“Do apes ever return to the scene of the crime?”
Dr. Bernard Adrian (Boris Karloff) is in search of a cure for paralysis. Specifically a cure for polio. He has been working on his formula for ten years. Basically since the death of his wife and daughter. He has been conducting secret experiments. Dr. Adrian is mistrusted by the people in the area. They believe his experiments are unconventional. They whisper behind his back. The only patient he has is Frances (Maris Wrixon). He believes that in order to complete his serum and cure her paralysis he needs the spinal fluid from a human. The problem with that is the subject will die.
Meanwhile, the circus comes to town. One of the star attractions is a large gorilla named Nabu. Nabu has been mistreated by his trainer. One day Nabu retaliates against the trainer. It causes a fire and in the confusion Nabu escapes. Now the huge Ape is loose and everyone is terrified. The injured circus trainer is brought to Doctor Adrian. The Doctor steps over the line and uses the trainer’s spinal fluid for his experiments.
The Doctor’s serum is complete and he tries it on Francis. The serum is beginning to work. Then Doctor Adrian drops the vial and accidentally smashes it. His hopes for a way to cure Francis are suddenly dashed. The Ape breaks into Dr. Adrian's lab. The Doctor manages to kill it. Now the Doctor is ready to step over another line.
Doctor Adrian comes up with an insane idea. He skins the Ape and uses it as a disguise.
In his Ape suit he can roam around the countryside killing people and taking their spinal fluid for his experiments. This way he can blame the deaths on the Ape.
“The Ape” was released in 1940 and was directed by William Nigh. At only about 62 minutes long it’s a quick movie. This is one of the poverty row horror films done by Monogram Pictures. Most of which have developed a certain cult status. Films by Monogram, Republic and PRC are actually the cream of the crop when it comes to “B” movies. They were done low budget but they were done with style and managed to have a number of stars either on their way up, or on their way down, on their rosters. These pictures were also the school for new screenwriters and directors learning their craft. Without these small companies we would not have some of the best talent that ever came out of Hollywood. Not to mention these cool little pictures that are fun to watch.
Boris Karloff did six pictures with Monogram. “The Ape” was the final movie. Ray “Crash” Corrigan plays the ape. No it wasn’t Boris Karloff running around in that gorilla suit. But otherwise Karloff does his usual kindly mad scientist routine wonderfully. Somehow he can make it feel like the end really does justify the means. Yes, he is stark raving mad, but he’s so nice about it. Yes, there is some really stupid dialogue in this movie, but enjoy it anyway.