Return of the Ape Man (1944)

Let’s make this clear: this one has nothing whatsoever to do with Bela Lugosi’s 1943 film from Monogram, The Ape Man.

This is hardly unheard of when we are talking about horror films from the Thirties and Forties, as neither Doctor X nor The Spider Woman had much to do with the “sequels” that bore their names.  And it seems even less unlikely when we are talking about Monogram, who turned out a lot of super cheap horror quickies like this one.

The other thing we need to get straight is that, despite the credits promising us not only Bela, but John Carradine and George Zucco, George does not actually appear for more than a few seconds.  He fell ill after the initial costume fitting and Frank Moran took his place.  However, his contract gave him third billing, so there he is.

This is basic Forties mad scientist fare for the most part, as Bela and John go off to the Arctic (in some borrowed stock footage!) and find an ape man who has been frozen in a glacier for countless centuries.

Now, despite the utter horror the creature produces, and all the claims that it looks like it’s half-ape and half-man, the creature just looks like a guy with lots of hair and a wild beard, wearing a fur suit.

And not, repeat NOT, like part man, part ape (which we know from The Ape Man, where Bela ends up as a half man, half ape, would make you look like an Amish Farmer with a bad haircut…).

Now, we already know Bela is a mad scientist, as he had frozen a random bum they picked up off the streets and thawed him out again successfully (that’s how mad scientists do things).  So it is no surprise that rather than seeking fame or fortune for his find, he wants to wake it up.  Oh, and as he wants to talk to it he’s going to transplant part of a modern brain into the beast.

Without doing something extravagant like telling anyone about it, of course.

This ends up with a surprising turn of events that could easily have come straight out of one of the ickier Hammer Frankenstein films of the Seventies, although without the blood.  This was made in the Forties, after all.

However, it isn’t too surprising — well, it’s more like it’s exactly what we expected.

Sharp eyed viewers will note, however, in the Arctic scenes, that one of the laborers never actually hits anything with his pick, and at times the characters cast shadows on the “distant icefields” behind them.  For the most part, though, the minuscule budget doesn’t hamper things too much, and the film does its job fairly effectively.  It is only about Fifty-five minutes long, but it gets on with things and finishes quickly.  It doesn’t have time to get boring and there are even a few good moments along the way. 

Which isn’t bad for a Monogram horror film.  Better than average, in fact.

And Bela even seems to be enjoying himself this time around.

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