Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN


CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943). Director: Edward Dmytryk.

Universal attempted a new sort of monster in this, the first of three films to deal with Paula Dupree, the Ape Woman. Borrowing a concept from H. G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau, the film has a mad scientist, Dr. Sigmund Walters (the always-reliable John Carradine), manipulating glands and using his nurse's brain to turn a female gorilla, Cheela, into a human female whom he names Paula (Acquanetta, who has no lines). Paula has an uncanny power over wild animals, and is hired by the circus to work with lion tamer Fred Mason (Milburn Stone); most of the scenes of Mason working with lions and tigers are inserts of Stone in stock footage taken from Clyde Beatty features. Unfortunately, Paula develops a lust for Stone -- which brings out her animal instincts -- and tries to get rid of his girlfriend Beth (Evelyn Ankers); Cheela/Paula is able to cut through a person's spinal cord with her fingernails. This weird but oddly likable horror flick could have used twenty more minutes' running time, some more scenes showing Carradine working with the gorilla-turned-girl, and better character development. Still, it's quite entertaining. Ray "Crash" Corrigan plays Cheela the ape, Fay Helm is the ill-fated Nurse Strand, and Lloyd Corrigan is John Whipple, who owns the circus. Followed by Jungle Woman.

Verdict: A hoot! **1/2.

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