Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Night of the Bloody Apes (1969)
Mexican cinema is certainly a fertile ground for horror! From the films of directors such as Carlos Enrique Taboada, Juan López Moctezuma, Guillermo del Toro (who I keep mistaking for Spanish) and another who I'll discuss today, there's certainly a lot to admire! Also a lot to groan at, of course, but that's true of cinema everywhere...
Dr. Krellman, a somewhat unscrupulous but still caring doctor, is distraught at his son Julio's worsening condition from leukemia, and seeks to try a risky procedure to save his life. This involves removing Julio's heart, and replacing it with the heart of an ape. The process seems to succeed, but not without a hitch, as Julio soon transforms into a ravenous ape-man, hell-bent on killing, maiming, and raping as much as possible, loose on the unsuspecting streets of Mexico. Meanwhile, while his luchadore girlfriend Lucy is despondent over accidentally critically injuring an opponent, Lt. Arturo Martinez investigates the mysterious attacks...
Written and directed by Rene Cardona, Night of the Bloody Apes is a 1969 remake of a previous film he made, titled The Wrestling Women vs. the Killer Doctor. Now THAT'S a film I'd like to see! But then again, if it's anything like this movie, but possibly on a smaller budget, then perhaps not*!
*Read: Of COURSE I'll watch it at some point!
Night of the Bloody Apes gets off to a bad start thanks to well over a third of its runtime being devoted mainly to female luchador matches. It's barely even a horror film, and Lucy is a lead player for this section, but once the film FINALLY switches gears to being a horror, she vanishes for over half an hour, and only then returns for a brief couple of scenes! In-case you were wondering if the movie utilizes this first act to develop its characters, not really. Half-an-hour passes, yet in all that time, we barely get to know them. The son, Julio, barely has any dialogue, or screentime, while his father fares a little better, with a little depth. Julio has no character because once he turns into an ape, he only reverts back to a human at the end, and isn't all that conscious when he does.
Onto the characters. First, with Lucy, superfluous as she may be. She's a tolerable lead, but not all that interesting. She also comes across a little stupid sometimes, like how despite crippling and possibly killing her friend only the previous night, she has no compunction with continuing to wrestle, even throwing another wrestler out of the ring! Stop killing your opponents, lady! Her boyfriend, meanwhile, show's vocal exasperation at her for 'still' thinking about the accident with her friend, despite barely a day passing! He also wants her to retire, which is even crazier, since he's a friggin' police officer. Oh, but nevermind that fact. It would be far too unsafe for his girlfriend to be a...gasp...wrestler!
The remainder of the cast are decently written, from the boyfriend cop, to Dr. Krellman, and his lab assistant Goya, among others.
The finale is INCREDIBLY disappointing! Given the heavy focus on Lucy, as well as the original film's title, you'd expect her to fight back against the beast, in full wrestling garb, no less, but what happens instead? She runs screaming, and is kidnapped by the beast, having to be rescued by her boyfriend. This movie could've had a female luchador fighting a gorilla man, but fucking ignored that opportunity! Even more egregious is that this is a Rene Cardona film, and he was all for making movies about luchadors fighting monsters! All this serves to make the character of Lucy entirely superfluous. There was zero need for any of those wrestling matches beyond the first if she wasn't going to play a big role in the proceedings. Even the first wasn't particularly necessary, as the second heart transplant ends up being pointless, as of course, replacing the malevolent ape heart with a human one (yes, I really just said that) has zero effect on Julio's transformations into an ape-beast.
There's also a needless fourth act, which also has quite a depressing body count, which is all on the cop lead for not ending the film 10 minutes sooner!
The script is pretty bad, with sometimes hilarious dialogue (how much to blame the original writers or the American dubbers are I don't know). "Boy oh boy. This one's been murdered. Ripped to pieces", a doctor says over a completely intact and bloodless corpse. And then there are the laughable closing lines. In regards to the title, props to the movie for the ape massacre taking place on a single night, and at night! Though there's only one ape, so the title still loses some points
There are lots of little problems with Night of the Bloody Apes. Some can be chalked to up low budget, while others can't. First, there's how the ape-man rapes women, despite wearing pants (which if he somehow undid offscreen (he doesn't), how the heck did he do them back up again?!). Speaking of that, there's a rape scene that's REALLY obviously been filmed at a later date to spice the movie up, as it totally screws up continuity! Funnily enough, a censored version of the film would actually benefit from the scene's exclusion for that reason! That scene also has some amusingly fake grass on what some say is a studio floor. Next up is the poor editing, which often cuts away abruptly, frequently interrupting the score midway through.
Coming to the gore effects, they're actually pretty good! There are neato eye-gouging, scalping, and decapitation death scenes. Then there are the transplant scenes, which used real footage of heart surgery. Firstly, the stock footage is actually edited into the scene pretty well for the most part, despite looking unconvincing in spots thanks to the differing film quality, and the off 'continuity' regarding the amount of doctors at work. Onto my second point regarding this footage-FUCKING WHAT?! Well I guess Thriller: A Cruel Picture now has competition for most gratuitous use of real-life violence in a movie!* Whether this footage was inserted by Cardona himself, the studio or the American distributors for the dubbed version, I'm not sure.
*Thriller of course still comes on top, for decidedly unpleasant and amusing reasons.
The make-up for the ape-man is decent, albeit not very ape-like, and I kinda wish they'd done more than just the face.
The dub acting is pretty bad. Ok at best, and always terribly ill-fitting. I checked out a little of the original Spanish-language version, and while the acting doesn't seem all that better from what I can tell, it is better than the English dub if only by virtue of the actors talking with their real voices.
The score is tolerable, but constantly at odds with the editing, as mentioned above. It also sounded a little reminiscent of The Prisoner, interestingly enough.
Night of the Bloody Apes is a fun little movie, but a little boring. That doesn't tank the rest of the film, but this certainly doesn't rank as one of the better Mexican horror flicks...