Plot: What’s it about?
After falling out of an airplane, Sammy Petrillo and Duke Mitchell find themselves on a lush, tropical island. But this is not a deserted isle by any means, as a native tribe is present and of course, our two boys run right into them. They soon the island is named Cola-Cola and while the natives look mean, they’re quite nice and take good care of the two. Duke even gets eyes for the chief’s gorgeous young daughter Nona (Charlita), while Sammy ends up with her overweight sister Saloma. The two are entertainers back in America and as such, Duke sings a serenade to Nona and the others, while Sammy makes them laugh with his dances and such. But all is not smooth sailing on this tropical paradise, as Dr. Zabor (Bela Lugosi) is a resident there also. Zabor is a mad scientist working on a serum to change humans into gorillas, a most unusual pursuit. When Zabor tires of seeing Duke chase after Nona, he decides to make our duo the next two to be changed…
Can this movie seriously be as ridiculous as the title makes it seem? The answer is without a doubt yes, as this is one of the silliest, campiest, so bad that it is good pictures I’ve seen. I’ve watched it a couple times now and I have to admit, I still don’t know what to make of it. I have seen a lot of offbeat movies in my life, but this one is so normal in approach, it almost seems like it was supposed to be legit, which makes it all that much funnier. Of course, Bela Lugosi is present and since he is a mad doctor turning people into apes, his performance is sheer lunacy, at least it was to me. As if that wasn’t enough, we have the biggest shine offs I’ve ever seen as Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo put on their best Martin & Lewis impersonations. The scene where Mitchell serenades the tribe is so hilarious, I had to reverse it and take in a couple of times. I have to recommend this to fans of camp comedies, as it made me laugh a lot and I think genre fans will have a lot of fun with this one. This disc from Image has scant extras, but looks excellent, so don’t miss out on this release.
His act might be aped from Jerry Lewis, but Sammy Petrillo is downright hilarious in this movie, so I didn’t mind his unoriginal tact. Petrillo is outrageous in this picture, even more over the top than Lewis often was, which is a real compliment in this case. I know some folks hate the all the whines and mugging for the camera, but it works to perfection here, perhaps because it is by someone ripping off Lewis, which adds even more humor, if you ask me. I wouldn’t say he is great here or even good really, but he was the right choice, given the nature of the film. You can also see Petrillo in such films as The Brain That Would Die, It’s A Sick Sick Sick World, Shangri-La, and Keyholes Are for Peeping. The cast also includes Duke Mitchell (Baby Face Nelson, Paradise Alley), Charlita (The Naked Dawn, El Dorado), and Bela Lugosi (Dracula, White Zombie).
Video: How does it look?
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla is presented in a full frame transfer, as intended. I had viewed the trailer prior to the film and my hopes were dismal, as the video levels in the trailer were nothing less than atrocious. But once the film started, all my worries were laid to rest, as the image is superb and shows none of the flaws that plagued the trailer. The print used is eons cleaner than I ever expected, with no grain and minimal defects to report, impressive stuff. The contrast is dead on also, so the black & white looks nothing short of tremendous, I can’t imagine fans ever expected the film to be given this kind of superb treatment. I commend Image and The Wade Williams Collection, as this is one top drawer visual presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio isn’t as impressive as the video, but it sounds good and better than expected, to be sure. The materials have some signs of age at times, but that’s to be expected in this case, at least to an extent. The music sounds piped in of course, but aside from that is solid in tone and sound effects are in fine form, no real complaints there. The dialogue is rich and clean also, with no distortion or other errors at all to report. This won’t make your head spin by any means, but this is as about as good as it gets, which is good enough.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a brief interview with star Sammy Petrillo, as well as the film’s humorous theatrical trailer.