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BRIDE OF THE MONSTER (director/writer/producer: Edward D. Wood, Jr.; screenwriter: Alex Gordon; cinematographers: Ted Allan/William C. Thompson; editor: Warren Adams; music: Frank Worth; cast: Bela Lugosi (Dr. Eric Vornoff), Tor Johnson (Lobo), Tony McCoy (Lt. Dick Craig), Loretta King (Janet Lawton), Harvey B. Dunn (Capt. Robbins), Bud Osborne (Mac), Paul Marco (Kelton), George Becwar (Prof. Strowski), Dolores Fuller (Margie), Don Nagel (Det. Marty Martin), Ann Wilner (Tillie); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; Banner Pictures; 1955)
More fun than its ridiculous story and brutal acting and incompetently designed sets would indicate.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

There’s nothing like an Ed Wood Jr. film and I mean nothing; this is one of the filmmaker’s more accessible and conventional films. This inept horror film, part of his horror trilogy of Plan 9 From Outer Space and Night of the Ghouls, is more fun than its ridiculous story and brutal acting and incompetently designed sets would indicate. It’s an el cheapo, but by Wood standards it was budgeted for more than his usual B-movie productions. It’s also Bela Lugosi’s final complete performance as he hams it up to portray Dr. Eric Vornoff, a defector Eastern European scientist with a plan to create a race of atomic supermen, giants charged with radioactivity in order to rule the world.

The film opens as two unlucky hunters get stuck in a heavy downpour and lightning storm and seek shelter in a supposedly deserted but haunted mansion. They find the place occupied by Dr. Eric Vornoff, who gruffly turns them away in his thick foreign accent. In nearby Lake Marsh the hunters are attacked by an octopus, a rubber one created by the mad scientist to help snag his patients. One of the hunters is brought back to the old house that the mad scientist secretly purchased in 1948 when the family lost it because of back taxes and has put in a secret laboratory behind a sliding panel in his fireplace. He went on the lam 20 years ago when his totalitarian country said he was a quack and wouldn’t need him anymore.

The hunter has a helmet with electrodes attached placed on his head and is strapped to Vornoff’s experimental table by giant manservant Lobo (Tor Johnson-he’s the Swedish wrestler and a Wood regular reaching cult status). Vornoff before he turns the juice on, which is actually a photo enlarger strapped to a dentist’s chair, says: “I’ll either succeed and make you into a monster or you’ll die like the others.”

The strident Daily Globe reporter Janet Lawton (Loretta King) independently writes that a monster is on the loose and that the police are clueless, as in the last three months there have been 12 deaths or disappearances attributed by her to the monster. Janet’s engaged to Lt. Dick Craig (Tony McCoy) whose boss, a bird fancier, Captain Robbins (Harvey B. Dunn), dismisses the monster theory saying he only deals in the facts. But the boss consults with Loch Ness monster expert Professor Strowski (George Becwar), who came here from an Eastern European country just to check out the possibilities of the monster story. The plan is for the professor and the lieutenant and Detective Marty Martin to go out in the morning to the swamp around Lake Marsh to snoop around. All the killings have occurred at night, but the professor chooses the day because he wants to go back to his hotel to catch up on his sleep. But he never shows the next morning, and when the detectives go out to the marsh they discover Janet’s abandoned car and later the prof’s abandoned rental car.

Janet is strapped and dressed in a white bridal gown, but Wood doesn’t bother to clue the viewer in on who the groom is. The other live captive is Professor Strowski, who it turns out is a spy from the scientist’s old country on orders to bring him back because his country now thinks his mutant atomic experiment makes sense. But he is instead overcome by Lobo and finds himself ready to be fried, but not before Vornoff rants that he no longer has a home and that now he’s working for himself to create his own race of mutants to conquer the world. The heroic policeman fiance also gets himself strapped and ready to be fried by Lobo, so it’s up to Captain Robbins to take charge and through good police work and idiotic dialogue the many police under his charge close in on Vornoff. As the crazed scientist meets his fate in the most absurd way possible, Captain Dunn cuts him no slack and says with a straight-face: “He tampered in God’s domain.”

It is understood that aspiring actress Loretta King played the female lead only because Wood had thought she had the money to bankroll the production. But she didn’t and she couldn’t act. Tony McCoy, the male lead, was hired for similar reasons. Wood got financing from McCoy’s father, a meat-packing magnate, who insisted that his son play the lead and also that the movie conclude with an atomic explosion as a warning about the atomic bomb.

The film was so bad that its charm lies in how bad it is and how the laughs are unintentional. For the right viewer this can be a real howler.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”