THE BRIDE OF THE MONSTER/THE APE MAN: A MONSTROUS DOUBLE REVIEW OF BELA LUGOSI HORROR FILMS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
BRIDE OF THE MONSTER. (1955) WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY EDWARD D. WOOD, JR.
STARRING BELA LUGOSI, TOR JOHNSON, TONY MCCOY AND LORETTA KING.
THE APE MAN. (1943) BASED ON THE STORY ‘THEY CREEP IN THE DARK’ BY KARL BROWN. DIRECTED BY WILLIAM BEAUDINE.
STARRING BELA LUGOSI, HENRY HALL, MINERVA URECAL, LOUISE CURRIE AND WALLACE FORD.
For me, these two Bela Lugosi sci-fi/horror B-movies were an absolute joy to watch back-to-back recently, despite the fact that neither film had been remastered or restored and the dialogue was almost indecipherable at times. And there were no subtitles…! Haha, yeah I know, what is this, the flippin’ Dark Ages?
Oddly enough though, even when I could barely make out what the characters were saying, the crackling in the background indicating the sheer age of the films and the fabulous old settings more than compensated for a few missed words of dialogue.
Both films are positively chock-a-block with creepy olde-timey atmosphere and they’re actually quite similar to each other, which is why I’ve chosen to review ’em together.
First, a word about the wonderful Hungarian-American actor Bela Lugosi (1882-1956). His portrayal of Count Dracula in the 1931 UNIVERSAL horror movie DRACULA is one of the four great screen portrayals of Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire in cinematic history. Period, as the Americans say.
Now I suppose you’ll be wanting to know what the other three greatest screen portrayals are, you nosy readers, you! Well, there’s Max Schreck in F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU (1922), and then there’s Klaus Kinski’s performance in Werner Herzog’s re-make of NOSFERATU in 1979. Last but not least, we have the handsome and charismatic Christopher Lee in the HAMMER version of the story, namely, DRACULA (1958). Did I leave anyone out…?
Those are in no particular order, by the way, as the lovely Dermot O’Leary might say when he’s announcing who’s going home and who’s survived to sing another week on X FACTOR. All of these guys are equally good and equally deserving of their place on the list.
But I definitely maintain that any list that doesn’t contain Bela Lugosi is not complete. Some critics have sneered at what they call the ‘hamminess’ of his performance in the 1931 film but you know critics. They’ll sneer at their own mothers for giving birth to them. ‘Four hours in labour? That’s nothing! Come back to me when you’ve done the full eighteen hours, WITHOUT drugs…!’
Don’t get me started on critics. All pricks, the lot of ’em, haha. Anyway, to the films now. Finally, says you. In each film, Bela plays a mad scientist who’s up to no good. In BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, he’s trying to create a race of super-people and uses folks he’s abducted from Lake Marsh, where he lives, to experiment on.
He still has amazing eye-power, just like he did in DRACULA, and he can hypnotise people using both his peepers and his long elegant hands, just like in DRACULA.
Anyway, in THE APE MAN, he’s only gone and turned himself partially into a gorilla by accident, the silly sausage. You know the way that happens…
In both films, he’s got a super-strong sidekick to do his dirty work for him and strong-arm people and stuff. In BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, this sidekick is the mute giant Lobo, played by Tor Johnson. In THE APE MAN, it’s an actual real giant ape. Well, it’s a man in an ape-costume, obviously, but you know what I mean. There weren’t too many real apes involved in the Actors’ Union back in the ‘Forties.
Whenever Bela’s character is in trouble or being threatened by people who object to being killed, as people sometimes do, the sidekicks creep up on the aggressor from behind and give ’em the old strangulation treatment. Problem solved.
Bela certainly seems to enjoy savagely whipping each of his loyal sidekicks, or maybe he just enjoys whipping, heh-heh-heh. Plenty of people do, after all.
In both films, he’s being stalked by nosy female reporter-types who endanger themselves terribly by snooping round Bela’s gaff. Silly girls. They certainly have it coming.
And what I find funniest about each film is that both young ladies, Janet Lawton the reporter from BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and Billie Mason, the stunning photographer with the razor-sharp cheekbones from THE APE MAN, are each threatened with a spanking by the men in their lives for foolishly and thoughtlessly putting themselves in harm’s way.
Whether Janet’s boyfriend Dick (now there’s a great manly ‘Fifties name!) or Billie’s concerned co-worker Jeff ever do take the young ladies in question over their respective knees and give ’em a sound thrashing on their tight-skirted behinds, well, sadly, we’ll never know.
It’s just a shame that we weren’t treated to the delectable sight of a couple of on-screen spankings, which by the way weren’t exactly unheard of back in the day. The minxy Billie Mason in particular actually smirked when she was threatened with a good old-fashioned paddling. Maybe she wasn’t at all averse to the idea, who knows…?
There’s a great scene in BRIDE OF THE MONSTER in which Officer Dick (Haw-haw, Officer Dick…!) is trapped in the swamp and being menaced by a genuine alligator. There’s also a giant octopus in the film who reminded me fondly of that media squid who was supposed to be able to predict the results of the Euros or the World Cup or something. Meh. Predicting the Lottery numbers, now that’d be worth something…!
My favourite character in THE APE MAN, aside from Bela Lugosi himself, was Bela’s sister Agatha Brewster, a ghost-hunter and expert in the paranormal. What a game old gal, going round the world inspecting old graveyards and haunted houses and publishing her findings in her books!
With a name like Agatha Brewster (even her real name of Minerva suits her right down to the ground), this feisty dame could’ve been a writer of mystery novels (like her namesake Ms. Christie) or even of torrid paperback romances, revealing the existence of a romantic and tender heart beating wildly beneath that flat sensible bosom.
She also would’ve made a great suffragette. I can just see her grappling with the chin-strapped bobbies and threatening ’em with all sorts (and not the liquorice kind, either!) if they don’t immediately unhand her person like a good fellow.
The end of Bela’s life was sad and you might just feel a hint of that sadness in both of these films, especially in BRIDE OF THE MONSTER which was one of his last ever movies.
But they’ll leave you with a nice warm fuzzy feeling in your insides too, and the feeling that someday, sometime, maybe when you’re old yourself, you’ll want to watch them again.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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