Vintage Pulp Feb 26 2024
SAVAGE BY NATURE
He was a good husband at first. Then he turned into a total ape.


This Mexican poster for La novia del gorilla, aka Bride of the Gorilla, is chockful of interesting elements, from the massive simian at top, to the snake hanging in a tree, to star Barbara Payton being borne away by a second gorilla, and co-star Carol Varga in her classic “native” two-piece. There's a line early on: “White people shouldn't live too long in the jungle. It brings out their bad side—jealousies, impatience.” That sums up the thrust of the plot, the subplot, and the underlying themes, because it's a one-note psychological suspense flick about northerners out of place in the humid global south.

In brief, Raymond Burr runs a rubber plantation for colonial boss Paul Cavanaugh, and has the hots for his wife Barbara Payton. He kills Cavanaugh, thanks to a serendipitous lethal snake that's slithering by. He gets away with the murder, but he can't fool the withered old crone who runs the plantation house. She uses the pe de guine—the so-called plant of evil—to place a curse on Burr. It's slow to act, but by the time he marries the widowed Payton he comes to think he's changing into a beast. Is it in his mind? Is he suffering the effects of slow poisoning from the pe de guine? Or is he really a monster?

Bride of the Gorilla, while a middling and basically inconsequential cinematic effort, is well remembered by Hollywood buffs for its extracurriculars. Barbara Payton was being surveilled via detective by her husband Franchot Tone, and passed on the unfortunate news that Payton was enjoying sweaty horizontal interludes with Woody Strode. He was one of the best looking guys you can imagine, so it's no wonder the highly sexed Payton got hot and bothered. It was one in a series of affairs for her, but this one harmed her career because Strode was black. She would later suffer one of the worst downward spirals in celebrity history.

In any case, the question is should whether you give Bride of the Gorilla a screening. Hmm... well, owing to the good cast, we think so. Chaney and Burr are quality talents even when overrmatched by substandard screenwriting. But keep your expectations in check. It's watchable, but it's still pure b-movie schlock. It was originally released in the U.S., and opened in Mexico today in 1951

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 20
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
April 19
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
April 18
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
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