In one of the more perverse woman-beast relationships captured on film until 1980’s Tanya’s Island (and later the Pam Anderson-Tommy Lee tape), the Ed Wood-penned The Bride and the Beast finds newlywed Laura with a strange fetish. You see, gorillas make her feel all funny…down there. She reads Gorilla-girl, goes to see the Gorilla-dale dancers, and the thought of King Kong’s wang gives her lock jaw.
Conveniently enough, her new husband Dan keeps a pet gorilla named Spanky in his basement, and on her very first night in the house, Spanky breaks out. He’s drawn to the couple’s bedroom — presumably by the scent of sterile, missionary sex — where he fondles Laura with glee, prompting Dan to shoot him dead. Laura defends the beast, calling him “beautiful” and claiming that he was just “trying to be tender.”
Strangely, she begins to have dreams of another life in which she was a gorilla that was killed by African tribesmen. So, where better to go to take her mind off of things than an African safari? Brilliant! See, Dan is a studly big game hunter who knows that in Africa, danger lurks around every corner: “A tarantula’s bite can be just as deadly as lion’s fang or an elephant’s foot.” Thank you, Marlon Perkins. The hunting scenes aren’t exactly PETA-approved or frankly very sporting, as the great white hunter basically runs down the animals in his truck, ties a rope around their necks, and lets the Africans have their way with them.
The Bride and the Beast seems to forget about the whole gorilla plot for the entire middle portion of the movie in favor of showing Dan track two man-eating tigers. Watch as he wrestles with tigers and gorillas and panthers, oh my! The only thing he doesn’t wrestle with is his wife, seeing as how they sleep in separate beds. As is typical with ’50s films, the black characters are scenery at best, if they’re even included at all. All of the nameless grunts on the safari are black (as are the “savages” who killed Laura in her previous life), while the main servants — houseboy Taro (whom American Johnny Roth portrays with a darkened face and pitiful attempts to speak broken English: “I go get luggage ready.”) and old cook Marka — are Indian, North African, Middle Eastern or some other lighter skinned race.
The old-fashioned values that The Bride and the Beast reinforces are unintentionally hilarious in today’s world: husbands and wives sleep in separate beds, big game hunting is somehow heroic, coffee and cigarettes for everyone, black people shouldn’t be seen or heard, white women are the end-all be-all treasure sought by man and beast, and men in gorilla suits are scary. In the end, though, the film bucks the traditional route in favor of a dark and kinky resolution, as Laura gives in to her animal instincts and is carried off into the jungle by a pack of gorillas. We aren’t privy to what goes on next, but suffice it to say, if the jungle’s a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’.