously wooden set) who then falls against some equipment which spontaneously combusts causing a huge fire. It is then up to our hero to recover conciousness just in time to rescue the girl and himself from being burned to death. There is a pitched battle outside that is ended when Dick rolls an enormous boulder into Vornoff who falls into his Octopus and then explodes in a mushroom cloud of an equivalent size to the one that probably emerged from the ashes of Nagasaki. The survivors, who remain unharmed despite standing only yards away, look on in horror. It is up to the incompetent Captain to give us the film's enigmatic closing line.
There are a lot of legends and stories associated with Bride Of The Monster (the filming of which was featured prominently in Burton's 1994 biopic 'Ed Wood'), and maybe some of them are true. The most popular one being that the team had to steal the giant rubber Octopus for the scenes involving character's deaths but neglected to steal the electric motor to make it move. Whatever the circumstances, it is amusing to watch characters rolling about on top of a rubber Octopus trying to make it live and appear to be strangling them.
My personal favourite error involves the location and positioning Vornoff's laboratory. In several scenes, he looks through a narrow window at eye level and we see stock footage of an Octopus underwater. There is nothing wrong with this, I am happy to believe that the laboratory is submerged underground and the lake butts up against it. Imagine my delight then when in several scenes Vornoff opens a door right next to the window and throws the victim into the clutches of the aquatic people muncher!? It makes every ounce of common sense in my body universally twitch, and is monumentally ridiculous even for an Ed Wood production. Every single time it happens, I want Bela Lugosi to be hit by a torrent of water as his laboratory floods.
In spite of this, Bride Of The Monster is the most accomplished Ed Wood work, and as a result is also probably his most accessible. Let's face it; there are no car hub-caps dangling from string, no chiropractors covering their faces with cloaks, no cross-dressing and only a few minutes of dreary stock footage padding out the film. It is also short, coming in at around 68 minutes. And for me, it is my personal favourite. Not only for the unintentionally funny scenes, but the poignant pictures of a screen legend, Lugosi, in his final complete performance.
Things I Learned From This Movie:
-Twelve dead is a good figure to begin to commit to some serious police work. Anything shy of that is just overreacting.
-The cast of Scooby Doo were better off for not having an obnoxious reporter with breasts that can put an eye out.
-Bela Lugosi's favourite game was to switch the interior lights in his house on and off.
-If you find your friend in the clutches of an Octopus, the best course of action is to fire shotgun rounds into both friend and beast.
-Never work with children or animals (rubber or otherwise).
-Bela Lugosi was never typecast in his career. Ohh nooo. Well, maybe a bit.
-The accepted safe distance from a nuclear explosion is around ten to fifteen yards.
Stuff To Watch Out For:
2mins – Get used to seeing that stock footage lightning burst, because you are going to see it a lot. Whenever it appears, I immediately think of the opening credits to Gerry Anderson's 'Thunderbirds'.
3mins – Notice Lobo is dry now... What on earth was he doing prowling around outside anyway?
20mins – Start the engine, get it into gear and then release the handbrake dear. It stops you rolling into obstructions.. other cars.. passing pedestrians.
30mins – That's just about the worst editing cut I've seen. And I've sat through Reefer Madness more times than I care to admit to.
49mins – This scene reminds me a little bit of The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari..
61mins – RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST A FILM SET.
64mins – I wonder when that enormous polystyrene boulder is going to come into play...
65mins – I SAID, I WONDER WHEN THAT ENORMOUS POLY... Thank you!
Vornoff - “You are not welcome in my house! Go away! Now! Go! Go!”
Craig - “Professor. Is it your theory that the Loch Ness monster crossed the ocean and came to the swamp?”
Craig - “If she's gone to Lake Marsh on her own, I'll take her across my knee!”
Craig - “This swamp is a monument to death. Snakes, alligators, quicksand... all bent on one thing: destruction!”