Friday, December 7, 2012

Night of the Bloody Apes (1969): or, My Heart Belongs to Bonzo

In 1960s Mexico, female luchador Lucy Ossorio (Norma Lazareno) is an athlete at the top of her game. Resplendent in her Red Devil mask and form-fitting crimson jumpsuit, every night she wrestles to a packed house of adoring, sweaty male fans, tossing her hapless opponents around the ring like lumpy bags of week-old laundry. She's young(ish), sexy, strong and beautiful, and on top of that, she's dating Lt. Arturo Martinez (Armando Silvestre), a hotshot homicide cop with the brains of Hercule Poirot and the good looks and charm of a young Tony Orlando. Sure, it's a rough game, but this is one luchadora who really has the world by the tail.

But into the Happy Picnic of Life, the Swarming Ants of Tragedy are likely to crawl, determined to carry away the Pie of Contentment on their evil little chitinous backs. This is exactly what happens one evening when, drunk on her own in-ring indominatability, La Demonita Roja tosses her opponent, the unfortunate Gata Negra ( Noelia Noel) through the ropes and into the crowd. The girl takes a bad hop and lands on her noggin, pushing a splinter of bone into her brain and inducing immediate coma. Guilt-stricken, Lucy drops a couple of matches and then decides it's time to hang up the boots for good.

"Venir a mí, bro!"
Meanwhile, local brain surgeon and organ-transplant specialist Dr. Krallman (José Elías Moreno) has a problem. His angel-faced son Julio (Agustín Martínez Solares) is bed-ridden with terminal leukemia, and all the specialists at his hospital have given the boy up for dead. But like any devoted father, the good doctor is not about to take that lying down. In an astonishing feat of scientific reasoning, Krallman deduces that the blood of a more powerful creature--say, a gorilla, for example--might be able to fight off the cancer where puny human blood has failed. But since gorilla-juice is clearly too potent for the human circulatory system, he figures he'll need to swap out Julio's heart for an organ of the simian persuasion. Then bang! Roberto es su tío! 

It's true what they say: sometimes the simplest answer is the best.

With the assistance of his slavishly devoted manservant Goyo (Carlos López Moctezuma), the doctor sets about putting his plan into action. Sneaking into the Federal District's most un-security-conscious zoo, the two old men easily purloin a primate and plop its pumper into Papa's poor pestilential progeny, post-haste. In a few hours, the boy is on the mend, the doctor's hypothesis is proved, and the overcrowded monkey house at the zoo has some much-needed extra space. Everybody wins!

Well, almost everybody.
Of course near-death experiences are almost always transformative. People come back from the brink with a newfound desire to live life to the fullest, to help their fellow man, or to cash in and go on a book tour with John Edward. In Julio's case, however, the transformation is less spiritual--instead, his new ticker turns him into a rampaging half-ape monstrosity! (Actually, more like 1/8-ape...he only seems affected from the jawline up.) I guess everybody copes in his own way.

Soon the Bloody Ape (singular, despite the film's title) is out on the town, leaving a trail of mauled, broken bodies in his wake. Realizing his mistake, Dr. Krallman reasons that putting a human heart back in his boy's chest is the best way to correct things, and thanks to Lucy's earlier reasonless brutality, he has just the perfect subject in his hospital. Goya and the doctor remove the girl back to his basement lab (again with astonishing ease), and after recapturing Julio, perform the second transplant in as many days, again leaving Julio none the worse for wear.

"I can haz nanner puddin?"

The missing girl and the string of brutal murders finally alert the police to something amiss, and Arturo gets on the case. Most are blaming the "escaped" gorilla for the crimes, but when Arturo sees the fingerprints and notices they are "half-ape, and also half-human!" (Ed. note: Whaaaa?), he knows they're dealing with something a bit more sinister. Worse, Julio's condition isn't cured by his new ticker, and soon he's ripped Goya's head from his body and gone out to wreak yet more bloody havoc. Can Arturo stop him before he kills half the nubile women in the city? Can Dr. Krallman save his son from his own scientific hubris? Will Lucy ever wrestle again?

Night of the Bloody Apes (1969) is not a movie that pulls out all the stops--it's a movie that doesn't even acknowledge there are stops to be pulled. The ape-man's attacks are surprisingly gory, ina late-60s tempera-paint way: we have scalps being pulled off, throats being torn open, eyes being gouged out, and multiple vicious maulings, often perpetrated upon the unclad torsos of energetically screaming senoritas. In addition, director René Cardona also treats us to actual footage of real open-heart surgery--a circumstance that landed this film on the famous British "Video Nasties" list, and kept it unseen in that country for years.

