Best Book of the Year (2017) - Classic Images
Shovel in hand, the redoubtable Gary D. Rhodes returns to the Graveyard of Forgotten Facts, unearthing a treasure trove of terrific illustrations and a casket-full of new information and insights on Bela Lugosi, Ed Wood and Bride of the Monster (1956). Also exhumed are Bride’s shooting script and a vault full of decaying extras. Accompanying him in this 60th anniversary “Bela-bration” of the film’s release is partner-in-crime Tom Weaver, as well as contributors Sam Sherman, Robert J. Kiss and Michael Lee.
“Brings back a lot of good memories... That's what I live for. This is history, and I'm living it all over again.” – Conrad Brooks, Ed Wood’s friend and actor in Bride of the Monster
“Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster isn’t the director’s most famous film, or the most beloved, either, but it is the best work the obsessive and resourceful Wood ever did. Loopy and retro even in its own day, Bride gets fabulous treatment in this engrossing volume, with Gary D. Rhodes’s carefully researched account of the picture’s development, shoot, and exhibition. I enjoyed exploring details of the film’s tangled chronology, Bela Lugosi’s casting and performance, and differences between script and finished film. Plus, images and extras I never imagined I’d see. I love Ed, I love Bela and I love Bride of the Monster.” —David J. Hogan, author of Dark Romance: Sexuality in the Horror Film and Film Noir FAQ.
“When it comes to throwing the spotlight on American cinema’s dark corners that have been forgotten or ignored by critics, few people possess the breadth of knowledge, archival research expertise and ability to construct fascinating histories as Gary D. Rhodes. In this volume, and continuing his long-standing work on Bela Lugosi, Rhodes unearths and contextualizes with his usual, meticulous scholarship a wealth of material related to the final film in which Lugosi starred. A real treat not just for Lugosi fans, but also for those with an interest in the way American filmmaking was practiced in the periphery of Hollywood.” – Yannis Tzioumakis, Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool and author of Hollywood’s Indies: Classics Divisions, Specialty Labels, and the American Film Market
"Tom Weaver and his Scripts from the Crypt crew strike again with another essential volume in their ongoing series, this one devoted to Bride of the Monster arguably Ed Wood’s most polished pic and Bela Lugosi’s true screen swan song (followed only b his mute turn in The Black Sleep and posthumous cameo in Plan 9 From Outer Space). Ace genre historian Gary D. Rhodes handles the heavy lifting here, painstakingly chronicling the genesis of—and correcting many of the misconceptions surrounding—Wood’s 1955 re-creation of a 1942 Monogram chiller, replete with mad scientist (Bela, Monogram’s leading boogey-man back in the day), hulking, mentally challenged assistant (Tor Johnson), nosy femme reporter (Loretta King), wise-cracking cop hero (Tony McCoy), crusty newspaper editor (Harvey B. Dunn), and “fearsome” monster (Ed’s infamous ailing octopus), among other B-horror archetypes.
What comes through loudest and clearest is the sheer miracle of the movie’s entry into the world, given all the time constraints and financial setbacks, to say nothing of the often dubious (and usually flaky) talent involved. Weaver chimes in with another Fun Facts section, a copious compendium of inside trivia covering production anecdotes and the participants’ professional and personal accomplishments, quirks, and peccadilloes, even presenting first-hand testimony from Bela’s erstwhile liquor delivery boy (!).
Soundtrack scholar Michael Lee lavishes much detailed attention on the musical scores accompanying not only Bride but other of Wood’s works, while Dr. Robert J. Kiss offers an exhaustive profile of busy character actor Ben Frommer (who played bits in both Bride and Plan 9 From Outer Space, among hundreds of other projects) and (our fave section) a complete history of the film’s theatrical playdates, venues, and co-features (seems Bride frequently double-dated with Clouzot’s classic Wages of Fear). Scads of rare photos, a wide range of appendices (highlighted by details from Bela’s contemporaneous live Las Vegas club show) and, of course, the heavily Ed-edited Bride script, itself further frost on the wedding cake. Bride the book achieves the mighty feat of being every bit as entertaining as the film it celebrates."-- Videoscope
"The gang is still at it – scripts and inside
info from films you thought you probably
REALLY wouldn’t want to know all this
about. Now you do. And you are better for it!
This time, Gary D. Rhodes (who was in issue
#36 of LSoH) takes the lead article, with the
vet, old Tom Weaver, kicking in, along with
a foreword by Samuel M. Sherman (former
head of Independent-International), and contributions from Michael Lee, Dr.
Robert J. Kiss and Stephen B. Whatley.
