Best Book of the Year (Classic Images)
On a South American rubber plantation stands the home of Klaas Van Gelder—a house whose claim to fame is murder. Barney the foreman, beguiled by Van Gelder’s beautiful young wife Dina, pushed his employer into the afterlife, took Dina as his bride and made himself master of Van Gelder Manor. But a witch-like servant gives him a dose of jungle justice: She places a curse on him so that he transforms by night into the deadliest of jungle demons, the succarath.
Curt Siodmak, creator of The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, devised this outlandish monster melodrama, basically an exotic remake of The Wolf Man, co-starring the Wolf Man himself, Lon Chaney. The Fabulous Fifties’ first horror hit, it rates deluxe Scripts from the Crypt treatment: a “Making Of” article, a tribute to Siodmak, detailed release information, an essay on the music score, an interview with producer Herman Cohen, a Lon Chaney Timeline, Production Code correspondence, script, pressbook and more.
McElwee’s Greenbriar Picture Shows
This third entry in Tom Weaver's "Scripts From The Crypt" series
(previous two being The Hideous Sun Demon and The Indestructible Man), delves
deep into 1951's Bride Of The Gorilla, a Realart jungle horror you'd not dream
would inspire a book, let alone one so irresistible as what genre historian
Weaver turns master hand to. He's gathered a blue ribbon panel of experts to
flavor behind-scenes telling of a misbegot chiller sold variously as Shocking,
Daring, Primitive, and Passionate (to each please add exclamation points, as
does ad at left). Any chapter of this book would merit purchase price, and
there are over a dozen of them. I attended weekend-long wedding festivities to
accompany of GF Ann plus Bride Of The Gorilla, the book enjoyed during hotel
bar sequesters fueled by whiskey sours and passages shared with Ann (her intro
to sordid details of the Barbara Payton-Franchot Tone-Tom Neal dustup). Fellow
tipplers noting the book's lurid cover and my rapt absorption (w/frequent
recites) must have wondered what group home I had escaped from.
Here are B Of
The G highlights and reasons GPS readership will savor this book: 1 --- an
intro by John Landis, ace director and lifelong chill enthusiast ... 2 ---
Interviews as only Tom Weaver can conduct them, w/ eye-witness accounts of the
film's production, as well as Weaver's close analysis re the latter, his
history of Realart, producing Broder brothers, appreciation of Herman Cohen
(getting his start here), and 3 --- dissect of once-in-a-lifetime cast Barbara
Payton, Lon Chaney, Raymond Burr, Tom Conway, plus gorilla suitors and
pulse-quickening F. Tone v. T. Neal. To this add Scott MacQueen's years-later
visit with Bride director Curt Siodmak, covered in fascinating detail (with
photos). There's "Fun Facts" from Weaver throughout, he and Greg Mank
topping themselves with a "Lon Chaney Jr. Timeline" that left me
agape over reams of revelation (and me thinking all this time that I knew my
Chaney). If you care at all about horror legends, backstage peeps, underbelly
probe, interviewee candor served raw (Weaver sure knows how to peel back scabs
of memory), all making pages turn sans pause (you'll curse meals and sleep for
time they take from this). Weaver's Scripts/Crypt series is a winning
concept, with each setting a new bar. I'm panting already for the author's
I have a book review today. It's Tom Weaver's Scripts from the Crypt: Bride of the Gorilla, the third volume in the "Tom Weaver presents" collection after The Hideous Sun Demon and The Indestructible Man. None of these movies made Sight & Sound's top 100 list, but that's not the point. Weaver and Co. have been proving for going on forty years now that readers have an insatiable appetite for this stratum of film production.
Bride of the Gorilla is not the autobio of Jane Goodall, that's Gorillas that I Miss. It's a misbegotten but fascinating 1951 jungle picture starring Lon Chaney, Raymond Burr and the notorious Barbara Payton. This collector's book embellishes a full reprint of writer-director Curt Siodmak's original shooting script with everything relevant to the subject Tom Weaver can get his hands on, starting with a funny but thoughtful John Landis intro about the appeal of Gorilla-suit movies.
As one would expect with Weaver, the production history and star bio backgrounds are all annotated with hard sources. When you quote this book for your Master's Thesis, "Simian Semiology in the Semi-Tropics," you can rest assured the research is solid. Weaver even critiques the sources of some of the info! You will know everything humanly possible about the company that filmed and distributed Bride of the Gorilla. This picture played everywhere, and likely made Jack Broder rich.
Weaver brings out every strange detail in a script that appears to have been written with spare parts left over from Curt Siodmak's The Wolf Man. The prominent sidebar investigation delves into the various legends floating around the film's actors. Raymond Burr handled the problem of his sexual identity vs. his public life extremely well, it would seem. Much of the text looks for facts and opinions about Lon Chaney at this time in his career; the overall verdict for Lon is pretty positive. But star Barbara Payton's life was overshadowed by seamy scandal from this point forward. Weaver digs up every career-killing arrest notice and mocking trade paper column. Telling Payton's story also gets us into the lives of big star Franchot Tone and not-so-famous actor Tom Neal, who deep-sixed his Hollywood future with a combo of booze, fisticuffs and Barbara. I was initially put off with the cruel attitude Weaver takes toward Payton, but even the few kind words said about her by others aren't very forgiving. A sexual predator and a serious bad news blonde, Payton suffered perhaps the worst downfall of any actress that performed in big movies with big stars. This all-factual account doesn't pull any punches.
In addition to David Schecter's essay on composer Raoul Kraushaar (from which I learned interesting facts about the score to Invaders from Mars), writers Greg Mank, Scott MacQueen, Dr. Robert J. Kiss and Frank J. Dello Stritto offer analyses of the film and reminiscences of the actors and director Siodmak. Weaver interviews Tom Neal Jr., actor William Phipps and production assistant Herman Cohen, whose duties included minding producer Broder's children. Weaver has once again located every known fact about a movie that has suddenly become a lot more interesting -- I'll have to pull out the old DVD now. Holding this big yellow book (the softcover edition), I'm thinking it's the perfect thing to set out on the coffee table when relatives come over. They'll know better than to make small talk with me, by golly.
"Ditto for Script from the Crypt No. 3: Bride of the Gorilla, which focuses equally obsessively on Curt Siodmak's 1951 exercise in cross-species romance, likewise featuring Lon Chaney, along with a pre-Perry Mason Raymond Burr and tragically doomed starlet Barbara Payton. Among the book's profuse contents are Siodmak's complete script, an Introduction by Bride fan John Landis, Scott MacQueen's article "Siodmak's Brain"—a fascinating portrait of the filmmaker as a semi-embittered nonagenarian living in the woods with his loyal wife and a cat named Caruso—interviews with producer Herman Cohen and actors William Phipps and Tom Neal Jr., a Bride of the Gorilla pressbook and much more. Like Indestructible Man, Bride of the Gorilla contains exhibition historian Robert J. Kiss's complete list of the film's playdates, what features it was teamed up with, and where. The most inspired pairing? No doubt when the pic coupled with Elia Kazan's Tennessee Williams' adaptation A Streetcar Named Desire (!), wherein Kim Hunter plays fragile bride to Marlon Brando's aggro gorilla Stanley Kowalski."