Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Ape (1940)

There was a conversation between Monogram executives I'm sure when like this: "We've got Karloff under contract and a gorilla costume. Go make a movie." One would hope that more inspiration would be needed to start filming, but if there were, it was well hid.

Boris is Doctor Bernard Adrien, the worlds least beloved country doctor. He is on a quest to cure paralyses in a young lady and has taken to stealing pets to experiment on. Schoolchildren throw rocks at his house.

The ape in a circus attacks a cruel trainer and escapes. The town is on alert and the doctor treats the trainer, who dies. Using his spinal fluid he cures the paralysis in animals. Unfortunately he drops the vial before he can treat the young lady. The ape attacks his lab (drawn there by the odor of the cruel trainer) and the elderly doctor kills it. Thinking quick, he skins and tans the hide and makes a gorilla costume. Seriously? I bet that took all afternoon. Anyhow, using the costume, he goes out at night to "harvest" more "cure".

I've asked this before: what is it with pre WWII audiences and gorillas? Did the mere presence of an ape on the poster cause people to line up at the box office? Anyhow, calling this Horror is a stretch. I suppose the ape was monster enough, but including Doctor Karloff made it a slam dunk. I bet if Karloff appeared in a polident commercial, it would be classified as horror.

But what I found most interesting is how good of an actor Boris was. He was very restrained in his role, and had a completely different look then when he did The Ghoul or The Body Snatcher (which I haven't blogged yet). Bela was always Bela, but Boris could be anybody.

The Ape did have more to offer, but don't mistake it for anything other than a low budget quickie horror flick. The movie begins with up tempo circus music and I thought it was a comedy. The fact it wasn't funny wasn't a big deal. It wasn't scary either. Principally on the strong performance of Karloff, I give it an AMRU of 2.5.

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