What's this? I've given Bride Of The Gorilla a passing rating? What is this monstrosity?
And some of my more astute readers will find even more bizarre that while I gave Bride Of The Gorilla a "thumbs up," I gave The Wolf Man (also with Lon Chaney, Jr.) a "thumbs down." Of course, this is the fundamental problem with the critics' "thumbs up/thumbs down" system. While I do think Bride Of The Gorilla was, perhaps, not as well-put-together as The Wolf Man, Bride Of The Gorilla had a lot of attention put into the character development and I was, incredibly surprisingly, intrigued.
That's what made this film work for me. I was interested. Plain and simple, I was interested with what was happening to the characters.
The film stars Raymond Burr as an owner of a wealthy plantation out in the jungle who one day kills a rival of his and gets away with it. A mysterious witch who saw the event puts a curse on him that turns him into an ape-like beast at night. The plot from here is relatively similar to The Wolf Man: the guy kills some animals and people at night while the police force (including the very recognizable and distinguished Lon Chaney, Jr.) try to figure out what is going on.
The film also features an interesting little love story between the Raymond Burr character and the wife of the man he killed. This girl is played by Barbara Payton, and she and Burr share some very nice chemistry with each other. Neither of them are brilliant actors, but both of them work well and simply enough off of each other to make the love story work.
It is very important that this love story work, as this is the heart of the film. It shows the price that Burr's character pays in order to get with Payton's character and the way they may not be able to end up together thanks to the curse that has been placed on Burr.
One of the biggest aspects of the film that made it work for me was that the film's horrible gorilla effect was only shown a couple of times. It's almost as though the director (otherwise not distinguished in any way, really) knew that the gorilla looked horrible, and so left a majority of what happens between the gorilla and its victims up to the imagination. This is impressive, and it's a directorial philosophy that would later be adopted to great success by Spielberg twenty-four years in the future.
In addition to all this, there are some nice moments of tension, the cameraman seemed to know what he was doing, and the screenplay was not too bad. The film works simply, and ultimately it pays off. I enjoyed watching the film and I found myself interested in what was going on. This is not a particularly great film, but I was surprised to find it to be one of the few B-list films that actually works.