The Ape Man (1943)
The MONSTER wants to see you!
(Monogram/Banner Prod.) 64mins. BW. US.
Aka: LOCK YOUR DOORS (UK). Originally: THE GORILLA STRIKES.
Credits: Dir: William Beaudine; Prod: Sam Katzman
& Jack Dietz; A.Prod. & Sc: Barney Sarecky; Ph: Mack Stengler; Ed: Carl Pierson;
Art: David Milton; Mus: Edward Kay. From "They Creep in the Dark" by Karl Brown.
Lugosi, Louise Currie, Wallace Ford,
Henry Hall, Minerva Urecal, Emil Van Horn, Ralph Littlefield, J. Farrell MacDonald, Jack
Mulhall, Wheeler Oakman, George Kirby, Charles Hall, Charles Jordan, Ray Miller, Sunshine
The tagline of "It's Shockerific!" is perhaps indicative of
what to expect in THE APE MAN. Although the tendency is to deride all the grade-Z
programmers, low budget studios such as Monogram actually afforded our old friend Bela Lugosi star billing and
an income during his leaner years while keeping his name in circulation.
In comparison with his appearances with the East Side Kids in the woeful Spooks Run Wild and Ghosts on the Loose, THE APE MAN should attract more
appreciation than it receives. The executives at Monogram were shrewd enough to exploit
Bela's name, if not his talent, to lure the cinema audience in and provided their star
with enough screentime to fulfill their expectations. Such is the case with THE APE MAN
directed by William "one-shot" Beaudine who earned his moniker by normally
filming every shot within one take, no matter what the quality.
Gland specialist Dr. James Brewster, (Bela Lugosi), mysteriously disappears, but in
actual fact he has hidden himself away in
his basement laboratory at Springfield mansion where the zealousness of his experiments
has transformed him into a semi-simian state. With an inordinate amount of
facial hair and a shambling gait, Brewster lives in seclusion with his gorilla where they
form a love-hate relationship fraught with all kinds of censorable connotations! His
sister Agatha, (Minerva Urecal), a ghost hunter, arrives to help him obtain enough human
spinal fluid that when injected into himself can reverse the effects of his ailment. When his demand exceeds his supply, Brewster and his primate stalk the
streets in a frenzied killing spree to acquire more of the mercurial juice.
It comes as no surprise that Brewster meets his demise by the powerful paws of his pet
gorilla that inexplicably defends the film's heroine and is perhaps a fitting end to a
story with so many loose-ends as it makes a mad dash to the finale before the hour is up.
The heroine is played by
Louise Currie who was regarded at the time as the "Katherine Hepburn" of
Monogram Studios. Her sidekick is none other than Wallace Ford in his usual role of a fast
talking reporter for the Globe Tribune. Aside from this being the
simplist method to inject a hero into the plot, it also provides the makers with the
opportunity to provide "comedy relief" which even in its broadest terms is
usually made up of unamusing wise-cracks. Quite frankly, many of the films that employed
this format would have been better off without it, you only have to watch Dr. X or Mystery of the Wax Museum to see the
terrible intrusion this makes of an otherwise classic feature.
If an audience can look past the obvious plot devices and the embarrassment of seeing
this once distinguished actor speaking monkey gibberish, THE APE MAN has a few
appreciative values. While the production can be described as uninspired, the gloomy
atmosphere lends itself nicely to the story ably accomapanied by a pleasing music score.
However, the film's saving grace is its cast including Minerva Urecal as Agatha who
provides a suitably odd-ball character for such a slice of hokum as this. Urecal can also
be seen alongside Bela in The Corpse Vanishes
(1942) and Ghosts on the Loose (1943) as well
as a later appearance in 7 Faces
of Dr. Lao (1964) for George Pal.
Also in the cast is Charlie Hall as a reporter, who is better remembered for
his appearances in over forty of Laurel and Hardy's shorts and
As one views THE APE MAN it becomes clear that this is a thinly disguised parody
of the genre especially during the final moments when actor Ralph Littlefield, who has
been mysteriously appearing throughout the film, suddenly exclaims "Me? Oh, I'm
the author of the story."
The more one sees of Bela Lugosi's output from the, shall we say, modest film studios, the higher this little
opus moves up in rank. Sit back and enjoy it for what it is.
For even more apish nonsense try the sequel Return of the Apeman (1944).
Poster and lobby card stills courtesy of Ronald V. Borst
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