Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Packaged as an Edward D. Wood film, The Bride and the Beast has his screenplay credit,
and it can be safely said that the man's philosophy has survived intact to the final product.
It's a terrible movie but possibly the best Wood film, even though (or perhaps because)
he didn't direct it. Wood's signed films are unbelievably bad, with his fetishistic themes
lying around totally undigested; here his irrepressable weirdness finds full espression in a
show that at least has minimal production values. People who like to catalog Wood's various
perversions should note that the star ape in this opus is named, 'Spanky'.
Big game Bwana Dan Fuller (Lance Fuller) takes his new bride Laura (Laura Carson)
back to his secluded country mansion on their wedding night. He keeps an enormous gorilla in a
secret cage in the basement. Laura is entranced instead of fearful, and allows the dangerous
ape to hold her hand and stroke her hair. During the night, the amorous gorilla breaks free of
its cage, goes upstairs and practically starts petting with the captivated Laura, until Dan wakes
up and shoots it dead. A hypnotherapy session with a country doctor
(who entertains Bridie Murphy-style regression theories) produces an instantaneous reason for Laura's
mad love - she was a great ape in an earlier life! This explains her fuzzy fixation on those snug
Angora sweaters. Soon they'll be on safari in Africa, which will put Laura back in contact with
the big hairy gorillas - against whom Bwana Dan can't compete!
A movie like The Bride and the Beast must have been initially received as unbelieveable drek,
and forgotten by patrons before they got out of the drive-in movie. But its cult grew through
television showings, and now it's fun to watch for two reasons. First, the competent direction creates
a bizarre Z-movie limbo of artificial sets and irrational characters. And second, Laura's
amour fou is so well expressed, this might be Ed Wood's surreal masterpiece. The
deranged story is told with the matter-of-fact sobriety of a Perry Mason episode; I wouldn't
recommend showing this to mentally disturbed people!
The script exploits the late-'50s Bridey Murphy craze, when various charlatans and dupes claimed to
have been able to recall past reincarnated existences while hypnotized. Here it's taken to its logical
extreme ... if we believed that Bridey Murphy was an Irish lass, why couldn't she have come out with
a memory of being a dog? Why not a Barbra Streisand musical, "On a Clear Day You Can
See Gorillas in the Mist"?
Adrian Weiss was an old-time fringe Hollywood assistant director and sometime producer, who was
involved in a couple of previous Gorilla movies. I'm not up on my Ed Wood lore, but this project
may have come about because of his access to the ape suits and/or old jungle action footage. The
package text claims that Weiss produced Glen or Glenda?, but it's a George Weiss
that shows up for that title in the IMDB. Perhaps they men were one and the same?
Just from the evidence here, it looks like Wood was asked for a cheap screenplay to
incorporate the Ape suits and the jungle stock footage, and infused it with his natural love of
Angora sweaters, which as the dialogue goes, 'are as soft as a kitten'. I doubt hairy apes have
the fuzzy Angora feel that sent Wood into delirious rapture, but, hey, who's concerned about reality in
a movie like this? For all we know, Wood's original may have had Bwana Dan trying on his bride's
Charlotte Austin gives it her all, playing an irrational, inexplicable character. It must be said that
face while dreaming of 'trottin' down the jungle trail' has a strange erotic charge ... her compulsive
bliss while in the presence of a Gorilla - any Gorilla - tells us all we need to know. I guess it's
just a modern problem that doesn't get enough coverage: Women who love Gorillas, next on Oprah.
Ms. Austin may have been a superstitious choice for the role, as she'd previously turned up in
Monkey Business and Gorilla at Large.
This movie could very aptly have been given the old-joke title, Gorilla my Dreams. Whatever
Charlotte's ambitions were in Hollywood, this film and Frankenstein 1970 were enough to get her
to throw in the towel. Let's hope she had fun making them.
The dreams are interestingly handled - many of them rendered in a negative that appears to be
slightly solarized. When Laura (the she-ape) peers into a pond and sees the reflection of a
gorilla, it's a strange moment, a more extreme variant of Wood's Glen/Glenda primping at a mirror
and mulling over his/her true identity. Wood's sexual confusion gets a bizarre workout in The Bride
and the Beast.
Lance Fuller's rather thick-headed macho male is oblivious to all of Laura's clear signals ...
She likes the monkey, you dope. His character is equally unexplained - why he keeps a Gorilla
in a (secret) room downstairs can only be explained in Freudian terms. Laura never bats an eye
when she's shown a secret panel in the wall. She may be a closet monkey-lover, but he's hiding
something as well.
Fuller was a good-looking guy who read lines well and showed
up in a number of pictures, most notably as the bulbous-brained Brack in This Island Earth.
