The Ape Man (1943)
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The Ape Man concerns Lugosi as Dr. James Brewster - an extremely unlikely name for a Hungarian - desperately searching out human spinal fluid to cure himself of his apish affliction. He'd have been better off just getting a shave. The newspaper byline over his photo lists him as "strangely missing"!
Lugosi and his pet ape kill a butler for his first victim - a guy who looks like Alfred Hitchcock's half-brother. Extraction done, spinal fluid injected, all Lugsoi does is straighten up a bit.
Wallace Ford and Louise Currie also appear. Ford had appeared in several horrors up to this point - notably Freaks and The Mummy's Hand. Currie starred in several of these Monogram potboilers. They have my sympathy.
As the story develops a character named Zippo pops up now and then to direct things or warn people off when Lugosi's on the prowl...and he turns out at the end to be the author of the story! "Screwy idea, wasn't it?" Screwy is not the word I would use...
Like countless horror films from the period it focuses on a mad scientist. In this case his experiments involve spinal fluid extracted from a gorilla, which he naturally uses on himself which turns him into the title character. In all honesty he looks more like a member of the indie band Oasis than an actual ape man. He is a pretty low budget monster to say the least. Unsurprisingly his sidekick is a gorilla played by that ever present staple of 40's movies, namely a man in an ape suit. This pair of villains goes around murdering poor unfortunates for reasons that I can actually recall but simply cannot be bothered typing out. Needless to say, they find themselves up against that other staple of 40's potboilers – a wisecracking duo of male and female sleuths. They don't provide much successful comedy and Lugosi isn't very scary, so the result is a film that can only be appreciated if you take it with a pinch of salt and can get on-board with its campy nonsense value. It's pretty poor overall, but not exactly painfully so and will offer something to those who like to seek horror movies in the old style.
It's not to be taken seriously, of course, since it's all very goofy and over melodramatic. Lugosi does turn in some genuine moments of acting that hold the attention, whilst an array of energetic characters buzz in and out of the story. The science is nutty and the means and motives of Lugosi's initial experiments are left floating up where Dandelo the cat would eventually wind up. But it's a short piece that doesn't hang around to annoy or dull the senses, it's not very good, but at least it isn't boring with it. 4/10
This is a real camp classic. Lugosi is the star of the show, putting in an incredibly funny performance as the bearded doctor. In an early scene he walks across his laboratory in a laboriously lurching fashion which makes you reach for the rewind button. There's another scene where he is also being 'cured' by his fluid, and gradually becomes upright, which is also hilarious to watch. By this time, Lugosi's famed accent had been considerably reduced, but he never totally got rid of it. The film is also surprisingly fast paced for the time, and wisely spends most of its short running length in the basement laboratory.
There are lots of murders (which are, I guess, the horror part) and even a man in a remarkably fake gorilla suit jumping up and down and going "oop oop". With films of this sort, I usually find myself not paying attention during lengthy scenes where minor characters talk about trivia (to increase the running time, no doubt) but this film has none of that. It's full of action and campness and it is, as to be expected, atrocious, but it's so charming that you can't help but love it.
Lugosi is Dr. James Brewster. Dr. Brewster & Dr. Randall are conducting experiments concerning humans and primates. Dr. Brewster turns himself into an ape man and decides he does not want to live the rest of his life like that - he feels he must be cured at any cost.
This movie make a good afternoon film - something to kick back to and enjoy a few giggles with. Quite fun to watch Lugosi as an ape man - he did a pretty good acting job with this character.
A crappy movie for the great Bela Lugosi of Dracula fame, who probably did this movie for the paycheck, or because of Dracula, got type cast to be nothing else but the monster.
Lugosi plays a doctor who does an unethical experiment on himself that transforms him into an Ape-Man, and now he's willing to go on a murderous spree to fix what he messed up.
The movie is set up for an ensemble cast, unfortunately I only know Lugosi. Maybe the other cast of characters were played by famous or well known actors but only Lugosi stood the test of time.
But it would explain the different sub plots of the movie: A reporter looking for a scoop and his camera woman looking for a break. The police men the movie spends a lot of time allowing to solve the case, and the strange man who just happens to be lurking around the house for no real reason.
