Director: Curt Siodmak
Writer: Curt Siodmak
Cast: Barbara Payton, Lon Chaney, Raymond Burr, Tom Conway, Paul Cavanagh, Giselle Werbisek, Carol Varga, Paul Maxey, Woody Strode, Martin Garralaga, Felippa Rock, and Monya MacGill
Composer: Raoul Kraushaar
Release Date: 10/1951
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Upon killing a plantation owner and marrying his wife, Dina Van Gelder (Barbara Payton), Barney Chavez (Raymond Burr) is cursed by a local witch known as Al-Long (Giselle Werbisek). Every night thereafter, Barney—at least from his perspective—transforms into a bloodthirsty gorilla.
Despite benefiting from the performances of Raymond Burr, Barbara Payton, and Lon Chaney Jr., Bride of the Gorilla is an underwhelming and poorly paced jungle horror film. For effectively manipulating audience perception, however, this production may appeal to enthusiasts of the murder mystery genre.
Having successfully conveyed the pathos of a conflicted soul, Raymond Burr deserves praise for his portrayal of Barney Chavez. Specifically, Barney—after suffering the curse of Al-Long—becomes unable to balance plantation life with his primitive desires, eventually choosing to abandon his wife and live in the jungle as would a savage animal—a convincing depiction of madness that, given Barney’s appalling behavior in prior sequences, will no doubt satisfy those with a compelling sense of justice.
A cruel and murderous fiend, Barney fails to evoke sympathy in spite of his predicament—much in contrast to The Wolf Man’s Larry Talbot character, who, by exhibiting many likable and charming attributes, compels the viewer to feel compassion for him following his transformation into a werewolf.
In addition to lacking a protagonist with whom the average person can relate, Bride of the Gorilla struggles to generate and maintain the creepy, atmospheric tension that many would typically associate with a black-and-white horror film—likely a consequence of screenwriter Curt Siodmak’s overuse of extraneous dialogue and subplots.
Offering a psychological twist on the premise for The Wolf Man, Bride of the Gorilla relies upon the power of suggestion to elicit fear from the audience. Note, for instance, that not a single character manages to identify the protagonist in his primate form, even when Barney himself observes the face of a gorilla upon staring at his reflection in the river—an aspect that leaves ambiguous whether Barney, an emotionally disturbed individual, had simply imagined himself as a supernatural beast as opposed to actually becoming one.
Bride of the Gorilla is a mediocre effort from Siodmak—known for his contributions to The Wolf Man, I Walked with a Zombie, and many other classics within the supernatural horror genre. This film should nevertheless be commended for the performance of Burr, who adds a hint of gravitas to an otherwise reprehensible character.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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