Bela Lugosi wants your spinal fluid. But it’s not like that makes him a bad person. For Bela is afflicted with an unfortunate condition, the result of peculiar off-screen experiments which have left him part-simian, part-Hungarian. Bela is THE APE MAN.
In fact, this terrible medical mishap seems to have resulted only in a full beard, hairy sleeves, and a worrying tendency to sleep with a gorilla. Perhaps he’s not so much a mutant as a colossal pervert. But anyhow, the upshot is, he needs human spinal fluid extracted from a live victim donor, and anyone who has their spine drained will suffer instant death (WordPress doesn’t do actual blood-dripping letters, but I want you to imagine them in that last word).
THE APE MAN, manufactured by celebrated bottom-feeding indie producer Sam Katzman, is possibly the dingiest film I’ve ever seen. Though the plot is ludicrous, and sends itself up in the most blatant manner (one erratic idiot character who lopes purposelessly through the action for the whole film, declares himself to be the author at the end), all nascent laughter dies and decomposes in your throat, done in by the effluvial miasma of shame and dissipation hanging over the proceedings like a urine-soaked veil. Nothing good happened to anybody in this film. Lugosi was on his way down, sinking into formaldehyde-swigging alcoholism while gamely attempting a physical performance that strives to suggest the neanderthal, attaining only the symptoms of serious biological depression. The rest of the cast are on their way up — but this ninth circle of the cinematic inferno is as high as they got.
Fiona couldn’t watch this, and young Louis, our ward, observed that the soundtrack made him feel like he had Q-tips in his ears. Billy Graham once suggested, ludicrously, that the very celluloid of THE EXORCIST was infested with a physical evil. Preposterous of course, but I would readily believe that THE APE MAN’s reels are saturated with a pervasive photochemical form of despair, a grimy liquid misery hardened by experience and then projected forth as light, but a strange light that actually makes rooms grow dimmer, more subdued, nearer to death.
I had to watch THE APE MAN, even though I knew from extracts how soul-besmirching it is, because I’ve vowed (“I swear by Kharis and Imhotep…”) to see every movie depicted in Denis Gifford’s horror movie book. But you don’t have to go near it, and I’d advise you not to unless you’re suffering a massive excess of spinal fluid and you need an absorbent substance upon which to vent.
I mean, I still quite enjoyed it, but it’s not as good as THE SEVEN SAMURAI.
Study this image. Can’t you just feel the hope evacuating itself from every orifice in your body?