"This really brings out your eyes."

There's an awful lot of nudity too. Lucy--who seems to gain about 30 pounds every time she steps into the ring, only to drop the weight when the mask comes off--thinks nothing of chatting on the telephone in the altogether, fortunately for us. Also, in keeping with the long-standing cinematic tradition of "rapey half-mans-half-monkeys" (further reading here), Julio frequently rips the clothing from his female prey before proceeding to rip at their flesh. Even the comatose Noel shows all pre-surgery, in the interest of medical accuracy, no doubt.


The film is badly paced--there are many, many scenes of a character walking slowly from one end of the set to the other, that could have been profitably trimmed--and most of the acting is expectedly terrible. The lone exception is Moreno as Krallman, who imbues his laughable lines with a certain genuine gravitas, and manages to be emotionally effecting as a father desperate to save his son. It should also be mentioned that this wouldn't be the last time the hunky Solares (Julio) portrayed a man-beast: he also appeared as the lycantrhopic Rufus Rex in the brilliant luchador epic Santo y Blue Demon vs Drácula y el Hombre Lobo (1973, reviewed on MMMMMovies here).

With nothing to do but lie in bed all day, Julio had time to make some interesting personal discoveries.

This film is deservedly one of the more popular subjects of the MST3K crew's derision, but in my opinion you don't need Joel (or Mike?) and the Bots to facilitate your viewing enjoyment. You can watch it for the xenotransplantation and pseudoscience, or for the hard-hitting wrasslin' action, for the blood or the boobs or the rather ridiculous beast. You can count the flubs--for instance, Cardona conveniently ignores the discrepancy between the number of medical personnel in Krallman's lab (two) and the number of hands working in the chest cavity (six); also, while Julio wrestles with a particularly spirited victim in a local park, her thrashing limbs displace the grass clippings standing in for a meadow, revealing the bare concrete beneath! Or you can just sit back and let the madness wash over you in waves. That's my suggestion.

2.25 thumbs

A few more images from Night of the Bloody Apes (1969):

"And you should see what I gave him from the elephant! Woohoo!"



"What are these fuckin' iguanas doing on my coffee table?!"

Waste of a Perfectly Good Monkey Suit

Splendor in the Grass...Clippings

Separated at birth? (reference)

"Now that I've got my framed portrait of the Duke of DVD, I really do have it all!"

5 comments:

bruce holecheck said...

Recently did a VHS Archives post about this one -- it's an all time favorite!

http://bruceholecheck.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-vhs-archives-rene-cardonas-night-of.html

Samuel Wilson said...

Always good to hear from you, Vicar -- even when I'm actually just reading your mute words on a screen, but you get the idea. But this is an adorable film for its straightfaced absurdity, which only gets amplified by such English-as-second-language lines as "His days are counted," which as I recall is said twice in the picture. I remember this as the "Dog of the Week" the first time I ever saw Siskel & Ebert on PBS, which means that Night was still working the big screen in Chicago in the late Seventies. When I finally saw it, it lived up to the hype. Happy holidays, by the way.

Al Bruno III said...

It is so great to see fresh posts here! The only thing that brings me more pleasure than the Vicar's prose is the taste of his savage savage man love!

The Vicar of VHS said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

@bruce--it's definitely a movie that rewards multiple viewings. I don't think I can ever get enough of La Demonita Roja's in-ring antics!

@Samuel Wilson--thanks, my friend! I think "adorable" is just the right word for this flick, even with its icky surgical footage. This would have been incredible to see with an audience, and I'd love to hear that Siskel & Ebert review! Happy holidays to you!

@Al Bruno III--thanks to you as well! I think... Just know that the restraining order I've filed is for YOUR protection, not mine. ;)

Sorry to all that it's taken me so long to reply. It's truly moving to me that even after so many months of silence, you've still got my back. I'll try to do better now. :)

Leaman said...

My family owned a movie theater growing up, and I found a print of this in the back, behind the screen, stashed away with all the ''70s porn. I've been familiar with this since the mid-80s. It's always great to find someone who appreciates it also. Although the heart transplant footage was always very rough to watch. Between that, the wrestling and the gratuitous nudity, I always wondered what kind of deranged mind came up with this stuff.

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