Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla – USA, 1952

A horror film that will stiffen you with laughter!’

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla is a 1952 comedy horror science fiction feature film directed by William Beaudine from a screenplay by Tim Ryan with additional dialogue by ‘Ukie’ Sherin and Edmond G. Seward.

The Realart Pictures production stars Bela Lugosi, Duke Mitchell, Sammy Petrillo (a duo that impersonated Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, they made Scared Stiff the following year), Charlita and Muriel Landers.

Plot:

On their way to perform in Guam for the troops, nightclub performers Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo find themselves stranded on a seemingly treacherous island, known by the natives as “Kola Kola”. The natives are quite friendly, especially Nona (Charlita), the tribal chief’s daughter, who tries to help the two get off the island.

Though paradise has been found, for the time being, the duo soon discovers that a mad scientist named Dr. Zabor (Bela Lugosi) lives on the other side of the island. Seeing a chance to get help, the two visit the strange doctor in his “castle”.

Tension mounts as Duke falls in love with Nona. Seeing Duke as a threat, jealous Dr. Zabor plans to literally make a monkey out of Duke, for he too loves Nona. Sammy tries to help his pal, with unexpected results…

Reviews:

“As far as Lugosi is concerned, he plays his role straight […] and is fine. If anything, this film proves that it does indeed get worse than starring in Ed Wood movies as the films Lugosi made for the supposed “worst director of all time” are infinitely more interesting and entertaining that this one.” The Bloody Pit of Horror

“Bela is good in his patented “mad scientist” role, rising above the crappy material. He’s adept at comedy, too, as he’d proved years earlier in films like Broadminded and International House. Even in his deteriorated state, Bela Lugosi is better than anyone else in this dud.” Gary Loggins, Cracked Rear Viewer

 

“Poor Bela. By the time he got to the Fabulous 50s, he was sharing the screen with everything from a rubber octopus to transvestites. But nothing could have been more demeaning than acting alongside the flash-in-the-pan, non-comical duo of Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo.” Joe Lozowsky, DVD Drive-In

“Laughs are thin on the ground, as is the plotting. There is some amusement to be had seeing Petrillo clap Lugosi on the back and shout, “Hiya Pop!”, but the rest of the gags are more along the lines of Petrillo being chased around by a fat girl…” Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image

Cast and characters:

  • Bela Lugosi … Dr. Zabor
  • Duke Mitchell … Duke Mitchell
  • Sammy Petrillo … Sammy Petrillo
  • Charlita … Nona
  • Muriel Landers … Saloma
  • AAl Kikume … Chief Rakos
  • Mickey Simpson … Chula
  • Milton Newberger … Bongo – the Witch Doctor
  • Martin Garralaga … Pepe Bordo / Waiter
  • Steve Calvert … Gorilla (uncredited)
  • Ray Corrigan … Gorilla (uncredited)
  • Luigi Faccuito … Native Warrior (uncredited)
  • William Wilkerson … Native Warrior (uncredited)

Running time:

74 minutes

Production:

Filmed over a six-day period at the General Service Studios (now the Hollywood Center Studios) in Los Angeles on a budget of $12,000.

Release:

Released on September 4, 1952 in New York City. The movie was later reissued as The Boys from Brooklyn

Trivia:

The original title was White Woman of the Lost Jungle

Decades later, the film was referenced by Martin Landau, who watched it three times in preparation for his role as Lugosi in Tim Burton’s biopic Ed Wood, saying that it was “so bad that it made Ed Wood’s films look like Gone with the Wind.

Image credits: The Bloody Pit of Horror

Related:

Going Ape! – A Short History of Who’s Inside the Gorilla Suit – article

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