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Film Review: Night of the Bloody Apes (1969)

SYNOPSIS:

This cheap Mexican horror film is a remake of Cardona’s Doctor of Doom (1962), spiced with nudity, medical footage, women wrestling, and cheap gore shots. Female masked wrestler Lucy (who looks like the devil) beats the stuffing out of an opponent – a wrestling lady with a red costume like Catwoman. Lucy finally hurls her opponent from the squared circle and knocks her out cold. Although Lucy’s cop boyfriend tries to convince her that it’s all part of the show, Lucy can no longer handle the stress of wrestling. Meanwhile, a mad scientist (Dr. Krellman) attempts to cure his son’s leukemia by doing the first ‘ape-to-human’ heart transplant. He decides to put a gorilla’s heart into the lad and orders his flunky to “prepare the gorilla!”. There is actual footage of a graphic open heart surgery inserted in the ape operation scenes. This of course causes the boy to turn into a big stinky man-ape. He becomes deformed and mutated, as he sprouts excessive facial hair and takes on the …

REVIEW:

First of all, there’s only one ape in this movie. It should be called “Night of the Bloody Ape.” That being said, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to watch this film. It seemed like just another exploitation film. Since I’m an expert on such films, and I had never heard of this one before, I assumed it was forgotten for a reason. Nevertheless, I went into the viewing with an open mind. After watching, my feelings are conflicted, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say I more or less liked it.

The movie, directed by Rene Cardona, tells a story as old as time. A female wrestler, played by Norma Lazareno, throws a fellow wrestler out of the ring and severely hurts her. Norma’s cop boyfriend tries to comfort her, but the guilt is overwhelming. Meanwhile, the injured wrestler’s physician, Dr. Krallman, is besieged by grief over his ailing son. Desperate to save his son, he attempts an experimental operation to replace the boy’s heart with that of an ape he’s kidnapped from the zoo. As the good doctor and his assistant perform the surgery (in a scene which uses actual surgical footage) we are treated to several scenes of poorly choreographed lady wrestling. The operation saves the kid, but turns him into a ravenous monster, half man/half ape. He escapes and causes havoc all over town. Dr. Krallman’s only choice is to perform yet another heart transplant, this time from a human, in the hopes of reversing the damage. And he knows just the candidate, the comatose wrestler he’s been treating. When the hospital notices her disappearance, they send Norma’s boyfriend to find the girl.

“Night of the Blood Apes” is actually a remake of Mr. Cardona’s previous film, “Doctor of Doom” because some stories need to be told. And retold.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering if this movie was ever used on Mystery Science Theater 3000. To the best of my knowledge, it was not, but it would have been a perfect fit. Maybe they’ll do it on the show’s reboot.

Two of my favorite things about the movie are its score and cinematography. The music is bombastic and serious, which is a fun contrast to the silliness happening on screen. I also liked the use of color. The movie goes from bright to dark effortlessly. Also, there are vivid reds that remind me of some of Dario Argento’s best work.

The adolescent in me also enjoyed the gratuitous gore and nudity. They add to the film’s drive-in feel, and definitely caused pangs of nostalgia for me. We forget the lengths teenage boys had to go to in order to see a bare breast before the internet. Those boys had a friend in Rene Cardona.

The movie does have some noticeable flaws. The acting, for one, stands out for its blandness. I suppose part of that might be due to the poor dubbing from the original Spanish. Still, there is no actor that really stands out. I kept thinking what fun Vincent Price would have had with the part of Dr. Krallman. It was also confusing when the Lazareno character, who is set up as the heroine, becomes superfluous by the third act.

That being said, I had fun watching this movie. Partly because I was making jokes at its expense, but also because it looks like the filmmakers were having fun making it. And Mr. Cardona has a unique style and sensibility. With so many bland, uninspired direct-to-streaming horror movies coming out, it’s nice to see something a little different.

In short, no one will confuse this for a lost masterpiece. The special effects are laughable, the pacing is slow, and, as said before, the wrestling scenes are pretty silly. But who cares? This is a fun, goofy movie that is perfect for a late night viewing with friends. Preferably if drinks are involved.

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