THE APE MAN (1943). Directed by William Beaudine.
Bela Lugosi manages to give a good performance in this pretty poor horror film about a man who injects himself with – well, I guess you could call it "essence of ape" – for no discernible reason. He becomes ape-like, all covered in fur and with a loping gait. (It never occurs to the man that he could cut most of the hair off of his face and easily achieve a more normal appearance – it’s that kind of picture.) Bela gets the idea that injecting spinal fluid into himself will reverse the effects of his moronic ape experiment and for a while it does, but he keeps having to kill innocent people with the aid of a big gorilla to keep from reverting. The gorilla is funny, especially when he and Lugosi are busy slapping at one another like a crazy comic duo. (It makes absolutely no sense that Bela should have to sleep in the cage with the ape!) To be fair, it’s obvious that this isn’t meant to be taken seriously, especially when the alleged screenwriter shows up on camera at the end to poke fun at his own zany story. Minerva Urecal is great as Lugosi’s sister, who expresses great concern for him and isn’t above pointing a gun at a doctor friend to force him to inject Lugosi with more spinal fluid. Louise Currie is merely annoying as a perky photographer who runs around with a dopey reporter.
Verdict: Watch at your own risk! **.