12/15/06

423 Bride of the Monster

(1955, Horror-Mad Science, b&w), with:

Hired! Part One
(1940, Educational-Industrial, b&w)

He tampered in God’s domain.

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

Short: Jimmy seems nice, so why can’t he sell Chevrolets?
Film: An octopus, mad scientists, and Tor Johnson, oh my!

Short Summary:

Good afternoon, ma'am.  Did you know that Chevrolet has a wonderful plan for your life?In Hired! Part One, a Chevrolet sales manager hires a bright young man named Jimmy, who reads all he can about his product and then goes peddling cars door-to-door. No one wants to buy, and the dealership’s sales numbers plummet. The sales manager goes home to grouse about “young people these days” and drink himself into a lemonade stupor. His aged father rocks idly on the porch behind him, smoking his pipe and casting aspersions on his son’s management techniques. To be continued...

Film Summary:

From the twisted mind of Ed Wood comes Bride of the Monster. Two hunters wander the swamp in a severe thunderstorm. They come to a dilapidated old house, but are refused entry by the villainous and mostly incomprehensible Dr. Varnoff (the venerable Bela Lugosi). The hunters wander away to their deaths; a giant swamp octopus eats one, while a scarred and lumbering Lobo (a.k.a. Tor Johnson) takes the other to Dr. Varnoff’s lab for some lethal experimentation.

The next day a bird-toting police chief, a handsome young lieutenant, and his lovely tabloid reporter fiancé discuss the hunters’ disappearance. The tabloid reporter lady looks up the mysterious old house and runs off to investigate. A man with a sinister accent shows up at the police station, claiming to be a monster expert who can help with their investigation.

Another storm arises, sending the reporter’s car off the road. She stumbles out of the car, where a venomous snake threatens her. Of course she faints. Lobo rescues her, dragging her back to Dr. Varnoff’s laboratory for repeated sessions of extended hypnosis. The monster expert wanders off as well, so the cops split up to look for both of them.

The monster expert shows up at Dr. Varnoff’s house, where they have a little tête-à-tête about his experiments. The expert begs him to come back to work for his undefined evil government. Dr. Varnoff refuses, declaring his intention to create a “rice of pipples” (race of people) that will help him rule the world! The expert pulls a gun, but Lobo sneaks up behind him and throws him to the giant swamp octopus.

Meanwhile, the handsome young police lieutenant scours the swamp for his wayward reporter fiancé. After run-ins with a stock footage crocodile and some imaginary quicksand, he makes his way to the laboratory, interrupting them just as Dr. Varnoff is about to turn the reporter into a hulking super monster woman. Lobo easily defeats the lieutenant and chains him to the wall, but Dr. Varnoff goes just a little too far with the whip and drives Lobo to revenge. Lobo releases the reporter and straps Dr. Varnoff to the table instead, throwing the switch.

Dr. Varnoff turns into a monster, kills Lobo, destroys the lab, and carries the reporter away through the swamp. The lieutenant escapes and gives chase while the rest of the policemen catch up. Varnoff drops the reporter and simultaneously gets shot by police, run over by a giant boulder, thrown to the swamp octopus, and struck by lightning. The bird-toting police chief stares solemnly into the distance and intones, “He tampered in God’s domain.”

Introduction:

Frank seeks to escape.Dr. Joel and Nurse Tom hook electrodes up to Crow’s brain while he sleeps so that they can see his dreams. He dreams about counting fistfuls of money, frolicking in a rain of candy, and making time with a very friendly Tom in a Nurse’s uniform. Tom freaks out and wakes him up. Crow sees Tom in a nurse’s outfit and freaks out as well.

Host Segment One:

Dr. Forrester has invented the Tough Loveseat, which is made of sticky naugahide and electrified metal studs. He punishes Frank with it, and then sits down himself to enhance communication about their relationship. Joel has invented Microwave Faith Popcorn, where predictions about the future pop culture trends pop out of every kernel. They read trends like “grandpa tossing” and “bras for businessmen.” “Feminist Catholicism” doesn’t pop all the way.

