This is the place to look. After Glen Or Glenda? failed to attract any offers of big-studio financing, Ed financed this entire film himself and filmed it entirely without oversight. The fact that he was clearly less than competent to do all of these tasks himself utterly failed to dissuade anyone involved from seeing the thing through to completion, and the result is that we have this cinematic turkey to laugh at for all time. Wood, bless him, was so enthusiastic about making films that he never bothered to try and learn his craft or test his ideas to see if they would work in the finished product. As a consequence, all of his effects are symbolic, and utterly laughable. When he wants a character to manipulate lab equipment, he will direct an actor to wildly gesticulate in front of a set that looks like a random collection of dials and lights stuck to a board. Making it all the funnier is that his actors are so clueless to his incompetence, or so captivated by his imagination, that they deliver a stupefyingly earnest performance.
The plot of Bride Of The Monster is as ridiculous as anything else to have been written by Ed Wood, but in a sort of charming way, it works. The documentary Flying Saucers Over Hollywood explains in some segments that Wood's best-known work, Plan 9 From Outer Space, is widely watched because in addition to the reputation it has as a completely insane film, it also has a smattering of legitimately effective scenes or shots. That is definitely the case with Bride Of The Monster. Scenes like Bela Lugosi's "I have no home" speech, or Loretta King's quick chat with the file clerk, demonstrate a knack for composition and spacing that would have served Wood quite well if he had been able to reign in his apparent belief in shooting everything in one take, even if that take shows the set wobbling. Another quote about Plan 9 that definitely applies here is that no matter what time you watch Bride Of The Monster at, it always feels as if you are sitting in front of your television at four in the morning.
Lugosi plays a mad scientist named Eric Vornoff, who is attempting to create a super-strength zombie through the use of a table, some straps, a powerful lamp, and some kind of electric play-toy. In the swamp around his mansion, people have been going missing with alarming regularity, prompting a detective to poke his nose into the area's goings-on. Contrary to the impression given by Tim Burton's biopic, Tony McCoy is not that bad an actor, although you will not be surprised to learn he only ever acted in one film and a TV episode after Bride Of The Monster. In fact, the acting in this particular film is much better than is usually the case for Wood productions, although that is not saying a lot. Loretta King speaks all of her lines as if she is reading from cue cards, and Dolores Fuller makes it plainly obvious she would rather be anywhere but on the office set. But the real prize for bad acting comes from George Becwar as Professor Vladimir Strowski, who has the apparent objective of taking Vornoff home by any means necessary. Whether Vornoff likes it or not. If one ever needed proof that Bela Lugosi was the most talented person to cross Ed Wood's path, this scene is it.
Wood's enthusiasm for incorporating stock footage into his films both benefits and hinders him this time. The octopus stock footage is blended with his footage of what is clearly an octopus dummy to an effect that is both hilarious and rather sad. Watching Bela Lugosi battle with an octopus that he is clearly moving himself is enough to make one feel pretty sorry for the old guy. Exactly why producer Donald McCoy felt the need to end the film with a nuclear explosion is anyone's guess, but Wood obliges him with stock footage that not only doesn't come close to matching the rest of the film, but also raises the question of how our heroes survived. Wood's problem as a director was not so much that he was incompetent or had ambitions too great for his ability. No, his real problem was that he was utterly blind to when his stock footage or effects shots simply were not working. A good filmmaker like Verhoeven or Lucas would arrange their shots and editing to either cover their mistakes or let the audience's imagination take over. Wood just showed his blunders, warts and all.
Amazingly, Bride Of The Monster achieved financial success when first released to theatres in 1955. Combined with Wood's documented excessive enthusiasm, this does a lot to explain why Wood was so enthusiastic to get another film in production. Although he made two short films between this and Plan 9, it took another two years for him to get what was then a feature-length film wrapped. That's another peculiarity of Wood's productions - none of them reached so much as a ninety minute length. In today's film-making world where studios will insert excessive scenes just to get a film up to an unspoken minimum length, nobody will ever accuse Wood's of outlasting their welcome. And that is probably one of the saddest things about Wood's story. Even though he never fit into the system in place during the 1950s, he would have even more difficulty fitting into the studio system of today. He dared to take on subjects that others considered taboo, and wasn't made creatively impotent by focus group meetings.
I gave Bride Of The Monster a one out of ten. It is incompetent on every level, yet so endearing. Watch it with a group of friends, make it a MST-style night, and you will have a blast.