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Bride of the Gorilla [Raymond Burr]

Bride of the Gorilla (1951) starring Raymond Burr, Barbara Payton, Lon Chaney, Jr., Tom Conway

Deep in the South American jungle plantation manager Barney Chavez kills his elderly employer in order to get to his beautiful wife. However, an old native witch witnesses the crime and puts a curse on Barney, who soon after finds himself turning nightly into a rampaging gorilla. But is his transformation real or is it all in his head? Find out in Bride of the Gorilla.

Review

Barney Chavel (Raymond Burr) with his new wife Dina Van Gelder (Barbara Payton)

Bride of the Gorilla lends itself to a flurry of puns, but I’ll try to control myself. At least for a little while. After all, the basic idea is interesting. The classic film, The Wolf Man, dealt with a basically good man, cursed as a werewolf, through no fault of his own. In Bride of the Gorilla, a bad man is cursed to turn into a gorilla … Payment for the evil things he’s done. The question is: Does he actually turn into a gorilla, or is it all in his mind?

Dina and Barney as he starts going mad … Do you hear that?

As I say, it’s an interesting take on the well-known story. The acting’s not half-bad, although it’s hard to picture Raymond Burr as a handsome leading man … Much less as a despicable cad. Other issues are:

  • Lots of stock footage of the various jungle animals.
  • It’s amazing how virtually every man in the movie falls hopelessly in love with Dina.
  • Schlock is a good description. Especially as Raymond Burr’s character becomes progressively more insane.

Cast of characters

  • Raymond Burr (Godzilla, Perry Mason) as Barney Chavez. Not the protagonist, but the central character. He murders his boss, and has been chasing his boss’ wife. Then, he tosses lovely native Larina aside. He marries Dina for both money and love. And, Al-Long curses him for his crimes. Or, is it all in his head?
  • Barbara Payton as Dina Van Gelder. Beautiful young wife of Klaas, who’s been cheating on him with Barney. She marries Barney, after Klaas’ death. And, Dr. Viet’s also in love with her.
  • Lon Chaney Jr. (Son of Dracula) as Police Commissioner Taro. The honest police officer, who knows that Barney is guilty of murder. But can’t prove it. A man of two worlds, he knows police procedure in his mind, but the law of the jungle in his heart.
  • Tom Conway (The Seventh Victim) as Dr. Viet. The doctor who testified that the cause of Klaas’ death was snake bite. Which is true. But he also believes Barney to be responsible. Which is also true. And, he’s been in love with Dina since the day his friend Klaas brought her home.
  • Gisela Werbisek as Al-Long. The witch doctor, who uses her skills to poison Barney. And drive him mad …
  • Carol Varga as Larina. The lovely young native girl that Barney uses, and throws aside. Why do he tell her that he loves her? “It’s what you wanted to hear.”
  • Paul Cavanagh (Tarzan and his Mate) as Klaas Van Gelder. Wealthy, elderly, plantation owner. Husband to Dina, friend to Dr. Viet, and the man who fired Barney. Because of Barney’s negligence, a worker died. Soon after, Barney knocks him down … In the path of a deadly serpent.

Editorial review of Bride of the Gorilla courtesy of Amazon.com

Barney Chavez looks into the mirror, and sees a gorilla staring back

Overcome with passion and desire for the beautiful and sultry Dina Van Gelder (Barbara Payton), plantation manager Chavez (Raymond Burr) is driven to murder her husband. Having spurned one of the locals for the sensual blond, he becomes the victim of a curse by a voodoo priestess. “He shall be like an animal,” she proclaims, thereafter transforming him into a gorilla whenever he enters the jungle.

Lon Chaney Jr. as the police inspector in Bride of the Gorilla

Lon Chaney, Jr. stars as the local commissioner with a respect for native superstitions who attempts to prove that Chavez is a murderer. This ultra-serious, grade B horror film by Curt Siodmak delivers another view of the metamorphosis he made so famous with the masterpiece The Wolf Man.

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