The Ape (1940)

AUGUST 21, 2008


I don’t know why, but someone at Mill Creek must really hate The Ape. For starters, the plot description on the sleeve describes not The Ape, but in fact Nightmare Castle, which appeared on the Chilling Classics set. I spent about 2/3 of the movie wondering when Boris Karloff was going to start torturing his wife (or when his character would even be married, for that matter) until I finally realized the error. But making matters worse, this is hands down the absolute worst transfer they’ve ever given a film; a full SIX minutes are lost to bad film splices and jump cuts, to the point where I couldn’t even tell what the hell was going on at times.

Not that it’s a particularly good movie anyway. Karloff is a scientist trying to cure polio, and when the actual killer ape destroys his samples for the cure, he does the only logical thing: cuts off the ape’s head and skin, dresses up like him, and kills townsfolk to obtain more samples. It’s kind of awesome in theory (remake this, stat!) but the movie itself is just a dreadful bore. Karl-Ape barely even gets going when he is put down, and the actual Ape didn’t really do much either. There are more scenes of Karloff trying to get his patient to walk than there are of the Ape (real one or not) killing folks, and in an hour long movie, that’s just not proper.

There is some occasional fun to be had though. Karloff resembles Christopher Lloyd, which is pretty funny, and I loved how much of a downer the Polio woman was in the early parts of the film. Her boyfriend takes her to the circus, and she says things like “look at those acrobats... must be nice to be able to control your whole body.” Way to bring the room down, Debbie.

The best scene is also the most extraneous in the entire film. There’s a character named Mason who is rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but the movie stops cold(er) to have him go home and talk to his wife for a few minutes before walking back out again. This guy has to be the biggest dickhead in all of motion picture history. His wife cooks him a nice meal, he tells her he doesn’t like it. She asks if he’s going out, he basically tells her to go fuck herself. Even when she tells him she doesn’t mind that he’s having an affair, he’s a condescending bastard in response. Finally, he tells her to just leave him, and she asks (rather politely) where she could go. “There’s always the river!” he snarls as he walks out the door. Holy shit! I think the fact that the scene is so unnecessary makes it all the more amazing; it’s like they had a test screening and decided that the movie needed a scene where a guy psychologically abuses his wife, so they shot one without ever really having it fit into the movie.

The script is by Curt Siodmak (I know this because it’s one of the few opening credits to survive the butcher job by Mill Creek; the director, producer, etc are all left to the IMDbagination), which is surprising since he wrote some really good stuff like The Wolf Man and at least one sequel in each of the big Universal Monster franchises. I guess everyone’s allowed a stinker.

If you want to watch the film, I advise you do so HERE at the site, and not the Horror Classics version. It’s a much cleaner print, and a complete version as well. Plus it has the correct plot synopsis.

What say you?


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