THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST. Allied Artists, 1958). Charlotte Austin, Lance Fuller, Johnny Roth, William Justine, and Ray “Crash” Corrigan as “Spanky.” Written by Adrian Weiss and Ed Wood Jr. 2nd Unit/Assistant director: Harry Fraser. Photographed by Roland Price. Directed by Adrian Weiss.

   A classic in the annals of bad movies, with screen creds to go with it.

   Readers here recognize Ed Wood’s name at once, but how many can recall Roland C. Price “the Vagabond Cameraman” who made Lash of the Penitentes (1936) at some risk to his life? Likewise, Ray Corrigan made his name in B Westerns and Jungle movies, but Harry Fraser wrote, produced and/or directed scores of them – all terrible.(See my reference to both gentlemen here. And speaking of credits, I just wish I could name the old tiger-hunt movie that died so this film could live.

   Let’s get the plot out of the way first — which is more than the movie does. As the story opens, newlyweds Laura (Charlotte Austin) and Dan (Lance Fuller) indulge in some circular, pointless dialogue (a trademark of Ed Wood’s prose style.) en route to his castle/menagerie where the only animal seems to be a gorilla (Ray “Crash” Corrigan”) kept in a cage in a dungeon-like room — there’s a refrigerator, but it’s lit by torches; architecture for Ed Wood was more about mood than function.

   Anyway, Laura finds herself strangely attracted to the ape, and he to her. So much so that he breaks out of his cage, invades the nuptial chamber (with its twin beds) and is quickly shot dead by Dan.

   The next day, Dan calls in his Psychologist-buddy (named Dr Carl Reiner, and yes, her name is Laura, but the Dick Van Dyke show was still a few years away.) to see why his bride is so upset (!), and the Doc immediately suspects it has something to do with a past life. Before you can say “Bridey Murphy,” he hypnotizes Laura and regresses her to a past life where she was a gorilla running through scenes from old jungle movies.

   Next thing we know, Dan & Laura are on their Honeymoon, on safari in Africa (“Get some rest. Tomorrow we’ll be in Gorilla country.”) and….

   …And then the Gorillas go on sabbatical or something so we can watch another movie. Producer Weiss, an old hand with stock footage, throws in a line about tigers escaping from a shipwreck, the extras start wearing turbans and saris, and we spend the next half hour with Dan hunting tigers and trying to look like the guy in the other movie. Getting back to this movie, the gorillas don’t return till the last ten minutes, when they abduct Laura and carry her off to Bronson Canyon, that elephant’s graveyard of cheap movies, where Dan catches up and….

   …and I don’t want to spoil it for you. But I will say that Charlotte Austin is a much better actress than one should expect in a mess like this. There are times she even convinces me that she’s haunted by her inner ape, just like it says there in the script. I’m not saying she’s another Ethel Barrymore, but I will observe that it’s easier to be convincing amid the splendor at MGM than in the squalor of Bronson Canyon.

   Maybe Ms Austin’s to blame for it, but Bride/Beast just misses slipping easily into the so-bad-it’s-good bracket. Or perhaps I expected too much from a film with this pedigree. At any rate, Bride is firmly in the fun-if-you’re-in-the-mood rankings, and on that level I can recommend it highly.