He may have been chosen because he was a match for the hero in the old serial footage that's been cut in
to the show to pad out the second half (although, since Fuller had appeared in another fantastic
regression tale, The She Creature, you could make another case for serendipity here). Savant
would guess that Weiss grafted on the subplot about two 'Indian tigers escaped from a boat off Africa',
to boost The Bride and the Beast running time. The recycling of the old
India jungle adventure scenes explains why there's an Indian woman on the safari who gives Laura a
whole native outfit to wear ... so she'll match the appearance of a victim from the old footage!
The Hollywood Gorillas in The Bride and the Beast also exhibit some strange behavior. 'Spanky'
sleeps on a cot which could never support his weight. He opens the sliding door as if he were accustomed
to using a vending machine, and enters Laura's boudoir like a shy Clark Gable. Spanky's jungle
cousins are pretty weird, too. They definitely go for white women, and fuss over Laura like she was
the queen of the Apes. I'm told an angry Chimp can pull a man's arm out of its socket, but these
monster Gorillas have a tough time of it when wrestling with Dan.
The conclusion comes back to Ed Wood territory, when a wild jungle gorilla knocks Dan flat and grabs
Laura, hauling her off in his arms just as Dan had earlier carried her over the threshold! Standing
in her honeymoon nightie, Laura looks more than eager. A few minutes later she's a happy girl, being
well-treated by several gorillas in their cave lair (
Bronson Caves, of course). Dan shows
up for a typical rescue, only for Laura to start hitting him. The monkeys knock him senseless (or, more
senseless) and we ripple-dissolve back to the U.S. of A., where Dan finishes telling the doctor about
his strange wife. It's clear at the fade out that Dan still doesn't get it. 1
Savant's earlier reviews of The Haunted World of
Edward D. Wood, Jr. and
Night of the Ghouls stressed that Ed Wood's
cult fame is based on the idea of making a total Hollywood Loser into a Winner, so as
to atone for the shortcomings of the loser in all of us. Besides being yet another exposé of
Ed Woods personal fetishes, The Bride and the Beast also represents the perfect romantic
alibi for, 'Why my girl left me.' Laura is alienated from her husband and attracted to a different
kind of stud right from the beginning of their marriage. Dan isn't capable of framing his marriage
in any terms but his own needs, and remains in a state of confusion over her odd behavior. From
day one until the the last befuddled fadeout, he learns less than nothing. I've met guys who were
dumped by females, who then told elaborate tales that carefully put all the blame on Mame. The Bride
and the Beast is just the way the story would be told by the biggest Loser of them all.
Retromedia's DVD of The Bride and the Beast is a fairly fuzzy and greyed-out transfer of what
looks to be a 16mm print in good condition. The sound is reasonably clear, but there's nothing very
positive to say about it. The full frame presentation is okay, although the show would have matted
very well to 1:66 or so.
There are several extras, but only the 35mm trailer is interesting. It has a pair of shots censored
from the film itself, where Spanky is shown not only pawing Laura but ripping off her nightie and
throwing it to the floor. There's one cut of Laura's naked back that's pretty suggestive. One of the
lobby cards stills (pictured on the package-back) shows this from the side angle. It's interesting that the trailer and
ad art could keep the shots that had to be lopped from the film - unless of course, this DVD is from
a censored TV print. There's an odd jump-cut in the feature, from Spanky to Spanky, that show where
the cuts would have appeared.
The other extras are pretty dire. There's a short clip of a scene cobbled together for fun by Fred
Olen Ray, from an unsold Ed Wood
script called Beach Blanket Bloodbath. Barely more than 4 or five setups, the fragment has
a woman menaced on an operating table by Forry Ackerman, while teenagers with a surfboard run through
a cheap spaceship corridor set. It's a big nothing, but is eye candy in comparison to the featured
extra, an interview and two featurettes from David 'The Rock' Nelson - Mummy A.D. and Man
from Plan Nine. Both are hideously lame amateur efforts. Nelson's extended interview (which
bills him as 'The New Ed Wood' is unwatchable low-grade video work. Nelson comes off as a totally
annoying weird-o, too infantile and obnoxious to be compared to the relatively sane folk who
frequent cult movie conventions. Whatever we think of his films, the old Ed Wood must have been a
personable fellow to inspire the love and loyalty of his coterie.
Retromedia's menu selection for 'website' on this unrated show ('no naked girls', reads the package
copy) has that same quasi-obscene photo that irked Savant on
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
The Bride and the Beast rates:
Movie: Poor for quality, but Fair for entertainment value
Video: Fair -
Supplements: trailer, stills, David Rock Nelson interview and featurettes, unfinished
fragment of Fred Olen Ray film.
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: July 21, 2002
1. The dissolve to the finish of a story being told makes
The Bride of the Beast look as if it started as a movie told all in flashback, which would
be a big structural jump for Ed Wood. But there's no front bookend with Dan Fuller saying, "You probably
noticed my new bride didn't come back with me from Africa ..." It would be an even stranger story
if it were Dan's flashback, because all of Laura's dreams remain personal secrets, that she never
divulges to him.
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2002 Glenn Erickson
Go BACK to the Savant Main Page.