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The Ape Woman (1964)

La donna scimmia (original title)
A modest Neapolitan man meets a young woman with excessive hairiness. He exhibits her at fairs and marries her.It is after marriage that he receives a tempting offer from a French manager.


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Credited cast:
Antonio Focaccia
Filippo Pompa Marcelli ...
Ermelinda De Felice ...
Sister Furgonicino (as Linda De Felice)
Elvira Paolini ...
Ugo Rossi ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Eva Belami


A modest Neapolitan man meets a young woman with excessive hairiness. He exhibits her at fairs and marries her.It is after marriage that he receives a tempting offer from a French manager.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


If love can be bizarre...poignant...and shocking then this is a love story! See more »


Comedy | Drama






Release Date:

31 January 1964 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

The Ape Woman  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


This trivia contains spoilers. The version of this film released in Italy and France, has a completely different ending that the English dubbed version released in the UK and the US. In the Italian/French version, Maria dies giving birth to a son with her condition, and her husband exhibited their mummified bodies in a sideshow. This it how it happened with her real life counterpart, Julia Pastrana. Audiences in the UK/US were displease with such a downbeat ending, so a different ending was devised where Maria's hirsute condition is eliminated during childbirth, and her child is born normal. No longer having an act to exhibit, Antonio goes to work as a laborer...but he doesn't mind, for he has grown to love his wife and child. I, myself, prefer this ending. See more »


Referenced in Playboy: The Story of X (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

The phenomenon is finally eternal!
11 February 2017 | by See all my reviews

A competition entry in Cannes from Italy in 1964, this Marco Ferreri Black-and-White satire cashes in on the real-life story of Julia Pastrana (1834-1860), an indigenous woman from Mexico, whose face and body was covered with straight black hair due to an undiagnosed genetic condition, and was exploited in freak shows as a hybrid between an ape and a woman.

The story is transposed to Naples, where Antonio (Tognazzi), a street-smart showman, alights on a hair-covered Maria (Girardot) in a convent (the script conveniently skates over her provenance by claiming her as an orphan), and takes her in for public exhibition as the so-called "ape woman", but what Maria is is nothing like an ape, she is simply an extra hirsute woman, no feral predisposition or mondo sauciness whatsoever, she is very aware of her unorthodox appearance and never expects a life of normalcy, at any rate, she tries to please Antonio in their act because it is their bread-and- butter, even reluctantly apes the behavior of a chimpanzee in the zoo. When a suspect rich man wants to study her and over-insists that she must retain her virginity, an upstanding Maria rebuffs the deal whilst Antonio is much interested in the financial gain.

Imposed by the convent, the bachelor Antonio has to marry Maria to keep her with him, up till then Maria has developed a gentle affection (awakening sexuality in a more blunt language) towards Antonio whereas the latter still chastely intends to remain their relationship completely business- like, only to soon to surrender in sharing their tiny bed. A sortie in Paris, working their duo-act in a strip club, ensues and ends up with Maria becoming pregnant, after the struggle between abortion and otherwise, Pastrana's sad denouement is faithfully imitated into the movie with an uninviting coda where stillborn, death and embalmment are the keywords, all of a sudden levity turns into a biting critique of humanity, Ferreri never compromised in that regard.

Basically a two-hander, Tognazzi is well in his element with his slick impression and occasionally, considerable benevolence seeps through his non-threatening nonchalance. Girardot, on the other hand, is hampered in the slipshod make-up (understandably, the movie is half-an-century old), her hairy physiognomy is nonetheless non-too-startling so as to pander to a wider audience, not to mention a stripping sequence to gratifying male gaze. As a satire, we must admire Ferreri's guts to preserve "the phenomenon is eternal" sting, but as a cinematic creation, THE APE WOMAN is a bog-standard treatment gussied up by an alluring premise it short-changes in realisation.

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