The Ape (1940)

the ape poster 1940 movie
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting : 5/10
Visuals: 5/10

Bonkers story, Karloff


Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Ape

Studio:  Monogram Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  September 30, 1940

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

the ape gorilla costume

Angry Ape + Angry Trainer = Tragedy

Dr. Bernard Adrian (Boris Karloff) is a doctor who believes in experimental methods which make the town suspect of his actions.  As he tries to help a polio victim named Frances Clifford (Maris Wrixon) with a new serum, he discovers that fixing Frances’s problems could become difficult.  When an ape escapes a visiting circus, Dr. Adrian realizes that the ape could provide the cover for his actions…but the price might be high.

Directed by William Nigh, The Ape is a low-budget horror-suspense film.  The movie is based on a 1924 play by Adam Hull Shirk which was previously filmed as The House of Mystery in 1934.  The film is in the public domain and often found online and in multipacks.

the ape polio frances maris wrixon boris karloff

Listen, Frances…either you walk or I’m going to have to dress up like an ape and steal spinal fluid!!!

Boris Karloff was a horror name you learned early as a kid…years after the peak of his legacy.  While the classic films like Frankenstein and The Mummy were high points of classic horror, Karloff also make a lot of low-budget films.  The movie is rather typical of these type of movies, but one of the stranger Karloff movies.

The plot is bonkers.  You have the mad scientist plot, and you have the ape plot.  While normally the killer ape becomes the dominate story in these type movies, it is dead.  The ape just becomes a costume for the mad scientists to kill and get spinal fluid (because that is the most logical way to get spinal fluid without anyone noticing).  He has a good cause for his actions, but he takes an evil approach.

the ape ending boris karloff

I think this proves there’s a little human in every ape

Karloff always takes a commanding approach to the screen despite the so-so story.  There is the typical love story between Frances played by Maris Wrixon and Danny Foster played by Gene O’Donnell.  Henry Hall is the sheriff out to bring in the thing killing his people (but not to be confused with the Henry Hall of Werewolf of London fame).

The movie’s visuals are rather bland.  The costume is one of the better looking ape costumes, but it still looks like a costume…but granted, it is supposed to be one for most of the movie.  It is ridiculous to think that Karloff skinned and built the ape suit from the dead ape, but it works.

The Ape is a goofy stinker of a movie, but it is a fun and short movie.  The premise is bizarre, and the movie is best viewed for classic horror vibes.  It is better than something like a Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie, but not much.  Fans of Karloff should check it out and since it is readily available, it is worth sitting down for a quick viewing.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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