• The Ape (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: October 20th, 2020.
    Director: William Nigh
    Cast: Boris Karloff, Maris Wrixon, Gene O'Donnell
    Year: 1940
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Ape – Movie Review:

    Directed by William Night for Monarch Pictures and released in 1940, The Ape stars the legendary Boris Karloff as Dr. Bernard Adrian, a quirky old medical practitioner plying his trade in a small down where most of the population doesn’t really seem to appreciate him. We see this first hand in the opening scene where a few kids throw rocks at the old guy’s house!

    Regardless, Adrian treats his patients as best they can, particularly a pretty young woman named Frances Clifford (Maris Wrixon), bound to a wheelchair since a tragic accident cost her the use of her legs. Frances reminds Adrian of his own daughter, and so he has a particular affinity for her. After their latest visit, Frances’ boyfriend, Danny Foster (Gene O'Donnell), takes her to check out the circus that has rolled into town. After the performance, they and the rest of the audience head home, unaware that due to an accident the place will soon catch fire and let loose upon the town a giant killer ape!

    When the ape starts killing people, Adrian uses the spinal fluid from its victims to create a serum that he hopes will give Frances the ability to walk again. But of course, the local authorities and residents alike want to make sure that the killer ape is brought in, dead or alive!

    Co-written by Curt Siodmak and Richard Carroll and nicely shot by cinematographer Harry Neumann, The Ape is certainly an imperfect film. At sixty-three-minutes it feels a little padded, and a movie that short shouldn’t ever feel padded, but despite, and sometimes because of, its flaws the movie turns out to be pretty entertaining if you’re in the right mood for it. There are moments where the movie has some genuine atmosphere, the occasional use of some nice shadowy lighting effects helping in this regard (and also pulling double duty by hiding some of the noticeable deficiencies in the ape suit itself – the creature never looks like anything less than a guy in a fuzzy suit!).

    Karloff is the main draw here, he’s good as the kindly – and slightly mad – doctor at the center of all of this. His instantly recognizable voice lends some weight to the character of Adrian and he’s lots of fun to watch whenever he’s on screen. Maris Wrixon is decent enough as the wheelchair bound Frances, delivering some reasonably convincing work when Adrian’s experiment starts to work and Gene O'Donnell is fine as her boyfriend. Supporting work from Henry Hall as the town sheriff and Dorothy Vaughn as France’s mother is also solid enough, and Gertrude Hoffman does just fine in her memorable supporting role as Adrian’s housekeeper, Jane.

    The Ape – Blu-ray Review:

    The Ape arrives on Region A Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studios in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.33.1 with the sixty-three-minute feature given 19.8.7GBS of space on the 25GB disc. Taken from a new 2k master of what we can assume is a British print (given that this starts off with a BBCF classification card), the picture looks pretty solid for a film that recently celebrated its eightieth birthday. There’s some noticeable print damage throughout as well as some flicker, and some of the stock footage inserts in the circus scenes are less than pristine, but overall detail is pretty good here and contrast generally looks fine, with only some occasional blooming visible at times.

    A 16-bit English language DTS-HD Mono track is the only audio option offered. Subtitles are provided in English only. There’s a little bit of hiss in a few spots but otherwise, the track is fine, with proper balance and easily understandable dialogue. The score also sounds pretty good here.

    The first of two new audio commentary tracks comes courtesy of Film Historian Tom Weaver. With a good sense of humor, Weaver expresses his thoughts on the film’s effectiveness (or lack thereof, I think I liked this movie more than he did!) and offers up plenty of info on Karloff and the rest of the cast as well as The Monarch Film Corporation. He also explains where those stock footage inserts came from, talks up the involvement of Siodmak and quite a bit more. The second commentary features Film Historian Richard Harland Smith. This track is also done with a good sense of humor as he covers the details of the ape suit featured in the picture, the very dubious science that is the backbone (ha!) of the film’s premise, details on the cast and crew and quite a bit more. Both of these are interesting and enjoyable and while maybe The Ape didn’t really need two commentaries, better too much than not enough!

    Rounding out the extras are bonus trailers for Black Sabbath, The Crimson Cult and The Undying Monster as well as menus and chapter selection options.

    The Ape – The Final Word:

    The Ape is no masterpiece but it is a really fun and entertaining B-movie with a strong performance from Karloff. Kino has done a fine job bringing this picture to Blu-ray in pretty solid shape and with two worthy commentary tracks documenting the picture’s history.

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