Lugosi's make up reminds me of the movie Teen wolf and because I saw that movie first, I kept getting a wolf-man vibe as Lugosi tries to walk like an ape.
The movie is very humorless to watch. I definitely recommend giving it a shot.
Not one of Lugosi's campier acting roles (although he does look like Igor from the two "Frankenstein" films he had just done), the camp honors here go to Minerva Urecal who has just come from abroad searching for ghosts in the great castles of Europe. She's very funny in a sequence where she seriously tries to prove her claim to the reporters who are searching for the missing Lugosi, even playing a record with some ghostly voices on it. Not given the credit she deserves for her many appearances in the horror genre, she surely belongs in the horror movie hall of fame, or at least the "B" movie hall of fame.
There's a grizzly sequence where Lugosi and his ape pal go out to find victims, the minute long montage both frightening and sinister. An ironic touch was one gentleman's advice to a young lady not to go around the corner as if he could feel the presence of death in the air. The needless appearance by the script's author in the final scene makes the film feel even cheaper than it is, and is ridiculously unnecessary. But at just over an hour long, this does fly by, even if some sequences are so brutally slow moving which proves its cheap budget even more. There has been better "Z" grade horror, and worse, if you can get past the absurdities of the story and especially its final shot.
While it mostly served the purpose of cheap laughs, can we just note now that George Barrow's much employed suit did not look much like a real Gorilla?
Your heart also has to go to the excellent Wallace Ford, whose crack comic timing was often put to use in movies
such as this. The writers even seem to be halfway spoofing the tired, tired, "screwball" button of a dame trying to make it in a man's world. In fact, I sort of like the self referential gag of the films writer, a stammering dimwit, occasionally appearing to move the plot along. Obviously, however, the joke at the closing credits is whoever sat through this thing.
As he's a well known scientist he's keeping undercover, but his disappearance has aroused all kinds of curiosity including that of law enforcement with J. Farrell MacDonald and the press in the persons of Wallace Ford and Louise Currie. The press are police are kept somewhat at bay, by Bela's sister Minerva Urecal.
But when Bela and his gorilla start killing people for their human spinal fluid so Lugosi can get back to being human again, that of course arouses the populace. I think you can figure out where this is going.
It's from Monogram so naturally one's expectations is low and you're not disappointed. In a recent biography of Bela Lugosi, the author Arthur Lennig uses The Ape Man as a prototype Monogram product and contrasts it with the Universal Pictures Gothic horror films. He and I and you'll agree when you see The Ape Man, Universal has it over Monogram by an early round knockout.
Returning back from an expedition,a group of scientist make the tragic announcement that one of them sadly died during the expedition.Whilst everyone else goes for the explanation hook,line and sinker,two journalist suspect that foul play may have been involved in the scientist death.Searching around his house,the reporters begin to gather evidence that Dr James Brewster has been performing weird operations on apes.
As the reporters start digging,Breswster (who has turned into a human-ape hybrid,due to performing an operation which went a little bit wrong!) comes out of hiding,and with needing spinal fluid to fully transform back into a human,Brewster discovers that he has found the perfect two people to get spinal fluid from.
View on the film:
With most of the acting being on the incredible "chewy" side,Bela Lugosi shines like a beacon for the film,who along with composer Edward J. Kay give the film a haunting side,with Lugosi's conviction in his performance,being something which no other actor would have given to the film.
Checking the credits to the film online,I discovered that I had accidental viewed one of (In) famous director William "one-shot" Beaudine films,and although the film does stay on the side of the road,and is also not helped by a soundtrack which has more crackling then a piece of meat!,Beaudine still includes a few good moments in the film,with scenes of the reports doing phone calls at the office having a nice pace,and a scene of Breswster and an ape breaking plates being a well executed gag.
Final view on the film:
An easy going horror-comedy,with a performance by Lugosi that helps to keep the film together.
Somehow, Bela's turned himself (slightly) into an Ape. Which means he's got bad posture and hair on his face. Apart from that he's alright. I mean, he can still speak English and wear clothes, which made me confused as to why he had to sleep in a cage with an ape. He certainly was an angry fellow though. I lost count of the amount of times he attacked that ape with a whip! When I say 'ape', by the way, I mean 'guy in an ape suit'. Bela and the guy in the ape suit talk their own ape language from time to time too, especially when arranging to kill folks and steal their spinal fluid for a laugh.
