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.

The Ape Man (1943)

apeman01Amazon teaser:  Conducting weird scientific experiments, crazed Dr. James Brewster (Bela Lugosi), aided by colleague Dr. Randall, has managed to transform himself into an ape.

A man hanging around the docks spots Dr. Randall’s picture in the newspaper concerning the disappearance of his colleague Lugosi.  Then he spots Randall hanging around the docks.  Sadly a possibly key piece of dialogue is unintelligible, and even the closed caption says [INAUDIBLE].

Lugosi’s sister Agatha gets off the boat and meets Randall.  He confides to her that he knows where Lugosi is — at the old family mansion, although “he’d be better off in the family cemetery plot.”  I sense a flashback.

apeman21They return to the mansion, and go through a secret panel behind the fireplace.  Not saying it is impossible, that that’s a nice feat of engineering having a fireplace that can pivot out into the room and still connect to a chimney.  He leads her to the lab and warns her.  He opens a door revealing a real gorilla; after that bit of misdirection, we see the less apish Lugosi.  He is at least 2 dudes along on the evolution chart, and actually looks a little like Cornelius or Zira from Planet of the Apes.  Really, other than facial hair, I don’t see the problem.

The only way to reverse him back to a human requires the taking of spinal fluid from another human which would mean death for them.  Randall refuses to help at that cost.

Frustrated, Lugosi dons a coat and hat and takes the gorilla out.  He and the gorilla go to Randall’s office and kill his assistant, enabling Lugosi to extract his spinal fluid.

apeman20Randall injects Lugosi with the serum.  It does humanize him a bit, at least allowing him to walk upright, but the effects are short-lived.  He takes the gorilla out for a series of murders to secure a fresh supply of the fluid.  Randall, however, has reservations about killing people in order for Lugosi to walk upright for a few minutes.

There are a lot of elements to like here: a wise-cracking reporter, his hot photographer partner, a gorilla, an ape-man, Lugosi.  Sadly, it just doesn’t come together.  This film somehow seems to have both too much and too little going on during its brief 64 minute run-time.

I give this one only 25% of a barrel full of monkeys.



The Human Monster (1939)

humanmonster02This was a hard one to watch — literally.  The print at Amazon is awful, often making it impossible to distinguish what is on the screen.

The English accents also made watching difficult.  On the plus side, the captioning was crisp and clear.

We start off with several nice shots of bodies tossed up against a pier, bobbing in the surf and a couple washing up on the shore.  A headline in The Insurance Monitor — “The Oldest Insurance Journal in the World” — says insurance circles are alarmed at the increase in drowning fatalities.  Since all these corpses seem to be fully dressed, that does seem strange.

Inspector Holt is assigned the case, and he is buddied up with O’Reilly, a Yank who has come to learn the British way of solving crimes.

humanmonster03Dr. Orloff (Bela Lugosi) is an insurance broker and known as a very generous man. While loaning Mr. Stuart £2,000, Lugosi generously offers to write him an insurance policy with himself as beneficiary.  He also suggests that Stuart pay a visit to the home for blind vagrants to learn the joy of charity.

Stuart does visit the home and is greeted by Lugosi who gives him the full tour which includes being killed by a giant deformed blind man and tossed in the Thames.

By helpful coincidence, his hot daughter Diana has returned from America that same day and able to identify the body.  Lugosi offers her a job as a secretary at the home for blind bums.

humanmonster09Diana goes directly to the home and gets the same tour as her father, except less murdery.  She uncovers evidence that Lugosi killed her father, leading to a twist of not quite Sixth Sense proportions.

This film was much darker than The Devil Bat and Scared to Death.  It is not without humor, but blind men, the deformed giant, the taking of a blind man’s hearing, and the callous disposal of bodies keep the film from veering off into farce.


  • Writer Edgar Wallace got a “Conceived by” credit on the original King Kong.  55 years after he died, he got a “Story by” credit on Revenge of the Living Dead Girls.
  • Released as The Dark Eyes of London, in England, this was the first film to receive the English “H” rating signifying it was too “horrific” for children under 16.  Or the last, depending which source you trust.
  • I had never heard the term Agony Column.

