NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES/1968/RENE CARDONA
Cast: Jose Elias Moreno, Carlos Lopez Moctezuma, Armando Silvestre, Norma Lazareno, Agustun Martinez Solares
Before finally getting around to seeing Night of the Bloody Apes (aka La Horripilante bestia humana -The Horrible Man-Beast and Horror y sexo-Horror and Sex- and even as Gomar-The Human Gorilla) I aware of Rene Cardona’s work as the director of genre Mexican Wrestling films. The films are built around the lucha libre culture of Mexico where wrestling is pretty serious business. Usually the wrestlers appear in some sort of mask though not all of the time. Cardona directed some of the better Santos films (redubbed and released in the States as Samson by K. Gordon Murray) and some Wrestling women films. In fact Night of the Bloody Apes is a remake of one of his earlier films Doctor of Doom (Las Luchadoras Contra el Médico Asesino) which is also known as Rock ‘N Roll Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Ape. So if you have not gathered Night of the Bloody Apes is a horror film, but is also a wrestling film and the star wrestlers is the cute and shapely luchadoras (female wrestler) Lucy who wears a bright red devil girl outfit and for some reasons when she appears in the ring looks twenty or thirty pounds heavier.
Before going in the story and film itself I will mention that movie had a period of notoriety for being included on the British Video Nasties List that was an attempt to censor movies deemed obscene and overly violent during the early days of video. I do not know much offhand about the list and what else may have been included on it but ultimately the list did not work very well though I have read I the news recently of public concerns and anger over continued film censorship in Britain and in particular of violent films. I would have to research this more to make a comment on it. As for Night of the Bloody Apes it is certainly strange that the film would attract much attention at all since the violence in the film, and it is certainly violent, is of a campy and often silly variety. As I understand the most violent and sexy scenes where shot and added to the movies almost four years later. I wonder what the movie would look like without these scenes. The gore scenes were put in about the same time the film received its infamous English dubbing that is really not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I like old films like this when they are dubbed actually. I am not such a film purist that I chant “say no to dubs” when those dubs or over a Mexican wrestling adventure or Japanese rubber monster movie. All that being said the film without doubt falls into the cheesy exploitation genre and into the bad movies we love one as well. It is violent and there is some nice nude shots of Lucy the wrestler that are innocent in that sixties sort of way, where naked people sort of just walked around a room. Like seeing Doris Day naked. But there are some rapes and groppings of victims that balance out the girl next door charm of Lucy.
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The film’s story is centered around the extent to which Dr. Krallman will go to in order to keep his leukemia ridden son Julio (pronounced Joo-lee-o in the dubs) alive. And there is little the good doctor will not do, including breaking into a zoo and shooting and orangutan with a tranquilizer gun and then abducting the beast. The campy tone of the film is set early enough when we are treated to shots of a real orangutan in one scene then in the next some extra in a monkey suit who dramatically falls back and plops his feet down like he plopped down on the sofa after a hard day at the office. Why tranquilize a monkey you wonder? Dr. Krallman has determined that the strength of the heart and blood of a wild animal is what is needed to save his son’s perishing life. With the assistance of his gimp legged assistant Goyo (who refers to the Doctor as “master”) they perform the heart transplant not in the most modern hospital in the country or city but in Krallman’s basement. The operation scenes are spliced up with scenes of an actual open heart surgery operation. For some reason I think a fakey looking scene with a rubber heart and bright red blood would have been more effective. The operation seems to be a success for now and so should introduce to the commentary Lucy the lucadora and her cop boyfriend Arthur. As in many of Cardona’s films there is no shortage of reasons to suddenly cut to a wrestling match. Lucy wrestles as a very cute devil girl and Arthur hardly misses a match though he harbors hope that Lucy will soon retire from the mythic magic of the ring and stay home and cook enchiladas and start popping out bambinos for him.
The first fight we are treated to is a study in Christmas themed primary colors as Lucy enters the ring in her bright red costume and pairs off against a gal in a super bright green one. Up to this point I am not sure if Cardona had worked much, if at all, with color and he was going to make the most of it. To be honest the colors and sets in the film are really nice. The person who wrestles as Lucy the devil girl is obviously a double as the actress playing Lucy (Norma Lazareno) has about half of the ass mass as the actual person in the ring. During the match Lucy flings her opponent out of the ring and cause her to suffer a serious skull injury. Lucy is distraught and as the film goes on Arthur really gets annoyed with her concern over the condition of the other wrestler, Ellena who was also a friend, and all but tries to slap her out of it.
Next we are treated to Orangutan kidnapping sequence already mentioned and to the subsequent operation in Dr. Kralleman’s basement. I am not a medical expert but I would assume that in order to perform a successful heart transplant you would need more than a sparsely equipped basement laboratory decorated with animal cages and a limping, sycophant assistant who does appear to have any sort of medical degree. But in most films of this nature that is exactly all the doctor needs, along with nauseating genuine stock footage of open heart surgery. It should be noted here that Dr. Kralleman is is also the physician in charge of Ellena, our wrestling victim and that Lucy still feels horrible and Arthur assures it her it not her fault that Ellena was tossed out of the ring head first and is now in a coma with severe brain damage from which she may never recover.
