Return of the Ape Man (1944)

returnapeman01Only the knowledge that this was not truly a sequel to The Ape Man gave me the strength to watch.  Even at a mere 59:45, nothing could make me watch Ape Man II: Electric Boogaloo.

According to the newspaper headline, local tramp Willie “the Weasel” is reported missing. The newspaper continues in the article sensitively referring to him as “the weasel” rather than as Willie. He was last seen talking to 2 “distinguished gentlemen”; although in relative terms to a tramp named weasel, that doesn’t narrow it down much.

Professor Dexter (Bela Lugosi) and Professor Gilmore (John Carradine) are raising the temperature in a special, presumably insulated, chamber in their lab from 100 below zero to room temperature.  They wheel out a gurney with a man — we have to assume it is Willie — and inject him with a serum and are able to revive him after four months of being frozen solid. They slip him a fiver and send him happily on his way.

returnapeman03Lugosi wants to test his theory for four years, or four hundred years.  Obviously, he wouldn’t be around to collect his Nobel Prize, so he cleverly decides to finds an ancient dead body and re-animate it.  He goes on an expedition to “Seek Prehistoric Men Embedded in Glacier.”  We get some nice jaunty music and footage culled from Alaskan Adventures (1926) showing his trip to the North Pole.  Even though obviously inserted into the movie, it is a nice change from the low-budget feel of Ape Man I.  After 10 months of back-breaking digging — by some grunts, not the Professors — they find a man.

returnapeman02After melting the block of ice that they shipped back to the states, the inject him with the serum which brings him back to life.  He attacks the Professors, but they are able to maneuver him in to a cell conveniently located in the lab.  Lugosi’s plan is to transplant a portion of a modern brain into the Ape Man, giving him powers of speech and reasoning, but leaving his memories of the good old days.

Carradine naively asks where he will get the donor brain, and Lugosi looks at him like he has USDA stamped across his forehead.  Surprisingly, Lugosi lures Carradine’s future son-in-law back to the lab and drugs him.  Carradine walks in and pulls a gun on Lugosi.  The future in-law is revived and remembers nothing of the incident.

The Ape Man breaks out of his cell, and shows a disconcerting amount of butt-crack as he wriggles out the window.  Lugosi manages to track him down — while wearing a tuxedo and carrying a blow-torch.  Sadly, the Ape Man was loose long enough to kill a policeman.

returnapeman04Carradine comes to the lab when he sees the murder reported in the newspaper.  Lugosi stuns him with electricity, ties him up and puts him in the deep freeze.  The operation is a success as the Ape Man gains the power of speech.  He then bolts out of the lab again.  Possessing part of Gilmore’s brain, he goes to Gilmore house and breaks in.  And inexplicably strangles Mrs. Gilmore.

The Ape Man returns to the lab and confesses to killing Hilda.  The cops show up and just start blasting away at the Ape Man, but not before he kills Lugosi.  Despite having more bullets in him than Michael Myers, he again flees the lab.

He returns to the Gilmore house, throws his niece over his shoulder and carries her off. He returns to the lab and puts her in the deep freeze room, ironically starting a fire so she is nearly killed by the heat and smoke.

Her fiance is able to save her at the last minute, but the Ape Man dies in the fire.  Although we don’t see the body, so the way is clear for The Ape Man Bounces Back, Beach Blanket Ape Man and I was a Teenage Ape man.


  • John Carradine is the father of David, Robert and Keith Carradine.
  • Throughout the whole film, I kept thinking of Phil Hartman.

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