Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952)



Notes: The most thorough write-up of this movie can be found here.

Duke: Duke Mitchell
Sammy: Sammy Petrillo
Nona: Charlita
Dr. Zabor: Bela Lugosi
Also starring Muriel Landers, Mickey Simpson, Al Kikume Steve Calvert.
Gorilla: Ray “Crash” Corrigan
Chimp: Ramona the Chimp

Directed: William Beaudine
Screenplay: Tim Ryan
Produced: Jack Broder

Summary: “This is the jungle … cunning [see the hyena], proud [see a lion] … and the buzzards, eager to devour the dead or the dying … kill or be killed,” says the narrative voice: an inappropriate start, given the ending of this film.

Jungle natives on the island of Kola Kola discover a comedy duo who accidentally parachuted out of a plane while on a USO tour of the Pacific with a show on Guam. The chief and his daughter, Nona, bring them to the village and hold a luau. Duke and Nona are interested in each other, while Sammy (the Jerry Lewis plagiarist) tries to escape the attentions of Nona’s fat sister, Saloma. With an orchestra that simply is not present, Duke, a la Dean Martin (or Tony Curtis?), sings “Indeed I Do.” Nona turns out to have been to a western college, so she knows the bustle of civilization and prefers life on the island, but if Duke and Sammy want to return home, they should see Dr. Zabor, who lives in an architecturally inappropriate castle on the island and works on evolutionary experiments.

Sammy worries perpetually about being found by “Two-Ton Salami,” and snarky comments are overheard by Dr. Zabor who enters, saying, “Welcome to my ‘creep-joint.'” Sammy is convinced that Zabor bites people on the nek and wears capes, but in any case it’ll take several days for them to be able to get off the island. When Zabor is alone with Nona, he insists, “I love you. I want you.” But she responds, “Must we go over that again?”

In a monkey lab, Zabor tells the other two that “scientists have proven” evolution and that he has developed a growth hormone that can accomplish complete embryonic metamorphosis rapidly. Later, Ramona the Chimp unlocks her own cage and gets into bed with Sammy.

After a meal, Duke and Nona rendezvous outside, but Zabor sends a goon to follow them. The couple talk of marriage and Duke sings “Too Soon.” Zabor gives Ramona a shot, and the chimp regresses to a small monkey (though really a different species). The next morning, Ramona is back, so the serum was not strong enough. A servant conks Duke on the head and Zabor orders: “Put him in the cage. Take off his clothes.” Duke transforms into a gorilla, and when Sammy comes to the lab, he thinks the gorilla is really Ramona. A desperate game of charades ensues, until Sammy sees the real Ramona and Duke tries crudely to sing. Once the recognition takes place, Sammy and Ape-Duke pace. Sammy anticipates their new act’s title: Sammy Petrillo and the Singing Gorilla. Duke is enraged, but his grunts attract a real gorilla, who climbs in the window and molests Ape-Duke.

After a bit more chaos, Zabor gets a rifle and shoots Sammy.

Sammy is woken up by Duke in time for their show at the nightclub, the Jungle Hut, in New Jersey. Characters in the “dream” are club personnel. Lugosi threatens the duo with unemployment, and the fat sister is a dancer. After the duo, announced as “fireballs of fun,” appear on stage, there’s one last song.

Commentary: Again, the best write-up of this movie can be found here.

Ape Films