Cast and Crew: Lon Chaney Jr., Woody Strode
What It’s About: Foreman Barney Chavez (Raymond Burr) murders his employer, Klaas Van Gelder (Paul Cavanagh) to take over his plantation in the South American jungle and hopefully Van Gelder’s wife, Dina (Barbara Payton). Unfortunately for Barney, the house maid, Larina (Carol Varga), sees his crime and uses an ancient potion to turn him into a rampaging gorilla every night. Or does he only think he’s turning into a rampaging gorilla? Why would a there even be a gorilla in South America? Just keep telling yourself: “stop asking so many questions” and come along for the ride.
Why Watch it Today?: Filmmaker Curt Siodmak, the man responsible for making everyone think that werewolves can only be killed by silver and have a contagious bite, was born today in 1902. Siodmak fled Germany in the early 1930s (after writing the screenplay for F.P.1 Doesn’t Answer, a big-budget 1930s sci-fi film that has been on my to-see list seemingly since infancy), eventually making it to Universal Studios where he wrote and directed many of their 1940s horror films. 1940’s The Wolf Man was Siodmak’s most enduring and influential work, but by 1951 both he and the Gothic horror of the 1930s and 1940s were out of fashion. Curt wrote and directed Bride of the Gorilla for Jack Broder Productions, the “geniuses” (sadists?) and apparent gorilla mega fans who were also behind Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. The Bride of the Gorilla reworks the basic set up of The Wolf Man into an almost Noir, with Barney allowing his desire for Dina to lead him to his doom, but the film fails everywhere The Wolf Man succeeded, becoming instead a hilariously bad piece that is perfect for late night or very early morning viewing. Since we already showed you Siodmak at his best, why not watch him at his hilarious worst?
Other Choices: The Wolf Man, Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, or Black Friday, Siodmak’s hybrid of gangster and mad scientist genres.