Bride Of The Monster:
Legend Films continues to push its line of colorized movies with this classic from the vaults of Edward D. Wood Jr. OK, so it's not exactly a classic, and it's not really from the vaults as DVD and VHS versions abound. Furthermore, purists have no reason to complain, as a restored original black and white version is also included on the DVD. Bad film fanatics can just sit back accruing poignant laughs, courtesy of the ultra-enthusiastic angora fetishist.
Claptrap plotting finds aging morphine addict Bela Lugosi playing Dr. Varnoff, your typical mad scientist, intent on creating an army of supermen through atomic radiation. From the outside cops and reporters including Janet Lawton (Loretta King) and Lt. Dick Craig (Harvey B. Dunn) see only mysterious deaths at 'The Old Willow Place' compelling a thorough investigation. A few things impede their progress, Varnoff's burly assistant Lobo, a giant man-eating octopus, and Ed Wood's lack of talent.
But seriously, why all the Ed Wood hating? For starters, the man was creative enough to generate a writing pseudonym from the words 'vodka gimlet' ensuring enshrinement in the boozer's hall-of-fame. Demonstrating adequate skill behind the camera (and through intercutting stock shots) Wood actually creates mild excitement and coherent continuity throughout Bride, especially during a stormy opening sequence involving a little game of cops-and-octopus. However, many (OK, pretty much all) have called him a hack. Is it because of bargain basement production values? Stone walls wibble-wobble back and forth as Lobo (Tor Johnson) goes on a wrestling spree late in the film. Is it due to lazy scripting? I mean, 'The Old Willow Place?' Really? Is it perforce-stilted Bowery Boys sensibilities making lousy actors seem even more unnatural? Our inaugural victims' discussion and struggles are particularly unbelievable, but it gets worse. Interested party Professor Strowski (George Becwar) glacially, ominously and flat-out oddly notes being an "expert in ... (sniffs rose in lapel ominously) prehistoric monsters." It's a wonder the entire cast doesn't bust up laughing.
Despite universal inadequacies including Lugosi's struggle with the octopus, (made famous in Tim Burton's excellent Ed Wood - "wave his arms around! Looks like it's killin' ya!") Bride Of The Monster is more tragic than turgid. Tepid and ultimately too talky, filled to the brim with stock shots of an octopus at an aquarium that appears to exist in another reality from the movie, and chock-a-block with unappealing C-list actors, Bride suffers from Wood's weird agenda and inability to see his own faults. Nothing if not an overenthusiastic huckster, Wood knowingly throws too little money, a half-baked script and his poor stable of actors into the pot, hoping that Lugosi's mere presence will help him sell the film. He even makes a point for the Hungarian has-been with a heavy-handed and ill-disguised speech touting Varnoff's (and Lugosi's) once-respected status.
Sadly, it doesn't work, but Wood's perennial losses are our guilty gains, as Bride Of The Monster's undeniable hapless charm brings warm-hearted delight to the bad movie fan. In the cosmic hierarchy, there's always going to be some loser upon which to pick; in the cinematic firmament Ed Wood is that loser. Uwe Boll may yet concoct an even more risible resume, but he's a crass cynic. There'll never be another lovable loser like Edward D. Wood Jr.
Bride's sharp 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer looks fantastic compared to your usual public domain cheapie. The image is clear, with pretty surprising levels of detail throughout. Minor film-damage, dirt specks and some brief scratches - maintain a mild presence but aren't too distracting (stock footage damage is a little bit more apparent). The transfer is free of noticeable compression artifacts, (maybe a tiny amount of aliasing) and film grain is there but not at all dramatic. Black levels are deep, and colorizing (in dim scenes) is quite good, however I'm still not a believer and think skin tones look weird. Overall, a nice transfer, even though (to my eyes) the image looks ever so slightly squashed.
2.0 Mono Audio reflects the type of budget Wood worked with. It ain't great; dialog sometimes seems muffled (during storm scenes for instance) and is usually a notch below the melodramatic soundtrack. But hell, you can hear everything at least.
Aside from being newly Colorized, having Scene Selections and Closed Captioning you get Trailers for five other colorized Legend Films ancient genre releases, from Reefer Madness (multi-colored pot smoke!) to Night Of The Living Dead. A four minute Interview With Bela Lugosi in black-and-white is well worn in audio and video quality, but should be dear for Lugosi fans. Lastly, a strange, goofy, colorized three minute short titled The Strongest Man In The World finds Tor Johnson facing off against a little girl who looks like the spokesgirl for Wendy's hamburgers.
Legend Films' newly colorized (and also restored in black-and-white) release of Bride Of The Monster will please Ed Wood fans (either those late to the game or ready to upgrade) with nice picture quality and even a few tiny extras for a low-cost DVD. Of course the movie is awful, but in such a wonderful way, with terrible special effects and even worse acting - Tor Johnson's pathetic Lobo is actually the best of the bunch. Bad movie lovers will find this Recommended, while people who claim to be 'intelligent' are best advised to skip it. I'll split the difference and say you norms should Rent It and see what you think.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com