Night of the Bloody Apes (La Horripilante Bestia Humana)
Director – Rene Cardona, Screenplay – Rene Cardona & Rene Cardona Jr., Producer – Guillermo Calderon Stell, Photography – Raul Martinez Solares, Music Director – Antonio Diaz Conde, Special Effects – Javier Torres Torija, Makeup – Ma. Del Castillo. Production Company – Cinematografica Calderon S.A.
Jose Elias Morena (Dr Krallman), Armando Silvestre (Lieutenant Arthur Martinez), Norma Lazareno (Lucy Osorio), Carlos Lopez Moctezuma (Goyo), Agustin Mtz. Solares (Julio Krallman), Gerardo Cepeda (Monster)
The scientist Dr Krallman has perfected a process to save the life of his son Julio, who is dying of leukaemia. Krallman and his crippled assistant Goyo steal a gorilla from the zoo and transplant its heart into Julio. The operation is successful but soon after Julio transforms into an ape-like creature and bursts out of the laboratory. As the ape creature, he terrorises the city, abducting and raping women and bloodily killing everyone who tries to stop him.
Rene Cardona [Sr] is one of the great names in Mexican cinema. Well great debatably but undeniably prolific – he directed some 145 films, most of which fall into exploitation categories. He made the first luchador wrestling hero film with The Silver Masked Man (1954) and then gained a certain amount of fame with a string of fairytale adaptations including Tom Thumb (1958) and the purportedly incredibly bad Santa Claus (1959). He had made dozens of comedies, Westerns and musicals. He was particularly prolific in the masked wrestling superhero genre, making the infamous Wrestling Women vs the Aztec Mummy (1964) and several other wrestling superhero films with Santo vs the Strangler (1963), Santo vs the Ghost of the Strangler (1966), Neutron Traps the Invisible Killers (1965), She-Wolves of the Ring (1965), Operation 67 (1966), The Panther Woman (1967), Santo in the Treasure of Moctezuma (1967), The Bat Woman (1968), Santo and the Treasure of Dracula (1968), Santo vs Capulina (1968), Santo vs the Headhunters (1969), Wrestling Woman vs the Robot Assassin (1969), Santo in the Vengeance of the Mummy (1970), Santo vs the Terror Riders (1970), The Invasion of the Dead (1973), Night of Death (1975) and The Yellow Mafia (1975). He broached the horror genre with The Living Idol (1957) and the well-received The Crying Woman (1960), as well as other genre efforts such as The Stone Age (1964), Capulina vs the Vampires (1971), The Incredible Professor Zovek (1972) and Visit the Past (1981). His most successful film in English-speaking territories was Survive (1976) based on the true-life plane crash in the Andes where the survivors were reduced to eating the flesh of their dead.
There are claims that Night of the Bloody Apes was a remake of Rene Cardona’s earlier Mexican horror film Doctor of Doom (1962), which was one of the Wrestling Women series. Not having seen the original, I am not in a position to comment – a description of the plots is similar but also have a number of differences. Certainly, if that is the case, the Wrestling Women aspect seems to have dropped. We do get heroine Norma Lazareno who is a female luchador – and looks unbelievably foxy in the opening scenes when she puts on a scarlet red cat-like mask and bodysuit to go into the ring against an opponent – but she is not the heroine and is relegated to the role of the detective hero’s love interest, while the luchador aspect is of little relevance to the story.
The rest of Night of the Bloody Apes is a mad scientist film. It feels like absolutely nothing has changed since the cheapo efforts that were being made at Monogram and Republic in the 1940s starring either Bela Lugosi or George Zucco. The main difference is the addition of colour, lots of bare boobs and a high degree of gore. Take that away and the plot could have served for any other 40s mad scientist film. When it gets to the main plot about the scientist placing a gorilla heart into his son’s body and causing him to turn into an ape creature that goes about killing women, very little has updated in sophistication (or science) since the very similar Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) thirty-seven years earlier. There are even lines at the end about the scientist ruing the fact that he defied the dictates of God by trying to save his son’s life. There are prize schlock lines like where scientist Jose Elias Morena commands hulking and deformed lab assistant Carlos Lopez Moctezuma to: “Prepare the gorilla.”
As a B movie, Night of the Bloody Apes is too crude to work. In most regards, it is cheap – like the ape man makeup that clearly ends at the neck even though the ape man runs around bare-chested for most of the film. The numerous scenes with the ape man ripping off women’s tops and appearing intent on raping them gives the film a sordid pitch. There are plentiful gore effects – scenes of eyeballs being popped out, throats torn and the manservant’s head being ripped off. What is spectacularly exploitative is the scenes of open heart surgery that have been edited in (purportedly by the English-language distributors). Modern medical dramas have tended to make watching this seem passe today but it was enough for the British Film Classification Board to list Night of the Bloody Apes as a Video Nasty during the 1980s.