Dr. Bernard Adrian is a kindly mad scientist who seeks to cure a young woman's polio. He needs spinal fluid from a human to complete the formula for his experimental serum. Meanwhile, a vicious circus ape has broken out of its cage, and is terrorizing towns people.
Boris Karloff ... Dr. Bernard Adrian
Maris Wrixon ... Miss Frances Clifford
Gene O'Donnell ... Danny Foster
Dorothy Vaughan ... Mother Clifford
Gertrude Hoffman ... Jane, Adrian's Housekeeper (as Gertrude W. Hoffman)
Henry Hall ... Sheriff Jeff Halliday
Selmer Jackson ... Dr. McNulty
Director: William Nigh
It could be argued that the 1940's were something of a golden age for the B movie in America -at least in quantity terms - and several studios arose to make a great many cheap pictures for double bills and the sleazier end of the market . Monogram pictures were one such company and they strove with Universal for the horror end of the spectrum although with fewer resources . Like other such pictures The Ape gives a leading role to a horror icon , Boris Karloff ,while featuring unknowns, and untalented ones into the bargain, for the supporting parts . He plays Doctor Adrian who is regarded with suspicion by the small town locals but is revered by a young woman ,the wheelchair bound Frances Clifford whose paralysis he is striving to cure .His favoured method is by injection of spinal fluid but he is running out of the stuff till fate takes a hand .A giant ape escapes from the visiting circus ;unknown to the townsfolk he is shot .Adrian skins the dead beast and goes out at night dressed in the skin ,killing to obtain victims so he can continue the treatment . Karloff is his usual excellent self ,this time playing the scientist rather than a creation of a scientist ,and the script is quite sharp in its depiction of small town narrow mindedness .The ape suit is better than usual in this type of picture with this type of budget and this is a decent little horror number
A local doctor and scientist (Boris Karloff) is working on a treatment for paralysis. He finds the cure requires human spinal fluid. But to get such a thing, he must kill. And then a local circus starts on fire and a murderous ape escapes...
First, let me give a shout out to director William Nigh of Berlin, Wisconsin. I always have to support my local directors, even if they're dead. And while there was nothing really out of the ordinary as far as directing style, it was good just the same. And Nigh has a history of working with Karloff, which I'm sure helps quite a bit (look at Tim Burton and Johnny Depp).
This film has a strong point, a weak point and a mediocre pint. The strong point is the plot. My summary will sound strange to those who haven't seen the movie. There is a circus, an ape, a scientist and people are getting killed. It really fits together very nicely, and I found this to be impressive. Many older films fill time with extra fluff, but this one was only the necessities and even that was pretty thorough.
The weak point is the film quality. I don't think I can blame the movie for its quality, but the sound is not great, the picture is not great, and many frames are missing entirely. Either lost, or filmed with bad equipment. Once I adjusted, this wasn't such a big deal. But other films from this time period have fared better, so I wish this had been one of them. A restored, touched up version of this film would have been vastly superior.
The mediocre point is the costume designer. The ape was obviously a man in a costume. However, despite this being obvious it was still a very good costume and worked for the sake of the picture. Can I reasonably expect a better ape without a real ape being used (which would be much harder to control, of course)? Perhaps not. So I give them credit for the effort. (And I assume the costume here is much nicer than the one used in the earlier theatrical production.) This film was alright. As far as older, lower quality movies go, I think this is better than much of the stuff we now call "classic". Karloff delivers, as usual... and we get a good story that has a nice dark comedy element to it, or at least an element of sympathy for evil acts. And that's always nice.
I must say, I was very impressed by this film. I knew that Karloff was in it, so therefore I knew that I would at least like it a little bit, but I must say I did not expect it to be near as good as it was. I would have guessed it to be made in 1960 rather then 1940.
Now I must warn you, in order to get into this movie as much as I did you must have the love of classic films like I have. I love these old black and white horror movies. So if you are the type that can't get into old black and white horror flicks, then don't continue to read this review.
So we have this crazy doctor, who is obsessed with trying to get this young cripple girl to walk again. While trying to figure out how to do this, he must settle for testing on animals. Until…
One day, a gigantic ape escapes from the circus, and kills one of it's trainers. The ape is on the loose, and the trainer, who is barley alive, is rushed to the crazy doctors house.
While trying to save the hurt man, the doctor then realizes that he has the perfect chance, to use a human as one of his experiments and try to help the young girl walk again.
So he tries his experiment, and it works. But just barley. The young girl can feel her legs, but can only move her foot a little bit. So he must get the ape to kill more people so he can use them for his projects.
A very strong movie, with strong performances. If you are a fan of old classic horror movies, then check out THE APE! Starring Boris Karloff