THE APE MAN (1943) Reviews and overview

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The Ape Man is a 1943 American science-fiction horror feature film directed by William Beaudine from a screenplay written by Barney A. Sarecky [as Barney Sarecky] based upon ‘They Creep in the Dark’ by Karl Brown. The movie was produced by Sam Katzman and Jack Dietz for low-budget specialist distributors Monogram. It was released in the UK by New Realm Pictures as Lock Your Doors

The Banner productions movie stars Bela Lugosi, Louise Currie, Wallace Ford, Henry Hall, Minerva Urecal, Emil Van Horn, Ralph Littlefield, J. Farrell MacDonald, Jack Mulhall, Wheeler Oakman, George Kirby, Charles Hall, Charles Jordan, Ray Miller and Sunshine Sammy Morrison.

A sequel in name only, Return of the Ape Man, followed in 1944 and starred Bela Lugosi and John Carradine. George Zucco appeared on promo material but left the production after only one day.

Bela Lugosi The Ape Man 1943


Doctor James Brewster (Bela Lugosi) and his colleague Doctor Randall (Henry Hall) are involved in a series of scientific experiments which have caused him to transform into an ape-man.

In an attempt to obtain a cure Brewster believes that it will be necessary to inject himself with recently drawn human spinal fluid. When Randall refuses to help him by providing the fluid, Brewster and his captive gorilla must attempt to find an appropriate donor…

ape man bela lugosi and caged gorilla


The Ape Man is too forthright about its “ah, who cares— it’s only a horror movie” attitude to elicit the same species of awed wonder from an audience as Bride of the Monster or Glen or Glenda, but in its mercenary way, it is no less crappy than either of those films, and no fan of Bela Lugosi at his most debased should miss it.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

“Director William Beaudine’s work is atrocious, as is typical of this reviled hack, with no imagination or interest evident at all. The acting, even by the talented Lugosi is at best substandard. All of which, if one is in the right mind, does mean that Ape can be a hoot, especially the ending, which seems to have wandered in from a Tex Avery cartoon.” AllMovie

“The ape is terrible, but Lugosi as an ape-man is even worse.” Down Among the “Z” Movies

” …a wretched, demeaning low point in Bela’s Monogram period. He spends the film in a makeup that can only be described as Shemp Howard on steroids. He looks and acts embarrassed as well he should be […] The high point of The Ape Man is the intentional humor that crops up at different points in its short running time…” DVD Drive-In

“This is a stunningly terrible film […] incredibly hammy acting and the worst gorilla impression ever. It is extremely cheap and badly made in every respect, on the plus side it is only an hour long and it might give you a few chuckles.” Eat Horror

“There are some nice moments in this one, though; the scene where Lugosi first takes the fluid and is able to straighten out of his bent position is actually a good moment of physical acting on his part. I also have to admit a certain fondness for that bizarre comic relief character who seems to be everywhere and know everything…” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“This is the kind of dreck that likely led Lugosi straight to Smack Central. But the worst (and yet best) thing about it is the end, when our hero reporter and his gal pal shutterbug look over at the creepy guy who’s been peering in windows the whole time […] and ask, “Hey, who are you?” The creepy guy turns to the camera and says, “Who, me? I’m the author of the story!” Flick Attack

“If an audience can look past the obvious plot devices and the embarrassment of seeing this once distinguished actor speaking monkey gibberish, The Ape Man has a few appreciative values. While the production can be described as uninspired, the gloomy atmosphere lends itself nicely to the story ably accompanied by a pleasing music score.” The Missing Link

“Good stuff.  Mind you, it is not that great of an actual film, but it is what it is. Lugosi embraces the role and really just goes for it. He makes this work, even if the story is complete bull. The old-timey banter between the two reporters is fun too. Is it shallow? Yes. There are a bunch of silly, little things here that make it extra fun.” Mondo Bizarro

“There is the undeniable kitsch appeal to the images of seeing Bela Lugosi walking around the streets stalking victims accompanied by an actor in a very cheap-looking gorilla suit. The actual ape-man makeup is no more horrific than the image of a slightly hunched-over man with an Amish or Quaker chin curtain.” Moria 

” …the selling point of The Ape Man was not the horror of a man becoming half or the extents he will go to turn himself back but more about the novelty of Bela Lugosi walking around hunched over and with a makeup job which looks more wolf man that ape man. Yes, there are the incidents which lead to a killing spree but this sadly comes up incredibly short and even Bela Lugosi is unable to make it entertaining.” The Movie Scene

” …this is a fast, breezy and wildly absurd film and I enjoyed it enormously.  It moves rapidly, crams in a lot of weirdness in just over an hour and even has a guy in an ape suit. And you can’t ask for more from one of Bela’s horror films from the Forties. Particularly not when they were made by Monogram.” Rivets on the Poster

“As if aware of how silly their plot is, the creators here undercut each scene of tension with a little light comedy, which might have left you feeling cheated if you were taking it at all seriously, but there cannot have been many who were in that position. Once you find out who that mysterious stranger who keeps appearing is, then you recognise this was regarded as a bit of fun, which is the way you should treat it too.” The Spinning Image

” …The Ape Man is really only worth it for the outlandishness of its premise, and the schadenfreude that arises from watching Bela Lugosi done-up with false mutton-chops, palling around with a gorilla and ooking and ahhing like a monkey. But on the other hand, that’s already more than anyone could ever reasonably ask.” Stone Age Cinema

The Best of the Worst DVD Collection

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“Bela Lugosi is always worth watching, even if the movie isn’t, and this is no exception, though he’s not exactly the pinnacle of fun either. He’s amusing to watch, but the script isn’t quite strong enough to give him anything really good to do, though it is amusing seeing him make gorilla noises, and it’s heartening seeing how seriously he took proceedings even when slathered in silly ape-man make-up.” Not This Time, Nayland Smith


The Ape Man is an embarrassment all around. From the guy in the gorilla suit to Lugosi’s “ape man” costume to the lame trio of comic characters. It’s often hard to tell if it was intended as a horror film or a horror film spoof. For the sake of the great Lugosi, I hope it’s the latter.” Steve Miller, 150 Movies You Should Die Before You See

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Choice dialogue:

Jeff: “Cocky little wench, aren’t you?”

Agatha Brewster: “Most spirits are honest, gentle and kind, and only want to bring happiness to humans. But a few are evil and, having been wicked in life, are wicked in death, and only haunt the scenes of desperate crimes, revelling in murder.”

Cast and characters:

Bela Lugosi … Doctor James Brewster
Louise Currie … Billie Mason
Wallace Ford … Jeff B. Carter
Henry Hall … Doctor George Randall
Minerva Urecal … Agatha Brewster
Emil Van Horn … The Ape
J. Farrell MacDonald … Police Captain O’Brien (as J. Farrel MacDonald)
Wheeler Oakman … Police Detective Brady
Ralph Littlefield … Zippo
Jack Mulhall … Reporter
Charles Jordan … Police Detective O’Toole

Technical details:

64 minutes
Black and white
Aspect ratio: 1.37: 1
Audio: Mono

Working titles:

The Gorilla Strikes
They Creep in the Night
They Creep in the Dark


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