THE APE MAN
US, 1943, 69 minutes. Black and white.
Bela Lugosi, Louise Currie, Wallace Ford, Minerva Urecal.
Directed by William Beaudine.
The Ape Man is a star vehicle for Bela Lugosi who had emerged on the stage in the 1920s as Dracula and reprised his role on film in 1930. He became a star with this performance. However, he was an actor of limited range and his career did not develop. He appeared in quite a number of horror films. However, by the 1950s he was a spent force and, famously, worked with Ed Wood on Planet Nine. He was played by Martin Landau in an Oscar-winning performance in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood.
This is another story of a scientific experiment gone wrong, the pride of a scientist. The film opens with journalists wanting stories, waiting for a ship berthing in New York. An enigmatic character who appears spasmodically, suggesting the story, advises a journalist (played by Wallace Ford) to investigate. The missing scientist’s sister is on the ship.
It emerges that Dr Brewster, played by Lugosi, has been experimenting with gorillas and has injected himself with serum, transforming himself into an ape man. The sister is horrified, his colleague is horrified. The journalist pursues the story, assisted by a tough-talking photographer, played by Louise Currie. Inevitably, she gets into danger.
The basic thrust of the plot is the scientist’s torment, his fight with himself, the response of his family and friends as well as the danger that he causes for the photograph. Ultimately, the ape that he has caged and who is also the subject of his experiments, fights with him and he dies.
The values of the film are certainly B-budget, but the film is in the tradition of exploring the developments of modern science as well as the hubris of the scientist.