"The only thing that saves this effort from a one-star rating is its enjoyable silliness, which is pretty extreme even for poverty row Forties horror flicks. This time, Bela Lugosi is "Dr. Brewster" (yet another Anglo-Saxon name for the exotic Hungarian!), whose unholy experiments with apes have given him a face-encircling beard, a slouching gait, and a tendency to sleep in a cage with his pet gorilla. He needs fresh spinal fluid (human only, please) to restore him to normal, so many complications ensue. His only ally is his sympathetic sister (Minerva Urecal), who addresses him as "you poor boy!" (Lugosi was about 60 at the time.) The film was aparently not even intended to be taken seriously, which is its one small saving grace. Even Lugosi is not as charismatic as usual."
You won't go ape for it, but the film really isn't that bad
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 06/11/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Screwy idea, wasn't it?" These, the final lines heard in the film, basically sum up The Ape Man for many viewers. Clearly, this wasn't Bela Lugosi's finest hour - playing an ape man for director William "One Shot" Beaudine and - shudder - Monogram. Critics hated the movie, and many fans point to this as the nadir of Bela Lugosi's career. I, on the other hand, have to disagree. The Ape Man really isn't that bad of a movie - and it's worlds better than, say, Scared to Death, The Gorilla, or anything Ed Wood-related. Bela at least has a starring role in this film, which I find exceedingly average rather than bad. My main criticism of The Ape Man is that the hair and make-up robbed Bela of his greatest strength: his incredible range of facial expressions (well, that and one of the dumbest plot devices in the history of motion pictures, which is revealed at the very end).
I'm not exactly sure what benefit there is to turning a man into an ape man, but we are told this was a scientific discovery of immense proportions. Dr. Brewster (Bela Lugosi), being the committed scientist that he is, used himself as a guinea pig, and now he is badly in need of a shave and haircut (that, plus a stoop in his walk and a tendency to let his arms dangle a bit, are the only simian things about him). Unfortunately, he and his partner Dr. Randall (Henry Hall) forgot to come up with a way to reverse the process. Now, the Ape Man is stuck in his secret lab, experimenting with a cure in between naps alongside his pet gorilla, while the rest of the world thinks the esteemed Dr. Brewster has gone missing. Randall's no help to him at all - he even refuses to get his partner the batch of human spinal fluid Brewster strongly believes will help him - just because you can't take a man's spinal fluid without killing him in the process. Hmmph. Luckily, Brewster's newly arrived spiritualist sister (Minerva Urecal) is a little more helpful, helping to cover for her brother as he and his gorilla go out looking for involuntary human donors on their own. The police are clueless about the Ape Man killer haunting the city, but - wouldn't you know it - a nosy reporter and his new female photographer have to get involved and ruin everything.
The film definitely has some problems - for example, the aforementioned plot device that gets dumber every time I think of it, a late-stage animal mood swing that doesn't add up, and the fact that Dr. Randall is supposedly the only person qualified to fill a shot with spinal fluid and jab it in Brewster's arm. Bela, for his part, is consigned to his pre-Planet of the Apes get-up throughout, which rules out a single classic Bela close-up. Obviously, it's not fun watching the great Bela Lugosi run around like an ape for an hour, but, no matter how bad things were in his personal life or how demeaning a role he had little choice but to accept, Lugosi always gave his all as an actor. He alone makes The Ape Man more interesting and entertaining than it has any right to be."
"I warn you. It's frightening."
Found Highways | Las Vegas | 07/07/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"That's the warning Dr. James Brewster's medical colleague gives Brewster's sister - - a ghost-hunting psychic - - before she sees Brewster changed into the Ape Man. It's also a warning for us. This is not one of Lugosi's better films. It's barely a step up from what he did with Ed Wood. But in one scene Lugosi evokes more pity than anything in Dracula.Brewster (the filmmakers should have changed the character's name when they got Lugosi to play the part) injects himself with serum from living victims' spinal columns. (I saw the movie two days ago and I've already forgotten why he needs it.) We watch Bela Lugosi, by this time fighting drug addiction in real life, shoot up. Then, even through bad monkey makeup, we see the shame and horror on his face as he realizes what he has become. "I can't fight it," he says. There's one other interesting thing in the movie. Low-budget pictures made during World War II dealt more explicitly with the fact of men going off to fight than ostensibly better movies with bigger stars. In Holiday Inn (1942) everyone wears dinner clothes and dances and drinks champagne on the Broadway Homefront, while in The Ape Man (1943) the cliché girl photog razzes the cliché cynical reporter about being 4-F (in one month he'll be Seaman Cyncial Reporter and kick Tojo's butt).The last scene makes it clear the producers had no respect for themselves or their audience. Most of the movie is unspeakably bad. But if you get a chance, watch the first half hour to see one truthful moment with Bela Lugosi."
A classic by Beaudine & Katzman.
carl_j_johansson | Sweden | 10/18/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A Monogram/Banner classic co-produced by Sam Katzman and directed by the one and only William Beaudine. Bela Lugosi is Dr. Brewster who has experimented with spinal fluids from a gorilla on himself. He is now slowly transforming to an ape himself and starts to regret what he has done. So Dr. Brewster and his pet gorilla (!) goes out killing people to get human spinal fluid so he can be cured. This is just as stupid as it sounds, and the film has a total lack of logic. But it's a fun and entertaining movie if you are into the genre of old horrors from the 40's. Well worth a look."
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 04/01/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Bela Lugosi makes the most of this Monogram Pictures mediocrity, directed by the immortal William "One Shot" Beaudine. "The Ape Man" (1943) remains a silly attempt at tragic horror, but Lugosi shines in the shabbiest of surroundings. There are worse ways to spend 64 minutes. Interestingly enough, Bela's apelike makeup is similar to the Sayer of the Law in "Island of Lost Souls" (1932)."