Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Gorilla Of My Dreams

This is my first entry in the It's In the Name of the Title Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews and Taking Up Room

 Way back in the early 2000's, I was in the habit of ordering a pizza on Saturday nights.  On one occasion the pizza place I did business with had a deal.  Pizza and a Movie.  What the deal was, you order a large pizza and along with it came a DVD of some movie,

They only did it a few times. It probably wasn't all that profitable. You didn't get a big budget gonzo movie. To be honest, the ones I got in those deals were public domain movies that I could have gotten anywhere on multi-disc sets for a few dollars.  I only have two of them, now, 20 years later.  One was Abbott and Costello meet the Mummy, (which came with a bonus episode of the TV show The Munsters, so it must've been a Halloween promotion.) The same thing could probably be said about today's movie. 

...I mean Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla? Just Lugosi's name suggests horror.  Unfortunately for Lugosi, he got typecast, although given the career he had under that typecast, I would have been happy with it, even if, as I have heard, he wasn't necessarily so happy. But at any rate, even if it wasn't for Halloween, it was a decent bonus to go along with pizza.

The DVD itself, I mean, not necessarily the movie on it.  But, as I've said before, I enjoy low budget trash as much as those huge budget epics, sometimes even more so. I like pushing the envelope and see if I can get a reaction from people.  

A few of the movies I've reviewed over the course of the history of this blog fall into a category of what I would call "Really??? That's your movie choice?"  (I can imagine the consternation of some of my fellow bloggers with the choices I came up with to join heir blogathons.)

Case in point.  A few years ago I posted a review of a double feature: Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter  (both directed by the same guy who directed today's feature, BTW). Neither of these movies would be on the radar of most people (in fact, most people have probably never even HEARD of them).

So back to the focus of today. Some interesting tidbits of trivia:  Sammy Petrillo, half of the comedy duo of Petrillo and Duke Mitchell, got his start because Jerry Lewis saw him perform and liked the almost dead-on imitation of Lewis that Petrillo had perfected and gave him his first role (as a baby version of Jerry Lewis on his own TV show}.  But apparently there was a falling out at some point, because by the time this movie came out, Lewis was ready to sue over the obvious similarity between the two characters and his and Dean Martin's comedy pairings.

William Beaudine, famously referred to as "One Take Beaudine" for his tendency to stay on budget by going with the first take of filming no matter how bad, is often ranked with Ed Wood as one of the worst directors to ever come out of Hollywood (Make room, Ed...). He had a huge career. From 1915 until 1970 he directed over 400 movies.  None of which are all that memorable. He did direct a slew of movies featuring The Bowery Boys, so those who are interested in 40's and 50's comedies may have seen his films (albeit maybe not know it was him behind the camera...)

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla was one of the movies that Martin Landau watched to get a feel for Bela Lugosi in preparation for his role as the actor in Tim Burton's biopic of Ed Wood. Landau commented on Beaudine's film that it was "so bad it makes Ed Wood films look like Gone with the Wind. " (Ouch!) 

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952):

First thing you notice in this film is the title sequence. After the movie title it lists the cast. "Introducing Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo" comes immediately after the title, followed by a list of the rest of the cast that merited getting listed, including the major roles played by Charlita as Nona and even Ramona as Ramona (the chimp).

Missing from the cast list is Bela's name... Wait a minute! I thought this was Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla... Is Lugosi not in it? Well, you get his name in the title, so maybe that counts for saying "Starring Bela Lugosi"...

The movie opens with one of those old-style documentary featurettes, featuring some stock footage of jungle creatures and a voice over: "This is the jungle..." which ends with the camera on two bearded men lying on the jungle floor while the announcer says "Who are these men? What can they possibly be doing in this cruel tropical wildness?"

The men are Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo (playing themselves), a comedy/singing duo who were on their way to do a show for Armed Services personnel, but end up on the jungle floor.  Waiting to be discovered by... what else... jungle natives. 

