Ed Wood, Jr. has brought us some of the most memorable, albeit campy, films from the 1950s era, but they are often given a bad name. His journey through Hollywood is a unique one, rife with struggle and difficulties. Despite all of the harsh criticism Wood received, he remained positive throughout, thoroughly believing in his work. He was well-intentioned in his films, even if the outcome was often ridiculed. Today’s #ThrowbackThursday entry, ‘Bride of the Monster,’ definitely fits that mold.
This movie opens up with two hunters being caught in a terrible storm. The men go to an old house that used to be abandoned but is now inhabited by Dr. Eric Vornoff, played excellently by Bela Lugosi. Vornoff’s large and amply-muscled assistant, Lobo (Tor Johnson), quickly runs them off. Fun fact: both Lugosi and Johnson were in other Ed Wood films, and ‘Bride of the Monster’ was the last movie that Lugosi would headline before his death. The final time Lugosi would be seen on film was in a non-speaking role in Ed Wood’s 1959 movie, ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space.’
Back to the finer plot points: there have been reports of missing people and a monster in Lake Marsh, where Vornoff’s house is located. Once the men leave, Vornoff and Lobo go back in the house, where he has a laboratory complete with a window where he can see into the swamp itself. As he watches, stock footage of an octopus is edited in, and we see how pleased Vornoff is with what is, in fact, the monster. The hunters try to cross the water soon after, and the octopus grabs one. A hilarious scene with the man flailing on top of the inanimate rubber octopus ensues. As he dies, the other hunter is captured by Lobo and taken back to the lab. Vornoff explains that he is doing experiments using radiation to create an army of superior people that he will use to rule the world. Problem is, the other people that he exposed to the radiation did not survive, and this poor fellow follows suit.
Meanwhile, reporter Janet Lawton is determined to find out the real reason behind the disappearances. Her fiancée, police Lt. Dick Craig, is also dispatched to find the cause. Janet is played by Loretta King, who supposedly helped to finance the film, and consequently demanded to play the part, which would somewhat explain the bad acting. Also helping to finance the production was Donald McCoy, father to Tony McCoy, who played Craig. He was rumored to have insisted on his son taking the part.
Janet is a completely unlikeable character, with her smarmy attitude and bold mannerisms. She won’t listen to her fiancée and travels to the swamp alone; I think you could probably guess what happens. Another character is added to the mix: Professor Vladimir Strowski, a Russian scientist that has been looking for Vornoff for a number of years. It seems that Vornoff used to be a Russian scientist that was dabbling in nuclear powers and their effects on humans. He was consequently forced to leave the country, abandoning his wife and child; this is what put him on the hell-bent path to create the super race. When Strowski finds Vornoff, he informs him that he was sent to find Vornoff and bring him back so that he could experiment for their government. Vornoff refuses, and here comes the giant, rubber, non-moving octopus again. There are reports that Wood and his crew stole the prop and forgot to take the motor, which would explain why it didn’t move on it’s own. I had some gut-busting laughs watching these people roll around on top of this octopus, pretending to be in pain and dying in agony; they would hold the tentacles over them to make it look as if it had twined themselves around their bodies. Strowski’s octo-fight did not disappoint either – his death by octopus was my favorite. That old man sure could yell!
The movie comes to an end with a delicious fight scene between Lobo and Vornoff, where you can see the stunt double wearing some awesome KISS-worthy platform boots. He apparently wasn’t as tall as Lugosi and needed the extra inches.
I find most Ed Wood movies to be pretty entertaining, and this film was higher up on the ranks. Lugosi’s talent and Wood’s charm are perfect together. Getting past the poor production, low budget, and cringe-worthy dialog, this is a fun flick for a rainy night with some friends. While the movie obviously lacks in the “editing” department, it also has issues in what you might call the “realism” or “factual” realm. There were flaws that made my face twitch – but overall (and surprisingly), they didn’t take away from the movie too much. How exactly do they have an octopus in a freshwater environment, for one? Also, when Vornoff opens his laboratory door to throw victims to the monster, this part of the house should be underwater, as it’s directly beside his viewing window. As one might expect from a tale about mad scientists and the mutated animals that love them, there’s nothing very real about this story.
The plot is there, it’s only muddied a bit by poor writing. It really is a pretty decent horror story, and a fun one at that. You have to keep in mind, this movie was filmed during the Cold War, and so everyone was terrified of the atom bomb. This theme is recurrent during this time period, so Wood’s use of the mad scientist tampering with it is understandable. From big rubber octopus props to a set that would move if you brushed up against it, the overall quality of presentation is low; however, Wood’s passion comes through. Lugosi’s performance is great, and it just goes to show he never lost that amazing ambiance.
At the end of the day, ‘Bride of the Monster’ is a lot of fun, and being Lugosi’s last starring role, the film a classic. One night when you can’t go out, call your friends, invite them over, grab some snacks (just maybe not octopus), and watch ‘Bride of the Monster.’
Tony Schaab wonders who would win in an epic, Gladiator-style fight between the Grumpy Cat and the “This is Fine” Dog – an animal-heavy meme battle for the ages! A lover of most things sci-fi and horror, Tony is an author by day and a DJ by night. Come hang out with Tony on Twitter to hear him spew semi-funny nonsense and get your opportunity to finally put him in his place.