The Ape Man (1943)
THE APE MAN
Notes: Favorite Films Corp. 67 minutes.
Dr. James Brewster — Bela Lugosi
Jeff Carter –Wallace Ford
Billie Mason — Louise Currie
Dr. George Randall — Henry Hall
Agatha Brewster — Minerva Urecal
The Ape — Emil van Horn
Zippo — Ralph Littlefield
Director — William Beaudine
Screenplay — Barney A. Sarecky
Producers — Sam Katzman and Jack Dietz
Associate Producer –Barney A. Sarecky
Based on “They Creep in the Dark” by Karl Brown
Summary: A passel of dopes in fedoras, at least one of them a reporter, wait for a ship to dock. A semi-retarded man looks at a newspaper announcing the disappearance of a “gland expert,” Dr. James Brewster. He tries to alert the reporter that the arrival of the doctor’s sister Agatha is newsworthy. She’s the one with the “fur piece.” Dr. George Randall greets her and she brushes off the reporter. Randall tells her that her brother would be better off dead. Their experiments were tragically successful with Brewster using himself as a “guinea pig”: “Prepare yourself for a great shock.”
George drives Agatha to a house and they descend the stairs to a crude laboratory. A rising panel reveals a jail cell in which an ape is resting. The ape rouses its cellmate — the unfortunate doctor who has an abundance of facial hair. His sister screams and moans, “Poor boy.” Her brother impatiently insists he isn’t about to harm her, and he tells George to let him out. He has to beat back the other ape. He lopes to a chair and points out the obvious: that he’s changed. The other ape pitches a fit so Brewster tries whips at it through the bars until it is subdued. Brewster has a small cry, comforted by Agatha.
The reporter, Carter, is told by his “chief” that the paper wants an interview with Agatha. Another reporter named Billie is being sent. The usual hyperconscious snarkiness ensues regarding Carter’s gradual realization that Billie Mason is a woman. They climb into a car with additional hyperconsciousness about the military: Carter is not 4F, and in fact he’s shipping out in a month with the navy.
Agatha witnesses her brother injecting himself with another experimental drug. He describes to her his agony of having the animal self take over: “I try to fight it with all my villpower.” The only hope? “I must have human spinal fluids injected into me.” George concurs but won’t help him in this since the fluid has to be extracted from a living person, a procedure that will cause instant death.
During another ape beating, the reporters arrive and are viewed on a surveillance television by Brewster. George pretends he was giving a prescription to Agatha and departs as Agatha shows the reporters to the library to speak of her writing about ghosts. Carter is skeptical. Agatha plays a phonograph record with recorded ghost sounds, and her brother lurks about. When the reporters snap a photo of Agatha, Brewster is looking in the library window. They snap another photo and leave, planning on another meeting in the near future. Back in the car, Carter expresses his skepticism: the ghost nonsense is a cover for something else.
Brewster fluctuates between lamenting and pitching a fit. He smashes some lab equipment and the ape in the cage imitates this. Brewtsre dons coat and hat, lets the ape out, and escorts the ape with him upstairs. Brewster sneaks in George’s window and pleads with him to help, which means murder. Brewster waits while a cop questions George about the disappearance. Brewster invites the ape in the window and has it attack George’s servant, from whom he extracts some spinal fluid. When the cop leaves, George is dismayed at the murder. He calls the police, and two other cops show up: “You mean this happened while a cop was in the house?”
Back at the newspaper office, Carter shows Billie the headlines regarding George: “Ape-like hair is the only clew.” Carter translates this as George “trying to blame it on an ape.” He then notices the extra face on the photograph taken of Agatha, an ape-like face. He plans to see the editor about this twist in the story.
Brewster tells his sister he has the fluid. George will make the injection. George insists he will not incriminate himself further in this matter, but he does make the injection, with sis and the ape looking on, as is the weird guy from the beginning of the film from a window. Soon Brewster is able to “stand up straight.” Carter arrives with excuses to Agatha about his not calling first. He questions her about the stress Brewster was under with his experiments, and he brings up gorillas awkwardly. Agatha says that “he never discussed those things with me.” Carter wonders if he had a laboratory in the house, but Agatha brushes him off.
George tells Agatha again that if the serum does not work he will offer no more help. Brewster realizes he has regressed to the hunched ape-self and needs more fluid. Agatha hides from him as he releases the ape and heads back out. The ape attacks a milkman, a woman sleeping in her bed, and others. The police captain chews out his officers regarding this crime wave. Billie files her nails.
George chews out Agatha about calling him for the new injection. Brewster decides he’ll go to George and chokes Agatha unconscious. Police visit George, and Carter heads back to staking out Brewster’s house. Agatha awakens while the ape in the cage expresses agitation. Brewster enters George’s window again but George tries to make a phone call, so Brewster demands that George help him. George throws the fluid against the wall and Brewster attacks as the cops break in and find George dead with a broken back. Agatha immediately comes on the scene and faints.
Carter hears the ape whooping and enters the house. Billie also arrives and enters. Brewster returns, pleased to find another potential victim. Stalking ensues. Billie mistakenly knocks out Carter. Brewster attacks Billie, who faints as Carter comes to. Brewster drags Billie to his lab behind a secret passage at the fireplace. The ape is agitated. Carter, unable to open the secret passage, calls the police. Billie awakens and tries taking the whip to Brewster. They struggle, and the ape escapes, protecting Billie by attacking Brewster. The ape breaks Brewster’s spine, killing him, and then turns his attentions to Billie as the cops arrive. Carter insists the Agatha reveal the method for opening the passage. She does, and Billie emerges into the arms of Carter while the cops shoot and kill the ape.
Agatha mourns her brother. Carter remains a jackass. The weird guy from the beginning of the film is in Carter’s car and tells Carter that he’s the author of the story. The weirdo rolls up the car window which reads, “The End.”
Commentary: One ultimately is not surprised that the goober at the end is the one responsible for this misery.