“It walks on his hind legs.” “Like a man?” “No, like a beast that walks like a man.”
In the South American jungles on a remote rubber plantation the plantation manager, Barney Chavez (Raymond Burr), does his best to do as little work as possible. He spends most of his time paying attention to his elderly boss' beautiful wife. His boss is Klaas Van Gelder (Paul Cavanagh). Klaas’s wife is Dina (Barbara Payton). Klaas notices that Barney is spending too much time on his wife instead of his chores. He fires Barney. Later that night Barney confronts Klaas and causes him to be bitten by a snake. Barney is in love with Dina. An old woman, a native witch, named Al-Long (Gisela Werbisek) witnesses what happens.
The police commissioner Taro (Lon Chaney) is an educated man but still a superstitious one. He arrives to investigate the plantation owner’s death. He suspects that something is not right, but he has no proof. He suspects that Barney had something to do with Klaas’s death. Both Mrs. Van Gelder and Al-Long give Barney alibis. Klaas’s cause of death is suffocation from snake venom. Taro has no choice but to accept the alibis. Al-Long doesn’t want Barney arrested. She has different plans for him. She puts a curse on him.
Barney and Dina get married as soon as Klaas is buried. On their wedding night Barney runs out into the jungle leaving Dina alone. The curse is already starting. Barney is beginning to act like a savage. He begins to think he is transforming into a gorilla. He is only happy when he is prowling around in the jungle at night. Dina believes that he has come down with some kind of jungle fever.
There are animal killings going on. Some people think it is a demon called a sukara. Dr. Viet (Tom Conway) believes Barney is being poisoned. Dina is becoming suspicious of Barney. He is spending more time in the jungle. Taro realizes that Barney’s disappearances at night coincide with the animal killings in the land. Taro and Dr. Viet work to get to the bottom of the mystery.
“Bride of the Gorilla” was released in 1951 and was written and directed by Curt Siodmak. Although the movie is labeled a horror movie, I would also call it a psychological drama or thriller. The only time you see the gorilla is when Barney is either looking in a mirror or at his reflection in water. Is he really changing into a gorilla, or does he just think he is? The villagers that report seeing a creature can’t really explain what they saw and some of the descriptions don’t match. People often see what they want to see. If you expect to see a beast that walks like a man, then that is what you see.
The name of the movie is a little misleading. Dina doesn’t actually marry a gorilla. “Bride of the Gorilla” sounds campy and cheesy, but it is actually quite serious. There’s murder and psychological torture. Sort of a “Gaslight” in the jungle.