Host Segment Two:

Joel and the ‘Bots perform Hired! The Musical. Joel starts off singing “I got a job today / I’m selling Chevrolet!” Everyone sings the “No” song, after which Tom sings a dirge about his depressing sales statistics. Crow dispenses melodious fatherly advice, and then everyone is saved by the declaration of World War II.

Host Segment Three:

Joel and the ‘Bots talk about the lame octopus, various creepy loaves, cold tater tots, and a number of other unrelated things.

Host Segment Four:

Willy the Waffle (from Episode 317) returns to the Satellite of Love to show Tom what the world would be like without advertising. The world ends up a better place in just about every example he uses.

Host Segment Five:

Joel the ‘Bots edit themselves into the film, replacing the inept close-ups of Bela Lugosi in the final sequence of the film. Afterwards Crow says, “We really tampered in God’s domain!” They read a letter. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester is dressed as Dr. Varnoff, complete with whip. TV’s Frank, dressed as Lobo, presses the button while he tries to sneak away. Quoth he, “I’m a dead man.”

Stinger:

Lugosi’s scarred and monstrous face.

Thoughts:

Two of the great luminaries of early cinematic mad science.People used to sell cars door to door? The concept seems alien to me—nowadays the only door-to-door salesmen I meet are candy-peddling kids trying to raise money for their school [insert the name of the local amusement park here] trip. Then again, I wouldn’t want to try to explain pop-up ads to someone in the forties.

Ed Wood is not the worst director in the history of motion pictures. Plenty of films in the MST3K canon are worse than his. He is, however, the worst famous director. Bride of the Monster looks like he got a whole bunch of footage of Bela, Tor, an octopus, etc., etc., threw it all into a big pile, and stuck it together in random order. The acting is uniformly awful, the editing is worse than awful, and the effects are an insult to the word “special.” Apparently he stole the mechanical octopus from the Universal lot, but left behind the motor that powered it. This is rather obvious when the monster expert has to throw himself onto the octopus in order to get himself tortured and eaten. The overcomplicated death scene (the octopus, Lugosi’s face, the rock, the cops, and the hulking stunt double getting struck by lightning) has got to be some of the worst editing I have ever witnessed. The individual elements don’t even look like they’re in the same state, let alone the same movie.

On the other hand, not many MST3K directors have Wood’s panache. Sure, nothing made sense and the effects were horrible, but the action never stopped and it was all so bizarre that it never got boring. Why did the police chief always carry a bird? What was the purpose of the sassy newspaper lady? Why did the cops stop in the middle of the road, have a conversation, and jump back in to drive a little further. (Actually, I can guess the answer to that last question. Wood probably didn’t have the equipment to make it look like they were talking while driving.) Also, “He tampered in God’s domain,” is another one of those lines that the SOL crew will bring up in many, many other episodes.

The host segments have a bit of both quality extremes. On the one hand, I have no idea what host segment three is about. They touch on a couple of amusing subjects, but mostly it seems like a random conversation about nothing in particular. The patented “ordinary things to bizarre extremes” sketch that the Joel-era crew does so well just doesn’t work without a center. On the other hand, I could hardly breathe from laughter during their reediting of Lugosi’s death. They all dress in lab coats and look monstrous, or frightened, or whatever the situation calls for when the shot would be going back to Lugosi’s burned face. The rest of the host segment fall somewhere in between.

The film segments have some good lines. While Jimmy despondently wanders the streets trying to sell a car, Joel says, “Maybe I should not have dressed as the angel of death.” When the title “Bride of the Monster” appears on the screen, Crow says, “I wonder where she’s registered.” When Varnoff changes from a sweater to a lab coat in a Mr. Rogers-ish way, Tom sings, “It’s a sinister day in the laboratory.” The short is rather pointless, and the film is a train wreck of bad acting and editing, but Joel and the ‘Bots keep it interesting enough to watch.