10/20/12: Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Paulie Marino. “And I’d better get some laughs this time or I’ll be collecting unemployment insurance.” Today’s Blog is dedicated to my beautiful wife, Cindy, who married me 29 years ago today.


Though I wrote the Blog today, 10/22/12, I screened William Beaudine’s 1952 comedy, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla on Saturday 10/20/12. Coincidentally, it was Bela Lugosi’s birthday. He would have turned 130. The movie stars, of course, Bela Lugosi, who is not included anywhere in the credits. The producers decided that the title’s billing was sufficient. And, interestingly, he doesn’t play himself per se (although he characterizes himself as Count Dracula a couple of times). He plays mad scientist, Dr. Zabor, who lives on the jungle island Kola Kola performing evolutionary & devolutionary experiments on primates. His co-stars are Duke Mitchell & Sammy Petrillo as themselves doing ‘their act’, which is a blatant impersonation of another comedy team of the era, Deam Martin & Jerry Lewis. Lewis, in fact, sued Petrillo for copying his act, but later dropped the suit. This is the only film the pair made together. Both are accurately given ‘Introducing’ credits. It was Petrillo’s premiere and, although it was Mitchell’s second film, he was uncredited in his first. Fred Rose & Walter Hirsch’s 1926 jazz classic, Deed I Do, is used by Mitchell & Petrillo thematically throughout the movie. Interestingly, that tune was the first song on which Benny Goodman recorded, in the third version released for the 1926 holiday season.

The duo end up on the island accidentally when they fall out of a plane on their way to a show for the troops stationed in Guam. They’re forced to use their parachutes & the film opens with them being captured by a friendly tribe. The chief’s daughter, Nona, is played by the gorgeous journeywoman Charlita – both Dr. Zabor & Duke’s love interest. Petrillo, in the meantime, is being pursued by Nona’s overweight sister, Saloma (Muriel Landers). Perhaps my favorite performance is turned in by the chimp, Ramona. You may know her better as Cheetah.


Even though it’s goofy & funny in parts, there are no accolades for Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. It’s largely panned & deservedly so. It’s worth a look, if for no other reason, to see just how embarrassingly plagiaristic Mitchell & Petrillo’s act really is. Further, if you’ve never seen a film with Lugosi, you should check it out. His acting career spanned 43 years from the silent era to Ed Wood’s cult classic, Plan 9 from Outer Space, released in 1959 – 3 years after he died. On 2/8/60, the Hungarian born Lugosi was awarded a Motion Picture Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The set director for the movie was Edward G. Boyle, credited as Edward Boyle.  He was nominated for 7 Best Art & Set Direction Oscars, winning for The Apartment in 1961 at the 33rd Academy Awards.

I’ve linked the full movie below.was filmed in just nine days on a budget of $50,000.When you watch it, you won’t be surprised. 1 Star!!!


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