We enter into Edward D. Wood territory. I think we can safely say that
Bride of the Monster is as close as he came to making a real Hollywood film – a
little more money; slightly better cast; and Bela Lugosi, a name star, in most of
the film (not just a quick intro, then run over by a car, as in Plan 9). Of course,
the results are as goofy Ed Wood as any of his other films. Bela Lugosi beating
up Tor Johnson! People having their brains fried by a photo enlarger. An
A-Bomb goes off in a Los Angeles backyard swamp, and the hero just walks
away from it. Anyway…I really liked the photo reproduction this time around
– very good by Bear Media standards. The photos are exceptionally rare in
Ah well, poor old Bela (and he looks so old, yet is just a little older at this
point than me), “He tampered in God’s Domain.” A very pretty picture of Loretta
King is on page 203. One of the oddities of time – she was a no-show for
the premier of the film because she felt it was beneath her and would hurt her
career. After her death, this is what they inscribed on her head stone – “Loretta
Funk Hadley 1917 - 2007 – Loretta King “Bride of the Monster.” Geez, I LOVE
this series of books, and I hope the gang have a bunch more in the works. Come
Tom Weaver’s Scripts from the Crypt series rolls on with #4, Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster ($24.95, BearManor softcover), the 1955 sci-fi/horror starring Bela Lugosi. This volume is filled to the brim with goodies: foreword by Sam Sherman; “‘He Tampered in God’s Domain’: The Horrible History of Bride of the Monster” by Gary D. Rhodes; “Fun Facts” by Weaver; an examination of Bride’s music by Michael Lee; Bride’s release history plus a bio of character actor Ben Frommer by Dr. Robert J. Kiss; the pressbook; Buddy Barnett’s Cult Movies interview with co-star Loretta King; Alex Gordon’s ”My Favorite Vampire,” an article that originally appeared in a 1963 issue of Fantastic Monsters of the Films; a 1978 Ed Wood interview conducted by filmmaker Fred Olen Ray; the divorce papers of Bela and his fourth wife Lillian (!); a 1986 interview with Richard Sheffield by Gary D. Rhodes; reproduction of the playbill for Bela’s Arsenic and Old Lace (1954); press clippings and script for 1954’s The Bela Lugosi Revue; the full transcript of his 1955 Senate testimony on his drug addiction; Bela’s foreword to Ed Wood’s book Your Career in Hollywood; a personal, typewritten recollection of Bela by his fifth wife Hope; and Bela’s death certificate, mortuary charges and last will.
The centerpiece, of course, is the Bride of the Monster screenplay. I know, you are probably thinking, “It had a script??” Yes it did, and over the years there’s been much haggling about who actually wrote it. Gary D. Rhodes, the leading Lugosi expert, takes all this conflicting information and does a terrific job of sifting through it. There was also a lot of drama going on in Lugosi’s life during this time. It’s sad, to be sure, but Rhodes treats Bela with the respect he deserves. I have read little of Rhodes’ work, but he is a fantastic writer. Years ago, I reviewed his scholarly White Zombie: Anatomy of a Horror Film, still available from McFarland.
Tom Weaver makes his typically wry observations in his “Fun Facts” section. He uncovers some real finds such as Conrad Nagel’s nephew Don being part of the cast and he quotes from a Scary Monsters interview with Don. I am always amazed by the obscure stuff he unearths and brings together. His informal tone puts the fun in the facts. Weaver’s “Fun Facts” concentrate mostly but not exclusively on the movie; he begins with the story of the partnership of Ed Wood and Bride co-writer Alex Gordon and then picks apart Bride, pointing out bloopers, interesting trivia (including a cast member’s visibly missing finger) and questioning some of the things that happen in the movie. My favorite: In the finale, the almost skeletal Lugosi character is transformed into a rampaging man-beast MUCH larger than Tor Johnson, and yet little Lugosi’s clothes still fit him. Because so much of Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994) is devoted to the making of Bride of the Monster, Weaver spills lots of ink on that movie also, up to and including star Johnny Depp’s arrest for trashing a NYC hotel room around the time of Ed Wood’s release, outrageous behavior that some speculated was purposeful (to increase interest in the actor and his newest movie). Weaver also points out that Martin Landau, accepting his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, was building in his acceptance speech to a salute to Bela Lugosi—but the Oscar gods must have thought he was taking too much time and struck up the band, drowning him out just as he was about to sing Bela’s praises from the Shrine Auditorium stage to a worldwide audience of a billion people. As Boris Karloff always liked to say, “Poor Bela!”
One of my favorite parts of the book is Dr. Robert J. Kiss’s write-up about Ben Frommer (1913-92). I love forgotten players, those actors not typically written about, and Dr. Kiss brings Frommer to life in his astute piece. He also had access to his personal scrapbook!
Bride of the Monster was the only Ed Wood movie to feature an original score. Michael Lee does a bang-up job of analyzing it and furnishing some info on composer Frank L Worth (1903-90), heretofore unheralded.
The Rhodes chapter is the main course, tracking the confusing history of the making of the movie, which was begun in one year and, after a long hiatus, finished in the next. A large number of news blurbs from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter help him create a plausible-sounding timeline and to speculate on What Was Shot When. Along the way there’s lots of interesting tidbits, including the fact that actress Helen Gilbert (who counted among her many husbands gangster Johnny Stompanato) was in the running for the picture’s lead. Rhodes, like Weaver, is a film historian who wants to get it right and not rely on the mounds of misinformation out there. They go the extra mile. It’s amazing to me that here it is 2017 and these two are supplying fresh information and insights about a more than 60-year-old movie.
The photos are exceptional and reproduced very well: scene stills and candids, clippings, ads, many rarities never seen before. Hard-core Lugosi and Ed Wood fans will eat this up but, truly, any movie fan will find something here to pique their interest."
- Laura Wagner, Classic Images