Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Ape Man

Directed by William Beaudine.
1943. Not Rated, 64 minutes.
Bela Lugosi
Louise Currie
Wallace Ford
Henry Hall
Minerva Urecal
Ralph Littlefield
Emil Van Horn

Sometimes, people are too smart for their own good. And by people, I mean mad scientists in movies. James Brewster (Lugosi) is one of those. I'm not sure what he was actually trying to accomplish, but he's managed to transform himself into an ape in the old school Roddy McDowall sense of the word. He's totally in control of his thoughts and actions. However, he walks kinda-sorta like an ape, has hairy knuckles, and can't stand up straight. On the plus side, he's almost as strong as a gorilla and has grown a thick head of hair with an awesome beard to match. In my world, he has two clear choices for what he should do next. He can either get himself a costume and fight crime, or get a costume and try to take over the city. Either way, dude should be dressing up and making a name for himself. But alas, Dr. Brewster doesn't live in my world. He lives in the...ahem...real world of 1940s sci-fi/horror. So, no costume. Dammit.

When we meet him, he's inexplicably in a cage in his house laboratory with a "real" ape. And by "real," I mean a dude in a gorilla suit. This is also the first time his sister Agatha (Urecal) has seen him since his accident. For good measure, there's a reporter (Ford) and his lady photographer (Currie) snooping around because, apparently, Dr. Stewart is famous and has been reported missing. Yes, it's important that the photographer is a lady because this movie was made in 1943 (hate to keep harping on the era). She's just been hired by the newspaper (remember those?) and the reporter keeps questioning her abilities because, well, girl. Don't worry. She has a witty comeback for every one of his snide remarks. Later on, get this, she even defends herself. This is downright progressive stuff for its time.

I'm off track. Let's get back to our doctor friend. Instead of going in either of the directions I suggested, he's hell bent on curing himself. Other than being slumped over, I'm not sure the cons outweigh the pros of his new condition. Hell, I even forgot to add that he can communicate with apes now, in their language. I'm just not seeing the big problem, here. Actually, I do see the problem. Given the time during which this movie was made I get that it's tinged with anti-Nazi sentiment. After all, they were touting themselves as the superior race and killed a lot of people to push their own agenda.

Ahhh, the killing. Now, we finally get to the meat of the story. To cure himself, Dr. Brewster announces that he needs human spinal fluid. How he reached that conclusion or how it works, or how anything he did to this point worked is never even hinted at, so don't ask. Of course, the only way to get spinal fluid is to extract it from real live people, killing them instantly. Guess what the doc does with the aid of his trusty gorilla pal? If you guessed go on a killing spree, give yourself a pat on the back with your newly elongated simian arms. The gorilla actually does the killing, after which J-Brew jabs a needle in their back and drains them. As you might imagine, this practice is frowned upon.

The way the film plays out it's abundantly clear that we're not watching a classic monster flick. Dr. Brewster starting the movie in a cage is just one of many nonsensical things that happen. The most ridiculous is the random old dude who shows up everywhere in town and directly alters the plot. He pops up out of nowhere to tell people what to do and then disappears again. Eventually, he breaks the fourth wall and explains who he is. I'll just save that little surprise on the off chance you might actually watch this. Sadly, or maybe not, he gives the most interesting performance after Lugosi. The horror icon was clearly past his prime of a decade earlier, but still seems to be giving it his all. Unfortunately for him, but not me, the movie around him is a steaming pile. Mind you, it's often an inadvertently hilarious steaming pile, but still a steaming pile. That makes The Ape Man so bad, it's awesome!

MY SCORE: -10/10

Other horror movies so bad they're awesome:


  1. Replies
    1. That's my so bad it's awesome stamp of approval!

    2. I got that from a very notorious comment from a pro wrestling podcaster who described this very infamous match between Sharmell and Jenna Morasca of Survivor where it is truly one of the worst pro wrestling matches ever. The podcaster gave the match a rating that no one will ever forget which is.... MINUS 5 STARS!!!!