Scot Webster tries to save his sister Susan from the clutches of gangster W.S. Bruhl. When Scot comes to Bruhl's rented room, one of the gangster's henchmen collapses into his hands, killed by a gunman. The murderer tosses his gun to Scot and disappears. Since all the evidence points at him, Scot is arrested, tried and sentenced to death. A mad scientist uses his brain to transplant it into a gorilla. After the operation Scot wakes up in the body of a gorilla, eager to get his revenge... Written by
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
After the horror revival of the late thirties, Paramount decided to get in on the act with this rare excursion into "monster movies." But this is a weird hybrid, as if a film about a white slavery ring was in production and the powers that be decided to tear off the last half of the script and graft a ham-fisted (or banana-fisted) monster subplot onto it. It certainly makes for fascinating viewing, as long as you know what's coming. A tenuous similarity could be considered with 'From Dusk Til Dawn' wherein a story about two hostage-taking killers on the run suddenly switches gears half-way and becomes an outlandish vampire gore-a-thon. This 1941 release does have a resemblance to Karloff's 1939 'The Man They Could Not Hang' (Karloff a hanged scientist brought back to life with electricity proceeds to kill off the jurors that convicted him.) Nonetheless, this film's bifurcated storyline is almost delightful if only from the sheer crackpot audacity of trying to pull it off.
No need to recount the plot, it's simple enough. It's thirty minutes of trial and flashback to the white slavery set-up, then thirty minutes of Frankenstein-ian ape-crazed nonsense with a quick wrap up. The only hurdle to overcome is the amateur performance of Phillip Terry as the condemned man Webster. He drudges his way through as if told he was in a zombie movie, then behaves like a Stepford Wife in the flashback, then later does an over-the-top hysteria jag in his last scene. Inept. But he doesn't play the ape, thank goodness! That job is performed by Charles Gemora (who played the martian in 1953's 'War of The Worlds') and he does it subtly and effectively. Considering the highly-charged second half, it's too bad the writer and director didn't take advantage and really play up the tension and the murder scenes. Here's a case where a film could have run a little longer for a change. And thankfully the ape doesn't talk and Webster's sister (Ellen Drew) doesn't do that "I recognized him by his eyes" nonsense that it looks like it was heading for. There's also a terrific cast of familiar second-tier actor faces employed including Marc Lawrence, a young Rod Cameron, Joseph Calleia, Abner Biberman, Cliff Edwards and even Bud Jamison (Jamison familiar to Three Stooges fans). Granted the film's short running time doesn't give them much screen time (but oddly enough, the faceless unknowns Robert Paige, Terry and Drew get most of the camera-time). And one last enjoyable note is seeing George Zucco as the transplant doctor hovering throughout the film. In the first part of the film he is just hanging around, given little attention, as if waiting like the rest of us to get to the 'monster' part of the story. Then after he does his movie-changing brain transplant, he once again hangs around mostly in the background (at each murder scene), with no one really asking him why he's always there. It's all part of the oddness of this little curio.
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