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Argh...my baboon heart!
A UK region 0 DVD review of NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES / LA HORRIPILANTE BESTIA HUMANA by Gort
 

What is it with apes? Strike that, what WAS it with apes? Back in days of cinema yore, there was nothing more frightening than an ape on the rampage. And I'm not talking the oversized King Kong variety, but the sort you'll find at the local zoo. Actually, strike that. The sort of apes that once terrified cinema audiences looked suspiciously like blokes in hairy costumes. Which is what they were, of course. Real apes don't take screen direction well. And if they get angry, well, they might actually attack that screaming actress, or even worse the director. No wonder audiences were nervous of them.

Times change. David Attenborough sat with gorillas and whispered at the camera, Sigourney Weaver found them in the mist, and apes and their kindred species found their rightful place as stars of natural history documentaries. Interesting though they may be, they are not all that scary, at least not as horror film monsters. Even oversized apes no longer seem threatening. Nice try, though, Mr. Jackson.

Night of the Bloody Apes [La Horripilante bestia humana] is a lurid but not strictly accurate title. Some of it takes place at night, for sure, but there's only one ape, and he doesn't last long. That said, by the time the transplant doctor has finished with him, he's certainly bloody. Of course the term could be intended as a curse, as in "those bloody apes are in the garden again, dear."

This is a Mexican horror film from 1969 and directed by Rene Cardona. Hardcore horror devotees should be able to connect those three facts and come up with a reasonably close approximation of what we have here. So what DO we have here? In essence, two films that have been surgically attached to each other, sewn together by a director unconcerned about leaving a very visible scar. In the red corner we have a Mexican Lucha Libre wrestling film in which masked female wrestler Lucy debates quitting the ring after her opponent is seriously injured. In the blue we have doctor Krallman, whose son Julio is dying of leukaemia and whom he attempts to cure by replacing his failing heart with that of a healthy gorilla. A man-in-a-suit gorilla at that. Just minutes after the operation is deemed a success, Julio's head optically dissolves into that of a half-human ape man, transforming this handsome youth into a malformed, Lou Ferringo-era Incredible Hulk, complete with the green man's bad temper and angry snarls. He immediately goes on the rampage, tearing the clothes off of women, pushing out eyes, pulling off heads and ripping off toupees. The Doctor is mortified, and reasons that the only way to put things right is to replace the gorilla heart with a human one. Want to guess whose? You'd probably be wrong.

Apparently a remake of Cardona's own 1963 Doctor of Doom [Las Luchadoras contra el médico asesino], which I haven't seen, this is very much a film of its place and time. Back then, it seems, the idea of a rampaging monster was thought enough to have couples clutching each other at drive-ins, with gore effects, real-life heart operation footage and female nudity thrown in for the boys. A hangover from Hammer, meanwhile, is represented by a crippled assistant ("Yes, master") and Julio's werewolf-like return to human form. Non-hardcore horror fans need not apply. Indeed, it's safe to say that they will react with disbelief at what's served up here. Cheapjack in the way that only a late period Rene Cardona production could be, it looks and plays for all the world like a rediscovered Ed Wood film, with its super-basic sets, found-in-the-garage props and hilariously earnest and unconvincing performances, although the sometimes emotionless English dubbing has to take a lot of the blame here. If, however, micro-budget 1970s Mexican tit-and-gore horrors are your bag (guilty as charged), then you should have a ball.

As far as I am aware this version was not edited for the DVD release, but cuts have clearly been made earlier in the life of this particular print, indicated by the sudden jumps in the backing music during some of the nastier visuals. The BBFC site indicates that the original version, submitted back in 1974, had the following adjustments made to obtain the ‘X' rating:

"To obtain this category cuts were required but details are not available."

Running time comparisons suggest that this is the uncut version and I have to presume that the visible edits were made before the film was first released onto the international market.

sound and vision

Framed 1.33:1, as you'd expect, but the print is otherwise in surprisingly good shape – it's sharp, the colours are strong, the contrast looks fine and there aren't many dust spots. Odd bits of damage pop up occasionally, and three shots suffer from a mad jitter, but that's about it.

The sound is mono Dolby 2.0 mono and is largely clean, though does come out with the odd crackle here and there.

extra features

Very little here. Promo Art contains a Spanish poster, a VHS sleeve and the US DVD cover, and there are 5 Stills from the film that look suspiciously like cropped frame grabs. There are also Trailers for two other Redemption releases, Jean Rollin's Requiem for a Vampire and Les Démoniaques.

summary

There's a narrow, some might say specialist audience for films like Night of the Bloody Apes, and a good many of them will already have heard of it and even have it on tape or imported DVD. For them the news is good, as the print on this Redemption DVD is far better than I was expecting. No real extras, which is a shame.

If you're fan of the cinema of Ed Wood then I really would recommend taking a look, as the film has Wood's cheerful disregard for the limitations of budget or the necessity for realism, and the park scene in particular captures the feel of Wood's faked exteriors as well as anything I've seen in a long while. If you like your horror films glossy, complex and handsomely produced, however, you just MIGHT want to give this one a miss.

Night of the Bloody Apes
La Horripilante bestia humana

Mexico 1969
84 mins
director
René Cardona
starring
Armando Silvestre
Norma Lazareno
José Elías Moreno
Carlos López Moctezuma
Agustín Martínez Solares

DVD details
region 0
video
1.33:1
sound
Dolby 2.0 mono
languages
English
subtitles .
none
extras
Promo Art
Stills
Trailers
distributor
Redemption
release date
26 March 2007
review posted
17 March 2007

See all of Gort's reviews