BluRay/DVD Reviews

BRIDE OF THE GORILLA

By • Dec 10th, 2002 •

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Image Entertainment 1951
B&W / 66 mins

A second rung ‘name’ cast for a second rate director. Hoping to replicate a little of his WOLFMAN success, Curt Siodmak transposed the basic idea to a gorilla motif, and used WOLFMAN star Lon Chaney Jr., a childish alcoholic who the director enjoyed pushing around. He even created the character of an old witch-like crone in the manner of Maria Ouspenskia’s Maleva the gypsy woman (everyone in BRIDE OF THE GORILLA is sweating from the jungle heat, but she wears a turban and shawl).

To cash in on a little of the Val Lewton phenomenon which was less than a decade old, and to which he’d contributed (to the screenplay of I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE), Siodmak also created a monster whose existence we’re never quite sure of (unlike Chaney Jr. in Universal’s THE WOLFMAN, where nothing is left to our imagination) and even used Lewton stalwart Tom Conway. And the spurned jungle girl looks a lot like Simone Simon.

All this and bad dialogue should have shown Siodmak how really difficult it was to make a sensitive, lyrical horror film on a miniscule budget. But I don’t think he learned much from the experience. He kept on churning out this kind of crap in the latter decades of his career.

Once you accept the fact that no one in the film is really any good, you can relax and enjoy the relative talents of the cast. Raymond Burr, for instance, has a one-note brooding demeanor not unlike Rod Steiger’s Judd in OKLAHOMA, so much like Steiger in fact that I kept waiting for him to break into his big number. You can tell that Burr is talented, just not here. Barbara Payton is toplined over all the men, and what was up with that (let me guess…)?

The saddest thing about this film is purely personal: as a child, I watched it on our black and white TV screen many times, and was frightened by it’s nightmarish quality. I hoped for some of those haunted frames of my youth to reassert themselves into my adult perception of the film, but alas, this one only works its dubious charms on the kiddies, if in fact today’s kiddies are even vulnerable.


Cast:
Barbara Payton
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Raymond Burr
Tom Conway
Woody Strode

Credits:
Written & Directed by Curt Siodmak.
Music by Raoul Kraushaar.
Cinematography by Charles Van Enger, ASC.

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