The Ape (1940)

Approved  |   |  Horror  |  30 September 1940 (USA)
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Reviews: 44 user | 26 critic

Dr. Bernard Adrian is a kindly mad scientist who seeks to cure a young woman's polio. He needs spinal fluid from a human to complete the formula for his experimental serum. Meanwhile, a ... See full summary »



(suggested from the play: "The Ape") (as Adam Hull Shirk) , (adaptation) (as Kurt Siodmak) , 2 more credits »
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Complete credited cast:
Gene O'Donnell ...
Danny Foster
Dorothy Vaughan ...
Mother Clifford
Gertrude Hoffman ...
Jane - Adrian's Housekeeper (as Gertrude W. Hoffman)
Henry Hall ...
Sheriff Jeff Halliday
Dr. McNulty


Dr. Bernard Adrian is a kindly mad scientist who seeks to cure a young woman's polio. He needs spinal fluid from a human to complete the formula for his experimental serum. Meanwhile, a vicious circus ape has broken out of its cage, and is terrorizing towns people. Written by Marty McKee <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


He keeps human life in test tubes, and prowls at night in the skin of an ape! See more »




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

30 September 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Gorilla  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The play opened in Los Angeles, CA, on 12/13/27. See more »


When the doctor is showing off his 'cured' guinea pigs, one of the poor critters falls off the table, at the end of the shot. See more »


Danny Foster: I don't like things I can't understand.
See more »


Referenced in Cinemassacre's Monster Madness: The Screaming Skull (2010) See more »


Auld Lang Syne
Traditional Scottish music
Played on a bugle by a relaxing circus worker
See more »

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User Reviews

Choppy Video, But Decent Nonetheless
16 April 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

A local doctor and scientist (Boris Karloff) is working on a treatment for paralysis. He finds the cure requires human spinal fluid. But to get such a thing, he must kill. And then a local circus starts on fire and a murderous ape escapes...

First, let me give a shout out to director William Nigh of Berlin, Wisconsin. I always have to support my local directors, even if they're dead. And while there was nothing really out of the ordinary as far as directing style, it was good just the same. And Nigh has a history of working with Karloff, which I'm sure helps quite a bit (look at Tim Burton and Johnny Depp).

This film has a strong point, a weak point and a mediocre pint. The strong point is the plot. My summary will sound strange to those who haven't seen the movie. There is a circus, an ape, a scientist and people are getting killed. It really fits together very nicely, and I found this to be impressive. Many older films fill time with extra fluff, but this one was only the necessities and even that was pretty thorough.

The weak point is the film quality. I don't think I can blame the movie for its quality, but the sound is not great, the picture is not great, and many frames are missing entirely. Either lost, or filmed with bad equipment. Once I adjusted, this wasn't such a big deal. But other films from this time period have fared better, so I wish this had been one of them. A restored, touched up version of this film would have been vastly superior.

The mediocre point is the costume designer. The ape was obviously a man in a costume. However, despite this being obvious it was still a very good costume and worked for the sake of the picture. Can I reasonably expect a better ape without a real ape being used (which would be much harder to control, of course)? Perhaps not. So I give them credit for the effort. (And I assume the costume here is much nicer than the one used in the earlier theatrical production.) This film was alright. As far as older, lower quality movies go, I think this is better than much of the stuff we now call "classic". Karloff delivers, as usual... and we get a good story that has a nice dark comedy element to it, or at least an element of sympathy for evil acts. And that's always nice.

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