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The Ape Man (1943)

by on 2012/10/22

“Most spirits are honest, gentle and kind, and only want to bring happiness to humans. But a few are evil and, having been wicked in life, are wicked in death.”

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Sigh. It pains me to say this. But if you looked past the primate mutton chop-shaped hair on Bela Lugosi’s face, you could see an unmistakable look in his eyes.

I swore I saw a glimmer of “Can I get my money now?” in his doleful gaze.

I don’t really blame Lugosi for a minute. The Ape-Man is a mess. A botched experiment just like the one around which the plot pivots. The experiment in question is conducted by Dr. James Brewster, Lugosi’s character – which is an astoundingly bad name for Lugosi (The Human Monster) by the way.

Dr. Brewster accidentally makes a monkey of himself – complete with fur, a bent back, and a tendency to grunt half-heartedly and wave his arms about.

Oh, poor, poor Bela Lugosi, he really didn’t deserve this at all. I found myself thinking that oft-derided film director Ed Wood turned in a much better effort with Plan 9 from Outer Space, a movie much more worthy of Bela Lugosi’s (brief) time than The Ape Man.

Playing a half man, half ape, locked in a gorilla cage with a man in a gorilla suit that was somehow worse than the one I saw in The Gorilla, Lugosi is an elegant man stuck in a ridiculous, grunting, grimace-worthy role. As a result, this is not Bela’s finest hour.

His supporting characters don’t help much either. Agatha Brewster (Minerva Urecal) plays Dr. Brewster’s sister who is also a ghost hunter for some reason. She’s an elderly spinster with a tendency to faint and drawl pompously. She isn’t even slightly interesting to watch or hear.

Dr. George Randall (Henry Hall), the character tasked with telling the story of Dr. Brewster’s tragic fate, looks like a slightly befuddled accountant who wandered onto the set.

Two moxy reporters Jeff Carter (Wallace Ford) and Billie Mason (Louise Currie) are hot on the trail of something too. I forget what. In fact, in general, I just didn’t care very much at all.

I only cared for Bela and wanted it to be over for him as soon as possible. Perhaps it was the bad print. Perhaps it was the crappy makeup. Perhaps it was the lousy gorilla suit. This black and white Bela film made me very, very tired.

I, like the primate Dr. Brewster, kept wandering off.

Save your love for another monkey man.

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64 minutes


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