There are some old classic horrors kicking around, but this is a BAD classic horror. Poor acting (from everyone), spelling mistakes on the headlines, and an ending that must have been shown in Italian film school under the class 'How to leave the audience scratching their heads'.
It's public domain. You don't even have to pay to see it.
And buy war bonds! Help our boys overseas!
Bela Lugosi does a poor ape imitation, and wears a very rough prototype of the mask Roddy McDowall wore in 'Planet of the Apes.' He monkeys about (sorry!) with one Emil Van Horn wearing a full gorilla suit - he looks exactly like the one (called Ethel) that Oliver Hardy ended up with when the circus went broke. (Stanley got the flea circus.) Lugosi & another scientist have been fiddling about with 'glands,' so when Lugosi decides to test it on himself... The only way to keep himself away from the furry side of life is to keep filling himself with human 'glands' from the recently deceased. He steps out into the night and orders 'Ethel' to murder people - it's 'The Murders In The Rue Morgue' all over again.
Hard to tell whether this was supposed to be funny or not - wisecracking journalists who annoy the editor by calling him 'chiefy,' brain-dead Irish policemen, bubbling retorts in the cellars of an old dark house etc. Clearly this was made when Lugosi's life was turning into a tragic horror story all of his own, and accepted any old rubbish to pay for the drugs and the booze.
One kind of wishes for Abbott & Costello or The Three Stooges to turn up, but no such luck. The star turn is the wonderfully named Miranda Urecal (almost born to appear in cheap horror films) who plays Lugosi's sister, screaming energetically or fainting at the drop of a coffin lid.
This isn't quite as funny as Ed Wood's stuff, but better than nothing now the hockey season's finished. The ending's quite amusing, and make sure you spot Charlie Hall (like Ethel, a left-over from the glory days of Laurel & Hardy) at the very start.
According to the trivia section, the director, one-shot William Beaudine, took 19 days to shoot this. One must imagine that he took a two week vacation during the shoot or Bela Lugosi needed two days rest for each scene in which he tries to imitate a gorilla. It is painful to watch poor Bela at age 60 and in bad health, trying to play a gorilla. Very possibly, he had to take drugs to accomplish it.
Is there really any redeeming feature for this movie? I think the mysterious character who appears to be watching from outside Lugosi's window and helps to prevent one woman from being murdered adds something to the film. It seems to be a failed attempt at adding humor, but it does add a touch of creepiness which relieves the dreary mad scientist tedium.
You still get Dave Milton as art director making great looking scenes for pocket change. It was shot by Mack Stengler, who was around for BOWERY and a couple of others. The plot is also as crazed as all the rest. This time something went wrong in the lab and Bela has turned to a sort of semi ape.
This is one of the best running gags in the movie. The make up makes him look like a roadie for The Oakridge Boys. Speaking of running gags, we come to Ralph Littlefield. Ralph was the bum playing checkers last time in BOWERY. This time he keeps watching the action or advising the characters. He pops out of nowhere, making everyone wonder who he is. The pay off isn't worth it. Worse, it cheapens the film by appearing to lump it in with the two 'comedies' Bela made with Monogram.
A lot of the same cast and elements also made it to the last 2 Mongrams in better form. Leading lady Louise Currie was back for VOODOO MAN, one of the best films of the series. His doctor pal, Harvey Hall also returns in VOODOO MAN as the sheriff. Ralph Littlefield is also back...reduced to an uncredited cameo. Even Mongram could admit it when they made a goof.
The 'doctor pal role' turns up again in RETURN OF THE APE MAN, this time played by John Carradine. Both men make the same mistake of telling Bela FIRST they won't work for him anymore BEFORE calling the cops. Carradine is just better at it.
Go ahead. Guess what Bela does.
For Bela fans, you'll want to see it at least once, and it IS enjoyable in that loopy Monogram style..but there are bigger fish to fry.