I will let you know that I am not following the chronology of the story here scene by scene. That would require me to rewatch the film and I do not take notes. I am doing the best I can but to be honest when I watch some of these films I am not actually sure what is happening and why when I actually watch them, much less a few days or week later when I am trying to make logical sense of them for the sake of public education. If I make a mistake please understand and be easy on me. Now after a wrestling match and skull cracking, an orangutan/man in gorilla suit abduction, police conference where we see Arthur in action, medical conference that confirms Julio is dying and gory heart transplant in your standard mad doctor laboratory with crippled/deformed assistant who is indebted to or controlled by the mad doctor in some way we arrive at the scene where we realize the operation sort of worked but there is a glitch: the once handsome Julio has transformed into a huge stunt double with man boobs and an expressionless rubber mask that is still better looking than the dime store gorilla suit that represents his donor. The beast is soon out on the streets murdering anybody that crosses his path, but usually the females get all felt up and have their clothes half ripped off and run around with their boobs hanging out.
We are treated all the while to more wrestling matches with Lucy not being her typical confident, coma inducing self any longer. This allows for some great dressing room (where we see Lucy undressed a few times) dialog with morale boosting Arthur tell her to remount her horse and try again. The wrestling matches in this film are not as long as in some other such films and Lucy simply looks cute in her devil outfit (even if it is not really her). The stunt double here is still better than in some of the scenes from Doctor of Doom where the statuesque Lorena Velázquez (as Gloria Venus) seems to lose height and hair length and gain weight in some of the fight scenes. So what is doctor Krallmen to do now? He can’t have Julio running amok murdering and raping innocent people. He concludes that maybe it was not such a good idea to transplant a monkey heart into a human being after and so now he needs to transplant a human heart back into Julio. Luckily in the hospital there is a suitable candidate: the comatose Ellena. We are treated to great mad doctor explanations and rationalizations as to what went wrong and why is okay to rip out Ellena’s heart and let her die in order to save Julio. We are also treated later to a great medical room conference meeting where Ellena’s disappearance is written off as her sleep walking out of the hospital. All in the room nod that this is the best explanation. But while dad was out abducting the comatose Ellena Julio ripped free of his bounds and tore the boards off of the window and went out on yet another killing spree, this time attacking a couple making out in the park and poopng out the eyeball of some other hapless victim. Dad and Goyo tranquilize Julio and it is back to the operating table where we are treated to breast shots of both Ellena and Julio’s stunt double.
As the movie winds down the confusion and often unintentional laughs pick up in tempo. Now to make clear, Julio as the “bloody ape” has been stalking the city and murdering and raping in a frenzy, targeting he area around the park in particular. Arthur and Lucy have been having some relationship problems as is often the case when one person is a luchadora and the other a police detective. In fact Arthur looks forward to the day Lucy leaves the ring and Lucy is usually in a bad mood because Arthur spends all his time looking for the homicidal maniac that is brutally killing people. How selfish. So while the beast is on the loose yet again after ripping off Goyo’s head Arthur calls Lucy in her dressing room after a match where she is lying on her belly butt naked a little irked. She can’t believe that her man is off again trying to catch that ruthless killer and Arthur hearing the agitation in her voice makes the most ludicrous suggestion I have ever heard. Basically he tells her “why not come on down to the park and hang out with the boys and me.” The same park where girls have been raped and men have had their scalps ripped form their heads only a night or two before by a half human monster that is still on the prowl. Lucy’s reaction? “Really?! I’d love it!” Basically.
The movie wraps up with the monster being corner on a rooftop clutching a little girl he seized earlier amid blaring lights and his father screaming for sympathy as Arthur moves in. Dr. Krallman manages to persuade Julio to let the frightened child go, showing there is still humanity in the beast. A quality which is quickly exploited as the cops blow him to bits once the kid is away. Julio the bloody ape falls but, not from the rooftop as I expected, and in the final moments his face transforms back into the angelic features of poor Julio. In another twist of the formula storyline Dr. Krallman is not killed off by his own “Frankenstein” creation as is usually the case. Arthur and Lucy sit in the car and philosophize over what drove Krallmen to cause so much suffering simply to save his son’s life, concluding in the end that is all “… really sad.” As is usually the case with my movie outlines I am sketchy though spoiler loaded. There is a lot more to this film to amaze you and I actually have plans to post the entire film here in a few ore posts. Certainly one of the more enjoyable “bad movie” offering out there. I like Cardona’s earlier b/w wrestling adventures more and have posts on Doctor of Doom and The Wresting Women vs the Aztec Mummy coming right after this. All good stuff.