Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla

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Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla poster.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWilliam Beaudine
Produced byMaurice Duke
Written byTim Ryan
StarringBela Lugosi
Duke Mitchell
Sammy Petrillo
Music byRichard Hazard
CinematographyCharles Van Enger
Edited byPhilip Cahn
Distributed byRealart Pictures Inc.
Release date
Running time
74 min
CountryUnited States
Mitchell and Petrillo in Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (also known as The Boys from Brooklyn) is a 1952 American comedy horror science fiction film directed by William Beaudine and starring horror veteran Bela Lugosi and nightclub comedians Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo in roles approximating the then-popular duo of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.


On their way to perform in Guam for the troops, nightclub performers Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo find themselves stranded on a seemingly treacherous island, known by the natives as "Kola Kola". The natives are quite friendly, especially Nona, the tribal chief's daughter, who tries to help the two get off the island. Though Paradise has been found, for the time being, the duo soon discovers that a mad scientist named Dr. Zabor (Bela Lugosi) lives on the other side of the island. Seeing a chance to get help, the two visit the strange doctor. Tension mounts as Duke falls in love with Nona. Seeing Duke as a threat, a jealous Dr. Zabor plans to literally make a monkey out of Duke, for he too loves Nona. Sammy tries to help his pal, with unexpected results.



During the 1950s, comedian Sammy Petrillo had established something of a career imitating comedian Jerry Lewis, who he closely resembled. Petrillo worked for Lewis at one point after an agent set up a meeting with Lewis who then cast him in a sketch on the NBC show The Colgate Comedy Hour. For $60, he played Jerry Lewis as a baby in a crib.[3] Petrillo went on to form a musical comedy team in the style of Martin and Lewis with singer Duke Mitchell. With Mitchell in the Dean Martin role and Petrillo as Jerry Lewis, the team played in various clubs in Las Vegas among other cities. Maurice Duke, who managed the duo, had pitched the idea of Petrillo and Mitchell starring in a movie to several studios. Duke eventually pitched the idea to Realart Pictures Inc. co-owner Jack Broder and his assistant, producer Herman Cohen. Duke then took Broder to see Petrillo and Mitchell perform in Culver City. While Broder thought the duo was hilarious, Herman Cohen (who saw the duo's act later) said he thought Petrillo and Mitchell "stunk".[4] Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla was to be the first in a series of films starring Mitchell and Petrillo, but wound up as their only film together.[5]

According to Herman Cohen, Jerry Lewis was furious when he heard that Sammy Petrillo and Duke Mitchell had formed a team that was imitative of his act with Dean Martin, and that they were to appear in a film together. Gary Lewis, Jerry's eldest son was quoted, "When Sammy and the other guy played in that gorilla movie, I remember my dad and Dean saying, ‘We got to sue these guys — this is no good.’"[3] Lewis, who knew Jack Broder through the Friars Club of Beverly Hills, showed up at Jack Broder's office. The two got into a screaming match over the film and Lewis stormed out yelling obscenities.[6] Paramount Pictures producer Hal B. Wallis, who then had Martin and Lewis under contract and also knew Broder through the Friars Club, threatened to sue Broder for releasing a film that featured a duo that closely resembled Martin and Lewis.[7] Wallis and Broder later had a meeting after filming had completed and, according to Herman Cohen, Broder offered to sell Hal Wallis the negative to the film for a substantial amount of money. Wallis agreed to buy it so he could destroy it before anyone could see it but Broder and Wallis could not agree on price. Broder released the film and Wallis never spoke to Broder again.[8]

Bela Lugosi was cast because Realart Pictures Inc., the company that produced the film, had reissued many of Lugosi's Universal horror films from the 1920s and 1930s. By 1952, Lugosi's career had sharply declined and he hadn't worked in years. The film's associate producer Herman Cohen later recalled that Lugosi was quite ill at the time due to his addiction to morphine, but acted professionally and was nice.[9] The film was originally to be titled White Woman of the Lost Jungle. The Gorilla title was thought up by Jack Broder's ten-year-old son. Associate producer Herman Cohen decided it would be foolish not to exploit Bela Lugosi's appearance in the film and decide to retitle the film using Lugosi's name.[10]

Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla was filmed over a six-day period at the General Service Studios (now the Hollywood Center Studios) in Los Angeles.[1][11] The film's budget was $12,000.[1]

In his long-running Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin jokingly called it "one of the all-time greats."

Decades later, the film was referenced by Martin Landau, who watched it three times in preparation for his role as Lugosi in the biopic Ed Wood, saying that it was "so bad that it made Ed Wood's films look like Gone with the Wind."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Frank, Alan G. (1982). The Horror Film Handbook. Barnes & Noble Books-Imports. p. 49. ISBN 0-389-20260-6.
  2. ^ a b Weaver 2010 p.96
  3. ^ a b [1] New York Times "Sammy Petrillo, Comedian" Obituary, By DENNIS HEVESI, August 24, 2009
  4. ^ Weaver 2010 p.93
  5. ^ Weaver 2010 p.97
  6. ^ Weaver 2010 p.94
  7. ^ Rhodes, Gary Don (1997). Lugosi: His Life in Films, on Stage, and in the Hearts of Horror Lovers. McFarland. p. 141. ISBN 0-786-40257-1.
  8. ^ Weaver 2010 pp.96-7
  9. ^ Weaver, Tom (2010). A Sci-Fi Swarm and Horror Horde: Interviews with 62 Filmmakers. McFarland. pp. 95–96. ISBN 0-786-45831-3.
  10. ^ Tom Weaver, "Herrrman, I vant to talk vith yyyooouuu…! Archived 2008-10-09 at the Wayback Machine"
  11. ^ Weaver, Tom (2003). Double Feature Creature Attack: A Monster Merger of Two More Volumes of Classic Interviews. McFarland. p. 49. ISBN 0-786-41366-2.

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