The story opens on the pier where a group of reporters, headed by Jeff Carter (Wallace Ford) of the Globe Tribune, awaiting for the arrival of spiritualist Agatha Brewster (Minerva Urecal), sister of the famous Dr. James Brewster (Bela Lugosi). Also on the pier is a mystery man (Ralph Littlefield) seen reading a front page story about the disappearance of Doctor Brewster, whose to do some coming in and out throughout the narrative himself. Shortly after-wards, Agatha, greeted by Brewster's friend, Dr. George Randall (Henry Hall), informs her that Jim never really disappeared, but due to his discovery of a substance that has changed him into an animal similar in power and danger to an anthropoid ape, he's now hiding in an old mansion in Springdale. Taken to the mansion, Agatha witnesses the experimental results of her brother, locked inside a cage with an ape (Emil Van Horn), dressed in black, walking in hunchback position and sporting facial hair. Aside from controlling the ape with a whip, Brewster even howls like one. In order to return to human form, Brewster will need spinal fluid from a living person, resulting for Randall committing murder to get it. When Randall refuses, Brewster goes on the murderous rampage with his ape, leading Carter and his assistant, Billie Mason (Louise Currie), to enter the scene and get the scoop for the next edition.
Others members of the cast include Wheelar Oakman, Jack Mulhall and Charles Jordan. Ever reliable J. Farrell MacDonald appears as the typical Irish police captain, and "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison, Scruno in the "East Side Kids" film series (1940-1943), doing cameo duty as the copy boy.
Regardless of its "mad scientist" theme hinted during its opening credits with overflowing test tubes and the head of an ape seen behind the titles, THE APE MAN is one not to be taken seriously in spite of serious overtones and acting from the principle players. Lugosi's make-up, basically long hair and beard pre-dating that of a hippie of the 1960s, lacks the reality of his ape-like appearance from ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (Paramount, 1933) that starred Charles Laughton. Minerva Urecal is properly cast as Lugosi's sister, looking both sinister and mysterious as Lugosi himself, especially during her talks about communicating with the dead during her interview with the reporters (Ford and Currie). In the "mad scientist" tradition, however, THE APE MAN contains secret doors and panels; a televisor where scientist can get a glimpse of visitors at the front door, in this case, nosy reporters. In true Monogram tradition aside than cheap sets, bad dialog and repetitive underscoring, there's also a running gag involving a mysterious rube-type character mentioned earlier coming in and out of the story for no apparent reason, finally revealing himself after being spotted by Carter sitting in the front seat of his car. Wait till you hear who he is! This gimmick would be repeated again in VOODOO MAN (Monogram, 1944) featuring "Ape Man" co-stars of Lugosi, Louise Currie and Henry Hall.
During the wake of home video in the 1980s, THE APE MAN was one of many public domain titles to either be distributed through various companies on VHS (and DVD two decades later) or be broadcast or "Star Club" from Channel America prior to 1992. Because of its availability and overplay of THE APE MAN, it's rarely mentioned that Lugosi also appeared in a non-sequel titled THE RETURN OF THE APE MAN (1944). Though not essentially scary or high art cinema, THE APE MAN is worth while mainly for watching Bela Lugosi going bananas once in a while. (*1/2)
Anyway this is another of Lugosi's sad Poverty Row outings. Bad sound, cheap sets, implausible script. Probably one of the best arguments AGAINST film preservation. The storyline is that Lugosi is a mad scientist (wow, how many times has he played THAT role?) with an Anglo name who inexplicably has a foreign accent even though his sister doesn't. (You get the feeling that they didn't write this as a Lugosi vehicle until he came by looking for drug money.) Lugosi injects himself with a serum that gives him ape like qualities, but has to kill people to get back to normal.
The thing was that Lugosi was not a bad actor, but his thick accent, typecasting after Dracula and inability to learn English better limited his ability to get good work. So while he occasionally got supporting roles in big studio features (often working opposite his nemesis, Boris Karloff), more often than not, he was working for Poverty Row or Ed Wood, with sad results.
The author of the story supposedly makes an appearance at its closing - it's a good thing he rolls up the car window, to miss whatever you feel like throwing up at the screen. William Beaudine's "The Ape Man" is an embarrassment, even for a low-budget programmer. If the movie were a little better, you might be able to take some delight in Minerva Urecal's stone-faced sister, "Agatha Brewster". But, the best actor has to be Emil Van Horn as "The Ape", since he gets to save face.
* The Ape Man (1943) William Beaudine ~ Bela Lugosi, Louise Currie, Wallace Ford