(1943, Monogram) Bela Lugosi, Wallace Ford, Louise Currie, Henry Hall, Minerva Urecal. During a series of weird experiments, Bela transforms into an ape man! He needs spinal fluid to return to normal. Bela uses a killer ape to stalk his victims and even does away with his fellow scientist's butler. SPECIAL NOTE FROM GREG LUCE, OWNER OF SINISTER CINEMA: Looking back, Sinister Cinema has had this title out literally for decades. It's been a fairly steady seller over the years, never great, but steady. It’s always been hard for me to watch, though, because I thought it was kind of an embarrassment for Bela. Most of us know the film has a poor reputation. However, it occurred to me recently (after watching it for the umpteenth time) that what really hurts the film is the “peeping Tom” character (revealed as “the author of the story” at film's end) played by Ralph Littlefield, whom we see lurking about throughout the film. He just takes away from any chance the film might have had as a “serious” horror movie (he especially takes away from Lugosi’s performance). Without Littlefield in it, though, even as low budget as it still might be, it seemed to me that THE APE MAN was a full blooded, good old fashioned grade-B monster movie. Lugosi got to play both a monster and a mad scientist at the same time (perhaps his maddest scientist of all). And Bela does indeed have some great dialogue sprinkled throughout:
“Tell him he’s wanted in Surgery.”
“Rrrready, Doctor? Heh, heh, heh, heh…”
And of course there’s his classic reaction when Townsend (the butler) sees him and cries out in surprise, “Dr. Brewster!” To which Bela replies in the most sinister way imaginable…
These were all classic lines in a not so classic film. So some time back I started shuttling back-and-forth through the film, and though it was a complicated project, I was able to edit out the footage of the Littlefield character almost entirely (including the ending, which at first seemed impossible). The only remaining shots of Littlefield are three short clips at the very beginning of the film. These edits are all seamless and I suspect someone watching THE APE MAN for the first time would never suspect anything was missing. After viewing the final result (several times now) I’m convinced the film is significantly better. There are many moments that just seem to be sparkle because of the deletion of the Littlefield character; one in particular is the sequence of the three successive murders committed by Lugosi and his ape (one of the highlights of the film), which is spoiled in the original version when Littlefield's goofy character intercepts Bela’s next victim and walks her to safety. It’s always been a mystery as to what the Katzman-Dietz-Beaudine team was thinking when they okayed the inclusion of this character; it just seemed to sink the film into a sea of stupidity, which ruined it for me and, I suspect, many other Lugosi fans. Don’t get me wrong, THE APE MAN will never be considered—even remotely—a classic; but I think these new changes transform it into a better movie, and much more fitting to Lugosi’s final legacy. I think Bela’s performance in particular comes off greatly improved. I don’t want to sound too self-serving, but after viewing this new version I will never watch the original again and I’d like to think this is the way Monogram should have released the film in the first place.
I’m sure there might be a few fans who’ll consider these changes sacrilegious. And there are perhaps even a few who actually like the Littlefield-peeping Tom character; but what the heck, it’s a public domain film and I thought we’d have some fun with it. For extras this DVD also includes the theatrical trailer, plus the deleted footage, as well as the original ending. And keep in mind, Sinister will always have the original version available as well. So let me encourage you to dig in to THE APE MAN—The Definitive Final Cut. We’re certain you’ll find it a much more entertaining film. And to encourage you even further, we've lowered its price from $16.95 (the usual price for our horror titles) to $12.95. Enjoy! From a sparkling 16mm original print.