Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Happy Birthday, Ed Wood!

In celebration of Ed Wood's birthday (okay, so it was yesterday, but still...):

Without a doubt, Bride of the Monster is legendary director Edward D. Wood Jr.'s best film.

I don't mean to damn with faint praise. I've never acknowledged that Ed Wood was the worst movie maker of all time – anyone who's sat through an Al Adamson or Larry Buchanan or Michael Bay or Uwe Boll film would have to agree that they, and many others, are equally worthy of that ignoble title. No, Eddie was amazingly untalented, but he was not a hack (at least not until his later years) and he had a genuine passion for his art (such as it was). That passion almost always shone through, despite the cardboard sets, inept acting, bad lighting, odd Angora appearances, and bizarre leaps of logic.

Despite the usual Wood-en acting and bizarre bits of baffling dialogue, Bride's story structure is surprisingly sound, with a more-or-less logical beginning, middle and end. Bela Lugosi, in his last true headline performance, gives an energetic and occasionally moving performance as the mad Dr. Erik Vornoff (witness the clip above). This is all the more astounding considering that Lugosi was a frail 72 at the time, and deep in the throes of his soon-to-be-made-public drug addiction.

Bride of the Monster was clearly Ed's tribute to the Poverty Row horror films that Lugosi had made in the Forties, and as such, is a fairly successful one. In many ways, it could have easily been a Monogram shocker – except that it was made more than a decade after those shoestring productions.

It faithfully follows the standard Poverty Row plot: mysterious – and overtly foreign – mad scientist is conducting his evil experiments in an isolated location, plucky girl reporter investigates, and scientist is destroyed by his own creation/assistants. In Bride Of The Monster Loretta King is the distaff newshawk who pursues her investigation despite the warnings of editors and police. Legend (and Tim Burton's masterpiece, Ed Wood) has it that King bought her way into the film, chipping in her personal funds to keep the production going. True or not, she's an adequate leading lady, far better than her romantic love interest, played by Tony McCoy (son of another investor). Other familiar Wood regulars fill out the cast, including Tor Johnson (as "Lobo"), Paul Marco, and Delores Fuller.

In this case, our foreign mad scientist is attempting unsuccessfully (although that probably shouldn't come as a surprise) to create a "race of atomic supermen" using a photo enlarger in what appears to be a cardboard dungeon with convenient kitchenette. For kicks, he keeps a stock-footage octopus in the closet. A closet that's attached to the local lake. Or something.

But it doesn't really matter. It's fun stuff, silly as hell, and if you're in the right mood, it can really entertain. Everyone involved tried his or her damndest, and it does show, despite what others might say. I say, if you've had a bad day, pop this thing into the DVD player and have a good time.

Bride Of The Monster is available on DVD from Image Entertainment, as part of "The Wade Williams Collection." The transfer is surprisingly good.

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