Sunday, 10 July 2016

Bride of the Monster (1955)

Also originally known as 'The Atomic Monster', then when Wood got his hands on the script it became 'The Monster of the Marshes', then 'Bride of the Atom', before finally sticking with what we have now. This was to be Wood's first venture into the realms of his beloved science fiction and horror genres, a popular combination in the US during the 50's. As usual with these types of movies the common enemy is a mad, ageing scientist from somewhere in Europe, mainly eastern Europe or old war-torn Europe. And once again a common factor used in the plot is America's old love affair with anything atomic, in this case atomic supermen, a race of super atomic men that will conquer the world!! 

Yep that's the plot right there, Dr Eric (Eric??) Vornoff (Bela Lugosi) wants to create a race of atomic supermen that will conquer the world purely because his homeland pissed him off it seems. Back in his unnamed homeland which is clearly Russia or Germany or surrounding Nazi controlled areas, Vornoff had suggested to his colleagues (or superiors) the idea of harnessing nuclear power to create a master race of great strength and size (to help fight a war?). Strangely enough his ideas were rejected and he was exiled from said country branded as a madman, at the same time losing contact with his wife and child. So in response to this Vornoff is trying to carry out his original vision and create a super master race in his own name...because that'll show em'! Looks like its up to the local law enforcement and a young female reporter to save the a rather unconvincing way.

The film starts out with a long shot of a creepy looking house set amongst some bare trees (the old Willows place), its night time, its stormy, its raining and it all looks quite nice actually, highly atmospheric indeed. This kooky looking abode is where the good Dr Vornoff lives with his rather fat servant or slave, Lobo (Tor Johnson). The interior is your typical Hammer Horror-esque affair with old wood panelling, dim lighting, lots of old dusty books on the shelves...and a giant octopus in the dungeon, or where ever. Now one does immediately ask oneself, where did Vornoff get a giant octopus? Come to think of it, how on earth does he manage to look after it and how does he have the space to keep it?? Surely one would need a rather large enclosure with all manner of special things. These are of course stupid questions, you never question an Ed Wood film or any sci-f/horror film from the 50's. He keeps it in a freshwater lake (despite them only surviving in saltwater) conveniently next to the house, moving on...

Now, who exactly is Lobo you ask, well he's a large, dumb, mute, zombified, apparently bulletproof, slave with an angora fetish. Where did Vornoff get Lobo? well it seems he picked Lobo up in the wilderness of Tibet of all places, who'd of thought it eh. Lobo seems to have no mind of his own and carries out Vornoff's bidding without question, that is of course until he comes across the beautiful reporter Janet (Loretta King) and her angora beret. The sweet beret seems to bewitch Lobo and he soon loses the plot, although I'm not entirely sure if it was over the angora beret or the woman. Anyway Janet the reporter decided to investigate the funny happenings around Vornoff's house and ended up crashing her car not far from the building (women drivers eh). This is how Lobo discovers her...after fighting off a large snake...don't question it. 

Oh and in case you're wondering, which I know you are, the funny goings on at Willows House revolve around missing people. Of course these people are the results of Vornoff's failed experiments, victims he's either lured in or had Lobo drag in. I believe it was twelve missing people, all of which have somehow vanished nearby Willows House. Now admittedly I'm not entirely sure how the police would know this but...did they even think to check out the old house and surrounding area? nope.

This location is actually a hive of dangers it seems, did Vornoff choose the house because of this? or perhaps he added these features himself. Apart from large snakes there are wild alligators, a swamp and quicksand! Plus it constantly storms in this location also (supposedly down to Vornoff's experiments which is beyond odd), only thing missing is a bottomless pit. Not only did Wood literally use every cliche in the adventure handbook, he also seemed to cheekily pinch the Dracula, Van Helsing characters too. This can be obviously seen with Lugosi playing Vornoff (who always simply played a version of Dracula for Wood) complete with his hypnotic hand tricks to summon young ladies, and with the character of Prof. Strowski from old Europe. Strowski being Vornoff's fellow countryman who is absolutely fine in creating a super race of supermen...but only to conquer their homeland, not the world because that would be going too far. Well, at least not straight away anyway.

Naturally some of these things are minor in the whole grand scheme of things when it comes down to Ed Wood movies. Putting aside the cornball cliches of any similar flick where the young male hero comes to the rescue of the damsel in distress, the gruff police chief and the silly police officer sidekick who forms comedic relief (Paul Marco as officer kelton). With any Wood production you also have the usual bizarre mistakes and cheap touches such as the all too common night and day issue, lots of stock footage that doesn't blend in with the movie at all (in some cases the same footage repeated). A horrendously obvious stunt double for Lugosi, highly obvious fake sets such as a painted stonewall for the laboratory and clearly no ceiling. Lets not forget the glorious, infamous rubber octopus that doesn't move when attacking its victims or Tor Johnson's reaction acting. Plus there's Lobo fighting the hero Dick Craig (Tony McCoy) who has his cap gun (that never requires reloading) and is firing at point blank range into Lobo's chest. And finally the nuclear explosion that wipes out the house but nothing else despite it being a massive nuclear mushroom cloud explosion.

Speaking of the giant octopus, here's my fave Ed Wood blooper. The lake with the giant octopus appears to be at eye level with Vornoff when he looks at it through a window, which would indicate his lab is beneath the house and built up against the lake, right? Well that would make perfect sense but, we also see Vornoff open a door right next to the big window to have Lobo throw Strowski through into the waiting arms of the giant octopus. is Vornoff and his lab not engulfed in a tidal wave of lake water??? What's more, when Strowski is thrown to the octopus, the creature appears to be just sat in a puddle of water, in a darkened room, then we get a quick cut back to stock footage of a real octopus (half the size). Oh the delight in watching this absurd sequence is too much.

Really when it comes down to it, the best looking part of the entire movie was that opening shot of the creepy old house. The best character and acting easily goes to the rubber octopus...nah I'm only kidding. In my opinion that accolade would go to Harvey B. Dunn as Captain Robbins and his little pet parakeet that sat on his shoulder. All in all this classic Wood motion picture really does have it all, everything any sci-f, horror buff could ask for (if you enjoy B-movies), plus it was Bela Lugosi's last full speaking role.