• Return Of The Ape Man

    Released by: Olive Films
    Released on: October 31st, 2017.
    Director: Philip Rosen
    Cast: Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Frank Moran, George Zucco, Mary Currier, Teala Loring, Tod Andrews
    Year: 1944
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    The Movie:

    Philip Rosen’s 1944 picture Return Of The Ape Man stars Bela Lugosi as Professor Dexter, a scientist who comes into possession of a block of ice containing the frozen corpse of… an ape man (George Zucco, then replaced after he got ill by Frank Moran) recently brought back from an expedition he was on. Dexter, of course, thaws the big lug out and, being a scientist of the mad variety, decides it would be best to perform a brain transplant on him.

    Objections come from Dexter’s associate, a more morally staunch man named Professor Gilmore (John Carradine). Their previous experiments, one of which involved freezing and then awakening a hobo, were successful but Gilmore wonders if Dexter isn’t taking things further than he should. Rather than try to talk Gilmore into seeing things his way, Dexter decides that Gilmore’s brain would be perfect for his plan so he kills the man and performs the surgery. It works, surprisingly, and soon enough the ape man is not only running around the neighborhood spooking people and killing random folks unlucky enough to encounter him, but he’s playing the piano like a champ!

    Gilmore' daughter Anne (Teala Loring as Judith Gibson) and wife Hilda (Mary Currier) along with their noble pal Steve Rogers (Tod Andrews as Michael Ames) know that something is up – but will they be able to stop Dexter and his ape man before they kill again?

    Not related to 1943’s The Ape Man (despite the top billing of Lugosi in both pictures), Return Of The Ape Man is an hour’s worth of wonky B-movie bliss. It doesn’t always abide by logic or really seem to care if it makes any sense at all. Instead, it’s all about Lugosi’s turn as the mad scientist and Moran running about dressed like a shabby caveman causing trouble. And you know what? It’s a whole lot of fun. Sure, the picture was made for peanuts, likely on a back lot somewhere, but that never takes away from its charms. The sets are cheap, the costumes are hokey and the story is utter nonsense but the cast commits and that makes it more than watchable. Carradine is fairly restrained here but his performance suits his more seriously minded character well enough. Supporting work from Gibson, Currier and Andrews is perfectly fine, if not all that remarkable.

    But again, Lugosi and Moran deliver and are eminently watchable in this one.


    Return Of The Ape Man debuts on Blu-ray from Olive Films in its proper 1.33.1 aspect ratio in a transfer that really could have been cleaned up a bit more. Minor print damage is reasonably constant here and at times the image is soft. In other shots, fine detail is pretty solid, definitely surpassing what DVD could provide, but again, this isn’t as clean looking as most are going to have hoped for. Contrast look decent enough, black levels aren’t half bad and there are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement to note.

    The audio is flat but otherwise decent enough. Dialogue is easy enough to follow and the levels are properly balanced. Some minor hiss creeps into the mix now and again but it’s not particularly distracting. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    There are no extras on the disc outside of a static menu that offers chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Return Of The Ape Man is a lot of ludicrous fun, showcasing Lugosi and Carradine and featuring some great work from George Zucco. Realism is an afterthought here, but there is no shortage of entertainment value to be gleaned from this film. Olive’s Blu-ray release offers an improvement over DVD editions but, in a perfect world, would have been cleaned up more than it has been. Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world, so it is what it is.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Gary Banks's Avatar
      Gary Banks -
      Things to love about this movie:
      1) The shot of the Ape Man's tighty not so whitey bvds as he climbs out a window.
      2) Lugosi walking the streets in evening dress carrying a blowtorch.
      3) Lugosi's line:"Some people's brains wouldn't be missed" or something close to that.
      4) Zucco actually not appearing in the movie!
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      I really wish this one had looked like THE VAMPIRE'S GHOST! That one was pretty darn sharp.
    1. Killer Meteor's Avatar
      Killer Meteor -
      Zucco is in the first shot on the table, then he's Moran for the duration of the film. You can tell, as Zucco's disfigured right arm is very prominent.

      I do wonder how ill he actually was, can you imagine the dignified 60-ish Zucco running around in his underwear?