Scared to Death (1947)

scaredtodeath01The biggest shock here is that the film is in color.  I know it was released 8 years after The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, but it was also 13 years before Psycho.  I didn’t expect a low-budget 1947 joint (did Bela Lugosi make anything else by this time?) to be in color.

It is very much a mixed bag with some good stuff mixed in with the dreadful.  Douglas Fowley as reporter Terry Lee sounds amazingly like Steve Buscemi.  One tip for enhancing enjoyment: Just pretend it is Steve Buscemi.

The film opens in an autopsy room at the morgue where two men enter and stand over a dead body covered by a sheet.  “Is this the body?” Dr. Einstein asks.  He observes that “one hates to perform an autopsy on a beautiful woman.”  That might be true, but I have to think a really fat guy would be worse.



The irony is that the actress really never looks better than in this scene.  Maybe it is the casting or strange coloration of the movie, but there are some stunningly unattractive women in this film.

They are initially stumped by the cause of death as there are no marks on the body.  This prompts the man to muse what her last thoughts might have been, prompting a film-long flashback by Laura — the dead woman.

She is in an agitated and anxious state.  Her husband believers it has to do with some letters she’s been receiving from abroad.  He is itching for a way to end the marriage and his physician father has a plan to set his son free.  Laura is able to convey their conspiratorial conversation in her flashback even though she was not there to witness it.  Maybe, being dead, she has become omniscient.  Or maybe it’s just not a very good movie.

This sets up my main irritation with the film — besides the actresses cast — repeatedly we are taken back to Laura on the slab where she will voice-over exactly one sentence, then we resume the flashback.  It is so jarring and rigidly identical each time, including the exact same music, that it becomes a joke.  Or drinking game.

scaredtodeath04Things lighten up a bit as Bela Lugosi arrives with his own personal Mini-Me, Indigo.  He has come to see the doctor unannounced.  The maid tries to stop him, but he says, “I have had an appointment with him for 20 years,” thus foreshadowing Obamacare for the U.S.

Also on-site are security guard Bill Raymond and Reporter Terry “Buscemi” Lee.  These two provide the comedy in the film, and do so very well.  Raymond is thick-headed and oafish whereas Lee makes with the snappy dialogue, see.  The mere presence of Lugosi and Indigo keep the mood light, but Raymond and Lee are actually very skilled at taking the material and breathing life into it.

scaredtodeath08There is much intrigue with unhappy marriages, blackmail, European shenanigans, floating disembodied masks, hypnotism, secret passages, disappearing corpses, betrayals, a dwarf and a guy in a cape.  There is enough untapped potential here to have made a great farce in the right hands.

Sadly it comes off a little too clunky and talky, but does have a few good laughs.


  • Personally, I find envisioning the Tony Blundetto version of Steve Buscemi to work best here, but I’ve never seen Boardwalk Empire.
  • I remembered Nat Pendleton (Bill Raymond) as the Sergeant in an Abbott & Costello WWII movie I probably saw 20 years ago.
  • Director Christy Cabanne is the anti-Mallick, having 166 Directing  credits.  True, many of these were shorts in the very early days of film, but he also has 46 writing credits, and 59 acting credits.  All before dying at the youngish age of 62.
  • On the other hand, Writer Walter Abbott had only 2 credits despite living 6 years longer.

The Devil Bat (1940)

devilbat01An opening title tells us all the people of Heathville love the kindly village doctor Paul Carruthers.  No one suspected that in his home, he found time to conduct “certain private experiments — weird terrifying experiments.”

Carruthers (Bela Lugosi) takes a break from pouring liquids from beaker to bottle to duck into the secret bookcase entrance in his lab.  He walks down a stone-walled hallway and up the stairs to to a secret-secret bat-nursery where he is raising his little darlings.  Hey, Lugosi, enough with the bats!

His process of “glandular stimulation through electrical impulses” is growing the bats at a greatly accelerated rate.  He takes a bat, which is conveniently hanging from a detachable coat hanger (or possibly nunchucks like Töht had in Raiders of the Lost Ark — this movie was released four years after the events in Raiders, so maybe they really caught-on in the late 30’s), and carries him downstairs to the lab.

devilbat05After hanging the bat up in a specially shielded room, Lugosi steps back outside, dons his goggles, and electrifies the bejeebus out of the bat. Remarkably, within minutes, the bat quadruples in size.  It is tragic that Lugosi did not use his meat-growing discovery for good, selling out to Frank Perdue, Butterball or Pfizer.

