Monster #2 - Ape Man


United States, 1943

A Monogram Pictures Production
64 mins, black & white, 1.37 : 1 aspect ratio

Director - William Beaudine
Screenplay - Barney Sarecky
Story - Karl Brown ("They Creep in the Dark")
Cinematographer - Mack Stengler
Editor - Carl Pierson
Music - Edward Kay

Bela Lugosi (Dr. James Brewster), Louise Currie (Billie Mason), Wallace Ford (Jeff Carter), Henry Hall (Dr. Randall), Emil Van Horn (Ape), Ralph Littlefield (Zippo)

SYNOPSIS - Conducting weird experiments, mad scientist Dr. James Brewster, with the help of his colleague Dr. Randall, has managed to transform himself into a hairy, stooping ape-man. Now desperately seeking a cure, Brewster believes only an injection of recently-drawn human spinal fluid will prove effective. But with Randall now refusing to help him, Brewster and his captive gorilla must find (and kill) appropriate donors themselves.

I didn't care for the "Ape Man" at all when I first perused Monsters of the Movies back in 1977, and things haven't changed since - not the least because, unfortunately, nothing in this movie makes any sense, not the least what on earth a scientist could be working on that has any logic to it if the accidental result can be the transformation into an apeman state. The sole saving grace of this poverty row flick is the fact that it doesn't take itself too seriously and, at least for most of its running time, throws in voluntary (and a few involuntary) elements of comedy.

  The culmination point of this is revealing that a mysterious persona, who pops up throughout the movie somewhat influencing the flow of things, is actually the author of the story. Happening right at the end of the movie, this breaks down the "fourth wall" between the movie and those watching it. He actually sums up the movie pretty well by quipping to the audience "screwy idea, wasn't it?" before rolling up the car window with the words "THE END" appearing on the glass. Ralph Littlefield plays this special little role quite well.

Bela Lugois on the other hand, who was 61 when he played the Ape Man, was already on a sad downward spiral, induced by health issues, prescribed pain-killer addiction, and alcoholism. Although he was, finally cast as the Monster in Universal's Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (a role he famously turned down in 1931) the same year he did The Ape Man, it really was too late for his career, and his roles and typecast formulaic acting in poverty row movies didn't help at all.

The movie is now in the public domain and available on various online platforms, but picture and sound quality are often poor - quite unlike Retromedia's 2020 Blu-ray release, which is definitely the sharpest (2K) and most complete print of The Ape Man that's out there. Plus - possibly as a consolation - you get Karloff's Doomed to Die Mister Wong movie with this "Monstrous Double Feature" Blu-ray bundle.

Reviewers at the time didn't care much for The Ape Man either, with Variety calling it "good for laughs which aren't in the script", although the Los Angeles Times did note "the slyly satricial moments". One of the major prtoblems of the movie is Lugosi's make-up, which is as bare bones as it gets and really does nothing other than turn Lugosi into Lugosi with lots of facial hair; the Hollywood Reporter called the make-up "horrible".

The saying that what you get is what you pay for doesn't always apply to movies (some high budget films have turned out to be terrible), but a lack of funds is certainly a huge obstacle to overcome. Louise Currie, the female lead, recalled working on the film and just how cheap Monogram's low-budget movies were, stating that she had to wear her own clothes for their films since the studio didn't even have a wardrobe department (Weaver, 1999).

Ape men were, of course, a staple of 1940s "horror" movies, especially cheaper ones, where the seemingly easy and straightforward costume challenge was to get hold of an "ape suit" (as also seen in The Ape Man) and save money.

Monogram actually turned out Return of the Ape Man a year later - also featuring Lugosi, but not a sequel to this movie.

Monster Factor:

Overall Movie Rating:


Ape Man is a disappointingly trashy example of the low-end of poverty row B-Movies, with only a few comedic flashes of some quality. Bottom line: don't bother with this one.


Denis Gifford on The Ape Man
in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (1973)

"Lugosi played James Brewster - a pretty strange name for a Hungarian. The plot itself is uncommonly like The Ape, which Karloff had appeared in for Monogram. Lugosi kills people to obtain supplies of fresh spinal fluid, the only antidote to his apishness. The twist is that instead of donning a gorilla skin, Lugosi is half-gorilla himself."


WEAVER Tom (1999) Poverty Row Horrors!, McFarland & Co


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Page created 2 April 2023
Last updated 2 September 2023

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