In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Horror Movie Guide: Ape Double Bill.

The next entry in the Horror Movie Guide was the 1940 Boris Karloff film, The Ape. Additionally, since the next listing was Bela Lugosi's subsequent picture, 1943's The Ape Man - and each over just an hour - I decided to do them both at the same time, much like with those two Abbott & Costello flicks earlier this month. 

These were two films I had no knowledge of existing, but was more than willing to partake in some more silver scream horror, as it were. As I've said before, since this book was published in 1985, I'm going to be seeing a lot of movies from before my time. Let's dig in.

I enjoyed both movies, but it was sadly apparent that Karloff and Lugosi were beyond their best years here - both were at the end and start, respectively, of long contracts with lesser studio Monogram at the time. Though both movies weren't connected, they share a lot of similarities with maverick scientists trying to cure diseases (Karloff is seeking a cure for polio and Lugosi... well I have no idea, male pattern baldness?) using spinal fluid, apes in not as integral roles as the titles would suggest, and also share an actor named Henry Hall in a supporting role.

It could just be the YouTube rips, but The Ape seemed to be the newer picture, despite being made three years before The Ape Man. The former's narrative had a bit more purpose, but I wager that was also because it was based off a play - and one that was already adapted as The House of Mystery in the thirties - whereas the other seemed a bit more of a riff. It obviously made enough for a sequel. as Return of the Ape Man came the following year, this time with John Carradine in tow with Bela.

Boris Karloff in The Ape, Bela Lugosi in The Ape Man.

The Ape opens with some pretty enthusiastic big band music that would have been at home in a Looney Tunes cartoon, after which we get introduced to two separate storylines that seems to take forever to converge. When watching these old movies, it's usually amusing to see the antiquated gender relations - The Ape Man has some charming back-and-forth between the reporter and his dame photographer for instance - but there are gasp-inducing exchanges in The Ape. Divorce was not a thing in 1943 I guess.

The storyline gets surprisingly convoluted for 1940, but I have to admit that ape suit was pretty bad-ass - much more convincing than the one in The Ape Man, why didn't they just reuse it? - but I still have no idea where Karloff got it. Oh well, at least Frances (Maris Rixon) was cured at the end. To be honest, I was more concerned about that Guinea Pig that peaced out.

The Ape Man was definitely the weaker of the two with Lugosi's role being significantly less dignified than Dracula. I was surprised to learn that not only was stem cell research a thing in the forties, but also apparently telephone traces and security cameras. I think the only thing I was waiting around for was the purpose of that weirdo who mugged from the bushes and peeped in windows the entire movie. And boy, did I get my answer.

So not bad watches for a Saturday and Sunday afternoon, but not the pinnacle of fourties cinemas either. HMG seems to concur...

Next week, I'll be watching something decidedly more modern in 1979's The Attic.

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