I recently finished an excursion through the horror films of the 1930's. I ended that trip with a deplorable comedy/horror movie called, "The Gorilla". When I saw that the first movie on my list for the 1940's was called, "The Ape," I wasn't exactly enthused.
Suffering from the loss of his own family due to polio, Dr. Adrian is determined to cure a young woman... but to do this, he requires human spinal fluid. The escape of a circus ape gives him the opportunity to get what he needs... while the towns people blame the ape...
As I said, after my experience watching, "The Gorilla," I wasn't exactly holding out much hope for "The Ape". The fact that it starred Boris Karloff helped to raise my enthusiasm.
There is some decent camera work in this film that allow for interesting plays of shadow. The angles aren't exactly innovative, but they're still effective at framing the action. The opening- announcing the arrival of the circus in town, is well done and eye catching.
It was interesting to see the variety of acting styles used in this film. I found Gene O'Donnell in his role as the leading lady's boyfriend, to be a bit stiff and rather stereotypical of how such men from small towns would be portrayed during that time period... almost as if he was a chariacture, rather than a person. I enjoyed Henry Hall's gruff character, Sheriff Halliday. He managed to combine humour and toughness quite well in my opinion. There are even a couple of third tier characters that put in pretty good performances too. Maris Wrixon, as the young paralyzed woman Dr. Adrian is trying to cure did an admirable job, though she didn't get to do a lot.
Boris Karloff, though, turns in the most complex and interesting performance of the movie. He looked the way you'd expect a small town doctor might look. Karloff showed us a man torn between doing what he felt needed to be done, and knowing that it was wrong. He created a character pushed by what he saw as necessity into doing criminal acts, and mixed it with pathos and warmth. You actually come to LIKE Dr. Adrian, despite the fact that he's committing horrible acts in his obsessed quest.
The story itself, while lacking depth, was enough of a spring board for Boris Karloff to display his wonderful skills as an actor. If the movie had been the length of most modern movies, I'm sure they could've fleshed out a lot of the more "horror related" scenes- such as the kills.
My only complaints really are the rather truncated attack scenes, and the general look of the ape costume.
I may not recommend this to the average, casual horror watcher, but I would definately recommend it to fans of Boris Karloff movies. I'm giving "The Ape" a spot in "The Bad".