Lugosi gets a call from his bosses, Morton and Heath, to come to a party at Heath’s home just down the hill.  He reluctantly agrees to attend, which is fortunate because his bosses plan to give him a bonus of $5,000 ($83,000 in 2014 dollars).

When Lugosi doesn’t show up, Heath sends his son Roy to deliver the bonus.  After handing over the check, Lugosi asks Roy to test out his new creation, an after shave lotion, which he suggests — not at all suspiciously — be applied to the tender part of the neck. Carruthers bids him an ominous “goodbye” as he leaves.

The check has only angered Lugosi as it is revealed that he resents Heath and Morgan for reaping millions from his creations while tossing him crumbs.  But his day has come — or night, actually, due to his method of revenge.  He opens a window and orders the mega-bat to seek out the scent of the after shave lotion and go for the tender part of the neck.

devilbat07That night, Morton’s son Don proposes to Heath’s daughter Mary.  She tells him that she thinks of him as a brother.  As the story is not set in West Virgina (or Westeros), this is a deal-breaker.  Incredibly, Don is not having the worst night of the bunch — as Roy Heath returns from delivering Lugosi’s bonus, the giant bat swoops down and kills him.

The Daily Register gets wind of Heath’s death and assigns ace-reporter Johnny Layton to the story along with photographer “One-Shot” McGuire (presumably a nickname given by his editor, not his wife).

Heath’s other son Tommy visits Lugosi at his lab and is given the lotion to test.  He tries to put some on Carruthers, but he recoils — although he is happy to shake Tommy’s lotion-slathered hand when he gives his ominous “goodbye.”

Lugosi wastes no time opening the window out of which — for reasons unexplained, four bats fly out before batzilla.  Johnny, One-Shot and Mary see the bat kill Tommy, so now there are eye-witnesses.

Johnny’s editor still is not convinced, so Layton conspires with One-Shot to get a stuffed bird from a taxidermy shop and create some bogus pictures to back up their narrative. When their editor hears of the deception, he fires them and says he will see that they never work at another newspaper.  On the plus side, they are now contractually free to join others of similar journalistic standards at NBC News.

devilbat11After Don Morton is killed, Johnny finds the lotion in his bathroom and realizes that all of the victims had this same scent.  After tracking the source back to Lugosi , Johnny and the Sheriff confront Lugosi who all-too-happily offers them each a bottle.  Only Johnny takes it.  When the bat inevitably swoops in, Johnny kills it.

Lugosi goes to Henry Morton’s office and gives him a bottle of the lotion.  Morton makes the mistake of rubbing Carruthers face in the wealth he lost by cashing out of the company early like Walter White.  Soon Morton is killed.

Johnny expresses his theory that someone is using the bats to kill every member of the Morton and Heath Families.  That has the ring of truth since nearly every member of both families has already been killed by the bats.  That’s some good work there, Lou.

Lugosi also attempts to kill Mary, but that doesn’t go so well.  Soon (after all, this film is only 108 minutes), Lugosi gets his proper comeuppance.  Like many movies of the era, it wraps up in about two seconds, ending on a completely innocuous line of dialogue.

The Devil Bat is enjoyable given the limitations of the day, like White Zombie.  But neither is as transcendent as Dracula.


  • Takes place in Heathville.  There are newspaper references to Peoria, Springfield and Chicago, so we can assume this is in Illinois.  There is a Heathsville in Illinois, but no Heathville.
  • The Daily Register’s editor is played by Arthur Q. Bryan who voiced Elmer Fudd 1950-1959.  Once you know that, it is impossible to hear his voice without thinking of Elmer.
  • Jean Yarbrough also directed King of the Zombies.  His name is spelled Yarborough in the credits, but IMDb says the standard spelling drops the “o”.
  • Even 70 years earlier, Lugosi’s character sold out for twice as much as Walter White.
  • Note to aspiring screenwriters:  Don’t have characters named Morton and Martin unless you want to confuse simple minds.