Duke and Sammy

The head medicine man (Milton Newberger) is insisting that they kill them (At least, that's what I think "hoo li ga vahntay" and slicing his hand across his throat means...) But the two have a savior in the person of the daughter of the chief, Rakos (Al Kikume) of the tribe who doesn't want them to be killed (OK, so that is what the medicine man is insisting..) Instead they get cleaned up and shaved.

Upon awakening, the two introduce themselves to their savior, Nona (Charlita) and the rest of the tribe. And the real reason that Nona has saved them from sacrifice becomes evident... she has the hots for Duke.  And her baby sister, Saloma (Muriel Landers), has a likewise attraction to Sammy,

Nona and Rakos


Dean and Jerry, I mean Duke and Sammy, perform a song from their act for the tribe, with Duke singing one of the two songs featured in the film, " 'Deed I Do".  But they want to get off the island and back to civilization.  Fortunately (coincidentally..) for them, Nona works part time helping a scientist on the other side of the island, Dr. Zabor (Bela).  

Dr Zabor

Seems that Dr. Zabor is working on some experiments in the science of evolution.  And (plot point that drives the last half of the film) Zabor also has the hots for Nona. (Of course, he does.) So Nona takes Duke and Sammy to meet the Doctor.  Who lives in a fairly creepy mansion on the other side of the island with his native manservant, Chula (Mickey Simpson).  Nona is not only acquainted with Dr. Zabor, she also works part time  as his laboratory assistant.  (Which explains how the doc has become so enamored with Nona, she's always hanging around his lab doing assistant things.

Zabor has a monkey named Ramona, who is probably a potential victim of his nefarious experiments in the future.  Ramona takes an immediate shine to Sammy, but Sammy, of course, does not consider Ramona to be much of  an improvement over Saloma...

The first thing that Zabor notices about the two is Nona seems to have an interest in Duke, which makes Zabor a little jealous... (A little?)  So since the doc has his secret experiments on the study of evolution (you know the science that says man was originally a variation of the ape in it's past), he decides to use his knowhow to eliminate the competition.

How?  His experiments have been on how to reverse evolution.  Or at least that's what his ultimate goal is.  He experiments first on Ramona (I told you see was going to be a victim...)  He injects Ramona  with is serum and ends up with a monkey that has reverted to an earlier life form.  He tells Chula that now he can turn a man into a gorilla.  But don't worry Chula, he has another victim in mind to test out this serum...

But the problem is that the serum he used on Ramona did not last, and before he can show off the results of his success, Ramona has reverted back to her normal self.  (And, see, all those tears you were crying for poor Ramona turn out to be tears too soon...)

The terror is only just beginning however.  Remember how I said Zabor wanted Nona for himself and was getting a little peeved that Duke was getting somewhere with her when he couldn't?
  Well he gets Chula to kidnap Duke and, while Sammy and Nona have gone back to the village to look for him, Duke is stuck in Zabor's cages, having been injected with Zabor's new and improved serum. Which is a resounding success.  Duke is transformed into a gorilla, played, as usual, by that whiz who made his living doing gorillas in the 50's movies; Ray Corrigan. I think it was his suit, so it was probably in the contract that he would be the one to wear it... (You didn't REALLY think it was a REAL gorilla, did you...?)

When Nona and Sammy return. Zabor tries to convince that the gorilla is really Ramona.  But Sammy eventually becomes convinced otherwise.  See, even though Duke has become a gorilla physically, he still retains the mind and intelligence of Duke and takes various steps to try to convey the situation to Sammy.  Which may take a bit of effort, since Sammy is a couple of marbles short of a hopscotch game.

While trying to figure out how to resolve the situation another gorilla appears on the scene. The new gorilla turns out to be a female gorilla whose hormones go into overdrive on seeing Duke.  The two manage to escape and get back to the tribe, but they have been followed by Zabor, who has his eyes set on killing Duke.  Sammy jumps in front of duke to save him, but the doctor ends up shooting Sammy instead.

