Written and Directed by: Curt Siodmak
Starring: Barbara Payton, Lon Chaney Jr. and Raymond Burr
Reviewed by: Josh G.
Itís time for another black and white feature with Lon Chaney Jr. himself! Oddly enough, he wonít be playing the main character this time, but a police commissioner. Perhaps the budget was too low, or they wanted to spice things up with simple and short cameo scenes. Though, youíd think that for a guy that made The Wolf Man what it is, theyíd at least give him one suitable transformation shot. Alas, Raymond Burr now becomes the monster; a jungle craving gorilla; a husband to be!
Dina Van Gelder (Barbara Payton), a young and attractive blonde, is fed up with her rich plantation owner of a husband, Klaas (Paul Cavanagh). He has no time for poor Dina, leaving her unattended youth to fade away. She has an affair with Barney Chavez (Burr), a top worker of her husbandís plant. Wanting Dina for himself, Barney and Klaas have a confrontation outside, which leads to gut punching of the fists! Al-long (Gisela Werbisek), an older native woman to the area, watches in the shadows of the trees. Barney pushes Klaas down on the ground, purposely aiming near a snake. The slithering creature bites Klaas, and sends his soul packing. After Barney runs away, Al-long kneels down near the dead body of Klaas, and places the leaves of a poisonous plant on his eyes, spouting a curse. She wants Barney to pay for his sins, and by the way of the jungle, he shall.
Cut to much later, and Dina and Barney are married. Speculation around Klaasí death goes out the window on Barney, as both Dina and Al-long cover for him. Dina thinks her new husband is actually innocent, where as Al-long wants to have a little fun. With her curse surrounding Barney, the effects soon show, as Barney begins to imagine his hands are changing. He stares at his reflection, and sees a hideous gorilla looking back. It all comes full circle as he becomes the ferocious monster by night, feeling the urge to roam the jungle at night more so than his wife. Dina calls on Dr. Viet (Tom Conway) to try and figure out whatís wrong with Barney, and a curious Commissioner Taro (Chaney) believes that perhaps, the murder mystery is not over. Who will rule the heart of Barney Chavez? His loving wife? The determined authorities? Or the call of the wild?
Itís from 1951, so what do you expect? Of course there will be a much larger portion of mindless dialogue than creepy monsters. Shockingly, this film does have some blood in it. Yes, perhaps a few drops of it appears in a scene where Barney is caught in a bear trap. Or more fittingly, a gorilla trap. However, that's not really anything to warrant a bloody recommendation. The performances by females are much more notable than that of the men. Some genuine acting comes from actress Carol Varga, and of course, Payton. While Chaney is fair, and Burr is average, neither offer believability nor any sympathy for that matter. The transformation scenes are also a tad bit on the dull side. Compared to The Wolf Man from a decade earlier, itís nothing remotely recommendable. The scenes involving guns are ridiculously bad. Dina does not know what is outside, but she starts shooting about six times into the forest, just in case. Luckily, itís no gorilla. Just the doctor and police, coming to check up on her. They should have taken that gun away from her! You never shoot where targets are unseen, especially when no specific danger has presented itself upfront. Itís only a movie, but really. Use some common sense, Dina!
A nice and easy to follow story started this picture off as watchable, and as it progressed, it became sort of fun. The chase through the jungle between the gorilla and Julie is cheesy, but a major highlight of Bride of the Gorilla. The movie was going good up until they decided to tie things up abruptly, adding a dumb piece of dialogue by Chaney about how the jungle got Barney in the end. It was a huge letdown after the alright pacing and set designs were established. You only receive a few scenes of the mighty gorilla, and a well done mirror scene. Angered by his primal reflection in the mirror, Barney punches the glass to pieces. On screen, you see the monkey and the actor reacting as if they really are one of the other. Gisela Werbisek plays a fun old witch, one of her final portrayals on film. As for the verdict, this could have been a great vintage monster flick. As it remains, you can still receive some enjoyment from this. But when you reach the ending, donít say I didnít tell you so. Rent it!
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