What’s up weirdos? Welcome to Awfully Good, where we celebrate movies that suck! Our feature presentation on this very Valentiney night is Ed Wood’s sci-fi trashterpiece Bride of the Monster from 1955. Before we get into that, though, let’s cover some ground rules. 1) When we use terms like trashterpiece, it’s affectionately. This isn’t a place to just dump on movies. 2) If you’re gonna go out, bring your coat. It might be cold. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in!
Bride of the Monster has the distinction of being Ed Wood’s most expensive movie (though it was still cheaper than most Hollywood pictures). If you’re not familiar with Ed Wood, the short version is he was a Hollywood eccentric who hung out with some cult icons and made some bad movies. For a long time, he was considered the worst director in the history of film.
I love him.
What he lacked in technical know-how, he more than made up for with enthusiasm. Bride of the Monster is a great example of this. It stars a couple of Wood’s recurring actors, notably pro wrestler Tor Johnson and *the* Bela Lugosi, a story that was too big to fit into their budget, and one of the all-time classic terrible special effects. (More on that later.)
One thing that’s an unmistakable positive in Bride of the Monster, is that the movie doesn’t waste any time getting started. You know how with Jaws everybody says “the scary thing is that you don’t actually see the shark hardly at all?” Ed Wood said “oh, that’s great storytelling advice that won’t come out for twenty-five years. Here’s your monsters,” and in the first five minutes of the movie we see not only Tor Johnson as Lobo (a silent but violent mountain of a man), but also Bela Lugosi as Dr. Vornoff (a mad scientist), and a bloodthirsty octopus (used as a weapon by the evil doctor)!
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A couple of hunters are making their way through the wrong part of the forest on a rainy night and, long story short, get bodied by the octopus. The special effects of this shot consist of an actor holding onto the tentacles of a rubber octopus and flailing. It’s as vicious as a small dog going after a chew toy, but with none of the urgency that implies. This is an effect you can easily recreate at home with a few pairs of pants and nothing else!
About this time you might be asking yourself which of these nefarious evildoers will be the monster in the title, Bride of the Monster, and who is going to be the bride? Well, it’s not long before we’re introduced to Janet. Janet shows up to the police station, where her fiancé works, and starts shouting about how ineffectual the police are and telling her fiancé that’s he’s a big dumb idiot and she’s doing it all with a Mid-Atlantic accent and I am putting her on my vision board because that’s the energy we’re bringing into Spring 2020. She’s like, “murders? I know there are murders, and I’m waiting on you BOZOS to figure it out! I’m gonna go get captured.” And then she does.
It’s not long before she’s meeting face-to-face with Dr. Vornoff and he’s doing some of his patented Lugosi Hypnotism on her. If you’ve seen White Zombie, these scenes will feel very familiar. It’s worth noting that you can tell Bela Lugosi is having a ball playing this character, hamming it up and bringing the mad scientist to life at every turn. Bride of the Monster was shot when Lugosi’s health was failing (it was the last film he would speak in) but there’s no sign of that in his performance.
Before long, we’re seeing Janet in a wedding dress, strapped to some sort of science device, and Lobo seems to fall for her. Will we finally figure out who’s the monster in Bride of the Monster?! Well… not exactly. The groom in this situation isn’t Lobo, or Dr. Vornoff, or even the killer octopus (though that would be something!)- Janet is going to be the bride of The Atom. Or, more specifically, she’s going to be the bride of a metaphor. Kind of a letdown, in that we don’t see anyone smooch a cephalopod, but you can’t sell tickets to Bride of the Metaphor, so I understand why they went with the title they did.
I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ve skipped over a bunch of characters and plot points. Don’t worry, though, because ultimately very little of them have any real importance to the plot. There is one point, though, where a couple of detectives are talking about the environmental ramifications of atomic bombs exploding in the atmosphere, and how we have to protect the earth, and then they punctuate this sentence by throwing their cigarette butts on the ground. Irony wasn’t created for years after this movie’s release, so I don’t think it was on purpose. If you’d like to see this scene, and many more like it, you’re in luck: Bride of the Monster is in the public domain, so you can watch it for free right now on YouTube! Hell, you can even watch it on Wikipedia!
Was Bride of the Monster everything you were hoping for in a Valentine’s Day extravaganza? I hope so! If your Valentine’s Day is anything like mine, there’s going to be lots of science equipment that only creates sparks and heavy-handed metaphors and an octopus and sets that look like they were made of cardboard.
Are you writing Valentine’s notes to Ed Wood? Let us know over on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook page! For more-er horror, stay tuned to Nightmare on Film Street.