And then, in the classic ending, it all turns out to be a dream. Sammy dreamt the whole thing and everyone he knows was actually a part of the dream (shades of The Wizard of Oz!!), which it turns out he was having while waiting to go onstage with Duke as part of their act.  Nona and the chief were an act that involved, apparently, a trainer and her gorilla, which was actually the chief in a gorilla costume. Chula is apparently a bouncer.  And the guy who is in charge of the theater? None other than Zabor. 

The End.  And since there are no closing credits, Bela is STILL not credited as having been a part of the movie....

Folks, this is one of those films that requires that you leave your brain at the box office and just go in with only your eyes, because you won't need the rest of your body.  Entertaining?  On one level, yes.  But if you are a big fan of the Martin/Lewis pairing, you may have some issues with the more than obvious imitation by Petrillo trying to do Lewis. Which may convince you that Lewis had a good reason to get annoyed by the act.  Of course, this kind of thing couldn't have much to keep it afloat.  Sammy only had 5 roles in movies and Duke only had 9 and as near as I can tell, this was the only one that paired them together.

After this movie, Bela Lugosi was only able to get work with Ed Wood.  Only 4 movies before he passed away and three were with Wood.  A sad ending for man who had a great career scaring the bejeebers out of people for years in his heyday. 

Well, time to get the next boat out of the theater and get back to civilization.  Drive safely, folks.




  1. I haven't seen any of Lugosi's films but I loved the Ed Wood biopic and Martin Landau was wonderful. You mentioned he watched this movie for research into his role - so this totally sold this movie to me, thanks for joining our blogathon. Got my blogathon entry ready for your one next week so watch this space.

    1. Not even "Dracula"? You've been missing out. Thanks for reading.

  2. Btw thanks so much for your post - I've added this to my Day 4 and recap post.

  3. Hi Quiggy - I love your 'pizza and a movie' story; marketing ploys were so creative back they just inundate your inbox and annoy you with pop-ups that you used to get only on adult websites!

    Your film also brings to mind Ed Wood for me and also my Dad - we both loved cheesy horror films and I have seen Billy the Kid vs Dracula more than once! So this one I know need to see--the lead guy looks like a low-budget Jerry Lewis!

    1. One of these days I have to do an overview of Lugosi (as well as Karloff and a couple of others who made their primary marks in horror) Thanks for reading, Chris.

  4. I think your excellent review was more entertaining than the movie, itself (which I barely remember watching... at least I think I watched it).

    P.S., I enjoy these visits to movies on the fringes. Keep 'em up!

    1. Some of these picks I've done are of that type I refer to as "Really? That's your choice?" Love keeping people wondering if I'm all here... Thanks for reading.

  5. It sounds like this movie has its foibles (including the ultimate cheesy cop-out ending: a dream), and it might be sad to watch this as part of Bela Lugosi's slide to the bottom, but you've sold me on it. I love that it was included in a pizza promotion.

    1. It's in a wikipedia article listing the "worst movies". Some of those are actually quite entertaining in their own right. Thanks for reading.

  6. Guess I'm not most people because I have heard and seen some of the films you've mentioned in this review. However, I have not seen Bela Lugosi meets a Brooklyn gorilla! It sounds bonkers in the best way possible!

    I absolutely love the idea of receiving a movie with a pizza! Shame it didn't last longer, but at least it provided you with this gem!

    1. Don't have to wait for a pizza deal to do these, but sometimes you get ones you may never have even discovered otherwise. Thanks for reading.

  7. Pizza and a movie deal? Can we bring that back because that sounds awesome! I need to watch this film because it sounds like a hoot! xox

    1. It's worth a look. Maybe not worth multiple viewings, but only a few have ever reached that level for me. Thanks for reading.

  8. This sounds like a goofball of a movie, and Sammy looks a little bit like Jerry Lewis. I'll have to look for it. Thanks for joining our blogathon, Quiggy! Oh, and speaking of blogathons, I don't know if Rich sent you this, but he's our first entry for Friday:


I'm pretty liberal about freedom of speech, but if you try to use this blog to sell something it will be deleted.