The Concession Stand

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Hall of Infamy: Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla

Hollywood has always “borrowed” from itself. When Elizabeth Taylor became a sensation, Joan Collins was imported by MGM as its “answer” to Elizabeth’s popularity. After Marilyn Monroe became a popular pinup, Jayne Mansfield tried to capture some of that magic for herself. (Did we mention Jayne Mansfield just so that we could have an excuse to show these pictures of other stars staring at her? Yes. Yes we did.)

While Joan Collins and Jayne Mansfield took roles in the types of films that their respective rivals starred in, they brought much more to the screen than just impersonating them. Far lazier Stars would do just that, however.

Martin and Lewis were THE top comedy team in their era. The suave, smooth talking Dean Martin could charm the skirt off of any woman he pleased, while the nerdy Jerry Lewis could make them laugh until their sides split. The two perfected their act during countless nightclub performances and eventually took it to Hollywood where their pictures made millions. Others saw the money that the comedy duo was earning and decided that they could try to get their share. Rather than borrow from Dean and Jerry, however, the comedy team from today’s Hall of Infamy selection just blatantly stole it.

Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo were a comedy duo in which Duke was the smooth talking lothario and Sammy was the nerdy comic relief. While Sammy was practically a dead ringer for Jerry Lewis, Duke sort of resembled Dean. The two took their stolen act on the road, performing in obscure venues that Dean and Jerry wouldn’t be caught dead in. Eventually they decided to make their motion picture debut in Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla.

This picture not only stole Dean and Martin’s act, it also shamelessly copied from another comedy team- Abbott and Costello. Abbott and Costello staged a comeback of sorts when they were paired up with Universal’s famed monsters. Bela Lugosi had even starred in the most successful of the pictures- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein- four short years before he was reduced to starring in this blatant copy.

The picture featured the faux Martin and Lewis duo becoming stranded on an island with beautiful native women and a mysterious scientist played by Bela Lugosi. Bela’s Freakish experiments turn Duke into the titular Gorilla and all hope seems lost until SPOILER ALERT - we discover it was all a Dream. As it turns out, Duke and Sammy are part of a traveling show that features everyone they encounter on the island, making the entire film a waste of time.

The picture bombed at the box office and was the end of the road for this “comedy” team. While Duke went on to produce and star in increasingly bizarre films, Sammy allegedly just annoyed Jerry Lewis and was forced into retirement.