Monday, March 8, 2010

The Ape (1940)

 The Ape

Written by Curt Sidomak & Richard Carroll
Directed by William Night
Based on the play by Adam Shirk

Bernard Adrian, MD...Boris Karloff
Danny Foster...Gene O'Donnell
Frances Clifford...Maris Wrixon
Sheriff Jeff Halliday...Henry Hall

The circus is coming to the town of Red Creek, and everybody is excited, including Danny the greasemonkey mechanic and his girlfriend, the wheelchair-bound Frances. But when a fire breaks out, and an abused ape escapes from his cage in the panic that follows, the animal trainer is maliciously mauled.

The trainer is taken to see Bernard Adrian—the town doctor who nearly nobody trusts—but he dies shortly thereafter. Always willing to turn lemons into lemonade, Dr. Adrian extracts the dead man’s spinal fluid for an experimental procedure that he hopes will allow Frances to gain the use of her legs. While Adrian tries to find a cure for her paralysis, the townsfolk are in a downright tizzy over the escaped ape, and the sheriff is bound and determined to capture it before it kills again.

The Ape pretty much comes across as two half-hour films that were spliced together to make one feature, until it all “comes together” for the finale. The ape suit wasn’t bad considering the era—hell, I saw less believable CGI last week—and the actor inside did his best to grunt and stomp about in such a manner as to make Dr. Zaius proud. The melodramatic acting was typical of the day as well, and the colorful townies were a plus: the adulterous loan shark, the mute house keeper, the conspiratorial pharmacist, and you couldn’t help but like the sheriff—even if he did abuse his power to get a free bag of circus peanuts. Damn crooked coppers!

It's always great to see Karloff, even in these less-than-stellar films.  However, the general idea of the film was far too ludicrous even for itself. I’m willing to suspend disbelief on the medical breakthrough angle, but it’s the “twist ending” that really gets stuck in my throat, a true example of last-gasp grasping, making this film a tolerable watch on late-night AMC, but probably not worth the price of admission.

Not Rated
62 Minutes
Black and White
United States

"He keeps human life in test tubes, and prowls at night in the skin of an ape!"

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