A few nights ago, I watched the infamous 1955 horror film, The Bride of the Monster.
This was not the first time that I had seen Bride of the Monster. (Nor is it the first time that I’ve talked about this film on this site.) As a fan of the work of the legendary director Ed Wood, I’ve seen the majority of his films, many of them several times. Bride of the Monster is not only the closest that Wood ever got to making a “legitimate” movie but it’s also my personal favorite of his films.
(Plan 9 may be fun but it has nothing on Bride of the Monster.)
As for the film’s plot — well, the story is typical Ed Wood. By that, I mean that it doesn’t make a bit of sense. There’s an old mansion in the middle of nowhere. There’s a gigantic Octopus who apparently lives in a pool of stagnant water that sits somewhere near the old mansion. There are hunters, who have a habit of vanishing whenever they wander too close to the house.
There’s also Lobo (Tor Johnson), the hulking mute who we’re assured is “harmless as a kitten.” Lobo develops a crush on Janet (Loretta King), the intrepid reporter who wanders too close to the mansion while looking for a story. Janet reminded me a lot of me, in that she wasn’t going to let a little thing like common sense get in the way of an experience.
And then, there’s Dr. Varnoff (Bela Lugosi). Dr. Varnoff is the owner of the mansion. He’s a scientist who was chased out of his home country by … well, by somebody. To be honest, it’s not always easy to figure out how Varnoff ended up in America with Lobo and a big octopus. It’s also difficult to understand why Varnoff is conducting experiments and killing people. Varnoff talks and talks about his reasons but just because a man talks doesn’t mean that he’s going to say anything.
Yes, Bride of the Monster is one of those films that makes absolutely no sense but you know what? That’s exactly why I love it. Like all of Wood’s film, it is unique. And I’d rather watch a film that is uniquely bad than one that is generically competent any day!
You have to respect the dedication of the actors who bravely pretended that they were being attacked by that octopus. For most of them, this meant laying in a shallow pool of water while grabbing hold of some rubber tentacles and thrashing about for a bit. Yes, it looks silly but that doesn’t change the fact that the actors really threw themselves into it. Even the film’s worst performances feel as if they’re being given by very dedicated actors.
It should also be noted that this was Bela Lugosi’s final film (with the exception of his posthumous appearance in Plan 9 From Outer Space). And people always seem to make fun of Lugosi’s performance here but you know what? He’s not bad at all. He brings a tragic weariness to even the most ludicrous of lines. I’m sure that Lugosi was not hoping that his career would end with something like Bride of the Monster. But he still gave it his all.
As bad as Bride of the Monster may be, Bela Lugosi is very, very good. When you watch the film, don’t judge it too harshly. Don’t focus on the awkward line readings or the nonsensical plot or …. well, just don’t focus on all the things that you usually think of as indicating whether or not a film is good or bad.
Instead, when you watch it, watch it for Bela.
You won’t be disappointed!