I’ve been taken with Ed Wood lately. It’s quite possible, lost somewhere in my memory banks, that I saw one of his movies as a kid. If I did it would’ve been Bride of the Monster. Just in case I hadn’t, I decided to watch it again. As I’ve noted about Wood before, I admire someone who persists in the face of constant criticism. Someone who refuses to back down, even if they end up alcoholic and dying too young, in poverty. Now he’s coming to his deserved recognition. Even if his movies weren’t intentionally bad, when I laugh out loud I’m not laughing at Ed Wood. No, it’s the absurdity of fame and the price it both expects and exacts. Wood paid that price and now that it’s too late he’s grown a considerable fan base. Or maybe it’s never too late.
Bride of the Monster brings Bela Lugosi back to the screen as a mad scientist. Rejected and mocked (I’m sure some of this was personal), he locates an isolated swamp house from which he plans his revenge on the world. He’s somehow managed to build a nuclear reactor in his hidden lab and he intends to make a race of giants to conquer the earth. Naturally enough, he starts with an octopus. As the story unfolds, we learn that he was also responsible for the Loch Ness Monster. He’s employed a human (but somehow bullet-proof) henchman, Lobo, to help him in his quest. When a nosy reporter and her police detective boyfriend get involved, well, you might imagine the results.
The stories behind Ed Wood films, it seems, are as entertaining as the movies themselves. This one, for example, has as its protagonist an acting unknown (Lugosi was the name draw). Tony McCoy was the son of the owner of a meat-packing plant. He received the lead role as part of his father’s stipulations for funding the movie. Another stipulation was that it had to end with an atomic explosion (which it does). Wood would go to any length to see his movies made, even agreeing to casting choices and plot points made by those who had no other connections to the film. That’s part of the charm of Ed Wood’s movies—they were made to order. And they demonstrate that deepest of human desires—to tell a story. If I didn’t see this as a kid, I would’ve loved it if I had.