Night of the Bloody Apes (1969) Movie Review

“Night of the Bloody Apes” is a slice of schlock horror from 1968 which has long enjoyed a cult following, not least due to its high quotient of sex and violence, which actually led to the film being banned in the UK during the 1980s when it was listed as one of the dreaded ‘video nasties’. It was directed by Ren’ Cardona, a Mexican genre master whose incredibly prolific output during his long career also includes such classics as “Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy”, and several films featuring the legendary masked wrestling hero Santo.

The plot is classic stuff, managing to cram in a number of top trash motifs, with a doctor attempting to cure his son’s leukemia through the brilliant move of giving him an ape’s blood and heart. This has the unfortunate side effect of transforming the poor lad into a bestial monster who escapes from his father’s lab and goes on a blood-hungry, sex-crazed rampage. Also involved in the sinister affair, though far less interesting, are a wrestling heroine and her secret police boyfriend, who very slowly come to realise the doctor’s diabolic activities after one of her injured ring opponents end up under his knife.

Although it is a little puzzling as to why “Night of the Bloody Apes” was vilified alongside other, far more overtly unpleasant films, it certainly manages to pack in plenty of gore, featuring a graphic heart transplant as well as a handful of grisly murders depicted in loving close-up. Since the special effects are of variable quality, the film never comes across as being particularly nasty or sadistic, with many of the kill scenes being far more likely to elicit laughter than revulsion, especially one hilarious gag in which a poor man is scalped by having an obvious wig ripped from his head. Similarly, much of the plentiful nudity in the film is undermined by some wacky attempts to strategically cover the lower half of the actresses’ anatomy, with the ever-considerate ape monster often quite obviously going out of his way to make use of towels and ripped clothing.

All visceral delights aside, the film is actually quite well directed, with Cardona managing to whip up a fair amount of atmosphere, especially during the scenes where the monster creeps around the city searching for victims. More importantly, he manages to keep things moving along at a brisk pace, and although the film is free from tension or dramatic excitement, it never slips into the same kind of dullness which tends to plague such vintage genre pieces, and even outside the action scenes, the film still engages.

Indeed, a high level of hysteria is maintained throughout “Night of the Bloody Apes” thanks to plenty of ridiculous mock-science and philosophising about the human condition, along with some idiotic plotting. A case in point being the ape-napping scene, in which the doctor and his scarred assistant simply walk into a zoo, shoot the poor beast and drag it out of its cage, completely untroubled by security. There are also groan-inducing technical gaffes, with a special mention going to the ape monster himself, whose make-up basically consists of brown face paint which very conspicuously ends at the neck, and who spends most of the time prancing around in a charming set of decidedly non-threatening blue pyjamas.

Obviously, all of this adds up to top entertainment, and “Night of the Bloody Apes” certainly deserves its reputation as a must see film for all fans of trash and exploitation cinema. Unencumbered by any semblance of sense or good taste, it stands as one of the best and wildest examples of early Mexican horror, and will hopefully entice brave viewers to seek out other gems from Cardona’s back catalogue.

Ren’ Cardona, Jerald Intrator (new footage for US version, uncredited) (director) / Ren’ Cardona, Ren’ Cardona Jr. (screenplay)
CAST: Armando Silvestre … Lt. Arturo Martinez
Norma Lazareno … Lucy Ossorio
Jos’ Elías Moreno … Dr. Krallman
Carlos Lopez Moctezuma … Goyo
Agustín Martínez Solares … Julio Krallman

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