Ever since catching The Black Cat at a Fright Nights screening a couple months ago I've been catching up with old horror movies. Their odd kitsch factor combined with some truly odd and distributing moments makes them ideal for me, someone who loves bad-good films.
Which brings us The Ape Man, part of a five film Bela Lugosi horror DVD that my boyfriend has had for over 10 years never cracking it open. Last night I convinced him to do so and let me just say, The Ape Man goes down a lot easier with a side of Jameson. The film begins with whisperings of the disappearance of Dr. James Brewster(Lugosi). His sister Agatha, a ghost hunter, comes into town worried about him. His colleague, Dr. Randall meets her and reveals the truth. In an experiment, Dr. Brewster injected himself with the gorilla spinal fluid causing him to take on gorilla characteristics. Obvs. Dr. Brewster believes the way to reverse it is to inject human spinal fluid into his spine and of course the only way to get spinal fluid is to kill a person. And here we begin a descent into madness on par with the time I got drunk and lost my key in my apartment.
Made as Lugosi's career was in free fall, the movie can only be described as laughably odd. From acting choices, to the lighting everything is wonderfully off. The cast of actors definitely seems to be trying. Granted this was made in 1943 so none of the acting progresses and the Stanislavski technique is minimally used. Lugosi's Ape Man is like the Wolf Man's cousin with less hair and a more pronounced hump. Other than that you've got your fast talking dame, sexist reporter and stick up the bum doctor. I must say there's tie for my favourite performance between the mysterious Zippo who's always in the film nudging characters to do things and the dude in the gorilla suit who shares a cell with Lugosi. Both are inexplicably present throughout the goings on and only serve to create more questions than answers.
Of course, it doesn't help that director William Beaudine was nicknamed "One Shot" because he would infamously only produce a single take of the scene and move on. This lent itself to keeping budgets small as scenes become increasingly like a stage play as the camera tilts minimally during an extended scene. The rambling plot is only aided by the rambling directing.
Even the final line of the film serves to confuse and disorientate the audience making the whole thing a throw away. Much like the Ape Man himself.