Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bride of the Monster

Ed Wood Plus Sick: The Life And Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist Week continues chugging along, this time providing me with the mild disappointment that is Bride of the Monster. Ed Wood has long been my favorite Tim Burton movie, so I went in fully prepared for the delightfully goofy sci-fi plot that this movie has going for it. I was just somewhat less prepared for how damn long it takes for that to get going.

To be fair, it does start right off with two men caught in a torrential downpour out in the woods somewhere, both inexplicably armed with rifles, so we’re on pretty good ground here. After a quick attempt at hiding in a supposedly abandoned haunted house that turns out to have Bela Lugosi residing there with his giant henchman Lobo (pro wrestler Tor Johnson). After fleeing the two of them (Lobo in particular has a great intro, casually popping onscreen behind the two armed men with his arms outstretched, ready for bear -- that’s a terrible description, but if you see it you’ll appreciate how awesome it is), the pair runs afoul of the local legendary monster -- stock footage of an octopus that quickly makes short work of them.

So that’s a pretty effective, charmingly silly opener. Unfortunately we then get about a half hour of chitchat at the local police station, where our heroic trio is introduced, discusses the recent disappearances, complain to each other about various levels of secret keeping (two of the heroes are police officers, and the third is the reporter girlfriend of one of said cops), and various other nonsense that grinds the film to a halt. Eventually the reporter manages to drive down to the haunted house (well, she drives near it, at least, before running off the road just like a woman and getting menaced by a snake and fainting, and being carried to the house by Lobo), and the film picks up quite well from there, but when the film is only 68 minutes long, you really can’t spend such a vast length of time setting everything up.

It’s a shame, too, because when the film is working, it works pretty darn well. That’s obviously a fairly subjective statement, as we are describing a movie where the evil monsters tend to be whatever animal stock footage Wood found prior to filming (in addition to the octopus and snake, we also get an alligator attack) for the characters to point offscreen at in horror, but the goofy, low budget charm of it all really is quite effective. After all, who among us can hear a line like “Maybe it’s like the papers say, all those atom bomb explosions distorted the atmosphere”, in response to all the thunderstorms they’ve been having lately, and not have a smile on their face? Who wouldn’t enjoy hearing Lugosi’s grand monologue about how he was going to create a new race of Atomic Supermen to rule the world with, starting with the plucky female reporter for reasons that I never understood? And who could possibly dislike how Lugosi’s secret laboratory contains stone walls, manacles on one wall, tons of stock fifties mad scientist lab equipment, and in the corner a regular kitchen sink, countertop, and refrigerator? Nobody I’d like to continue knowing, that’s for sure.

So yes, the film does have some legitimately fun parts to it. It’s just that the film is deeply schizophrenic, with half the film made into a fun little science fiction movie, and the other half being what I can only assume was an attempt at recreating the magic of His Girl Friday, only without the humor. I suppose you can just skip it all and have a much better viewing experience as a result, just be aware that you may want to have another film to watch with it, because it’ll be over really quickly.

Rating: * ½

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