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.



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