Bride of the Gorilla

Talkie of the Week: Bride of the Gorilla

USA 1951, 70 minutes, black & white, Realart Pictures. Director: Curt Siodmak, Written by Curt Siodmak. Cast: Raymond Burr, Barbara Payton, Tom Conway, Lon Chaney Jr., Paul Cavanagh, Gisela Werbisek, Carol Varga, Paul Maxey, Woody Strode, Martin Garralaga, Felippa Rock, Moyna MacGill

Plot summary: Plantation manager Barbey Charvez kills his boss to marry his beautiful wife Dina and gets cursed for it by a native witch.

Review: Bride of the Gorilla – the title may already suggest it – is a B movie from the early 1950s. Blessed with a decent overall cast, the film stands out for its silly but entertaining plot. Raymond Burr leaves a lasting impression with his portrayal of Barney Charvez, a plantation manager who leaves little to the imagination about his intentions towards his employer’s wife, Dina Van Gelder. Married to an older man, Dina feels lonely and neglected in the middle of nowhere, bored in her husband’s large house which is surrounded by miles of South American jungle. Suggestive in her reaction to Barney’s advances, she causes a fight between her sick husband and a young and boisterous Charvez who ultimately gives into a sudden impulse of killing his boss. Observed by a native witch, Barney gets away with murder when the police is unable to convict him but is cursed to turn into the beast he proved to be when he took Klaas Van Gelder’s life. Unaware of what’s really happening to him, he roams the jungle at nighttime and is haunted by the experience of being a gorilla during the day. When he finally craves the jungle more than his newlywed wife, Barney faces his own demise as Dina is trying to stop him from running away.

Although the storyline may not sound worthwhile, the movie is fun to watch. Bride of the Gorilla is not the kind of film that will will leave an emotional imprint on your heart, nor will it blow you away with its surprising plot – but it will divert you and make you laugh. It will relax you despite (or rather thanks to?!) its righteous ending. And truth be told, Bride of the Gorilla is particularly enjoyable for anyone who’s fond of Raymond Burr. Barbara Payton and ex-Falcon Tom Conway also deliver neat performances, it is Burr’s seething aggressiveness, however, that makes this film better than expected. With his introverted emotions and impressive physicality, he easily turns this film into a guilty pleasure – just watch him enter at the end of the second minute and you’ll see what I mean. For his screen presence alone this film is a must-see, at least for anyone who’s ever wanted to savor a very different side of TV’s Perry Mason.

Available on youtube in public domain.

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2 thoughts on “Bride of the Gorilla

  1. Oh, I remember finding this movie accidentally, a clip of it actually, on the net years ago, and I was so intrigued by Burr’s part in it (so different from his tv series roles and from his other villainous roles in noir) that my boyfriend bought it for me. Raymond made a great Barney, didn’t he? It was fun just to see him in such a different role. There’s an interesting interview posted on the net of someone associated with the making of the film–sorry, I don’t remember his name but if you’re interested a google will turn it up.

    Burr, Chaney Jr., director Curt Siodmak, and the others—interesting to see the names associated with the film, but after watching it, I poked around the internet for info associated with it and what I learned was how tragic was the life of Barbara Payton. I didn’t know who Barbara Payton was until I saw this film, which shows how little I knew about Hollywood history since I guess just about everyone who knew a little about Hollywood had heard of Payton. Sad.

    • Raymond Burr has always impressed me with his performances and presence and yet this film showed me another side of him. Intrigued pretty much nails it.

      Barbara Payton I had heard about before but never seen a film with her either. Funny how some names can be familiar to you without having even seen their faces…
      I’ll have to be on the lookout for the interview you recommended. Would be lovely to learn a little more about Bride of the Gorilla. Thanks for mentioning it, dear, and also for your comment. 🙂

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