THE RETURN OF THE APE MAN (1944)
Article #116 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 7-10-2001
Posting date: 11-23-2001
While experimenting with suspended animation, a scientist revives an ape man found in the polar regions, and decides to give it half a new brain in order for him to communicate with it.
For me, this was by far the goofiest of the Monogram horrors Bela Lugosi made during the forties. Despite the title, it has nothing to do with the earlier Monogram movie THE APE MAN. The fun starts with the opening newspaper headline, which talks about the disappearance of a “noted wino” (those may not be the exact words, but you get the gist), which makes me wonder just how slow a news day this was.
This also backs up my earlier claim that in the Monogram horrors, Bela Lugosi was apt to do things the hard way. In order to prove the effectiveness of his suspended animation process, he decides that he needs to find an ape man frozen in a block of ice for thousands of years; what is amazing is that he actually manages to find one. He replaces half the brain of the ape man with half the brain of John Carradine, and ends up with an ape man who not only murders, but can play the piano.
George Zucco was originally supposed to play the ape man, but Frank Moran took over when Zucco backed out; this was a wise decision for Zucco, because this is the movie with the infamous scene where, when the ape man exits the lab through a high window, you get a clear view of…uh…well, whatever is under his animal skin. There are some who believe he’s not wearing anything underneath (which would most likely have been historically accurate), but my print isn’t clear enough to verify this; let us hope, in this case, that historical accuracy was not in force here, and we’re seeing nothing more than the ape man’s BVDs.