Very few times have I finished a film and thought, “That was literally everything that I expected it to be.” Bride of the Gorilla, with it’s ridiculous title and premise, lived up to every expectation that I had of it; it was cheesy, it was poorly acted, and it was maybe one of the worst scripts I’ve ever seen made into a film. And I totally loved it.
The film follows Barney Chavez (Raymond Burr), deep in the South American jungle. Chavez is a plantation manager who falls in love with the owner’s ridiculously beautiful wife, Mrs Dina Van Gelder (played by Barbara Payton). He becomes compelled to kill her husband so that he can marry her instead, but unfortunately for Chavez, his air tight plan of just beating the man mercilessly in the jungle is met with a substantial bump in the road. After the attack takes place and Chavez leaves the scene, an old woman who witnessed the crime emerges from the bushes; she then uses her powers (because she is a witch) to curse Chavez so that he turns into a “sukaras,” which is essentially a werewolf/gorilla mix. After the disappearance of the plantation owner, police commissioner Taro, played by Lon Chaney Jr., arrives on the scene. He is almost immediately suspicious of Chavez, who is now in the process of marrying the widow.
This film is poorly acted in it’s entirety but Lon Chaney Jr. is especially bad. I was shocked that with someone with a history of great contributions to film could be so incredibly off of his game, but with that being said, just about every other actor is as well. Everyone teeters between a stiff, emotionless reciting of lines to incredibly over dramatized flamboyance, with no balance in between.
Although the entire film is ridiculous, by far the funniest aspect of Bride of the Gorilla is its almost desperate attempts at creating dramatic tension. One of my favourite scenes that is just filled to the brim with cheese is where Chavez, disgruntled from his newfound urges to run through the jungle, is standing in front of a mirror and staring at his reflection in a moment of existential crisis. However, instead of his own human features staring back at him, his reflection is of an ape. This would have already been a pretty bad scene, but the fact that instead of an actual animal, it’s pretty clearly a man in a gorilla suit is just too much. Shocked and upset, Chavez then dramatically smashes the mirror in his emotional turmoil.
Another huge draw to this film is its astonishingly bad, cheesy dialogue. Every character acts like a soap opera star as they constantly spout lines that clearly were supposed to sound deep, but are so poorly written that they just sound hilarious. My favourite bad-line is from the beginning of the film, where Chavez and the plantation owner’s wife are talking. Chavez tells her about how difficult it is to get any work done when all of the workers don’t want to do anything, and how it would be better if there were still slaves to be bought. The wife goes on to say, “Aren’t we all slaves?” to which Chavez muses “sure,” and then the hot wife contradictorily says; “Not me, I’m free.” I burst out laughing at that part and yelled, “Wait, what?!” at the screen.
Bride of the Gorilla is at the pinnacle of bad movies. It hits all of the marks with having a terrible script, awful actors, and a ridiculous premise, but it is so over-the-top and outrageous that it is incredibly enjoyable for anyone who likes a good bad movie.
Bride of the Gorilla (1951) is available on DVD (Region 1) from Amazon.co.uk; and if you decide to make a purchase after following this link you will have supported Attack From Planet B, so thank you.