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Night of the Bloody Apes (1969)

From what little I could learn on my own about La Horripilante bestia humana (1969), it has an interesting history. It’s a remake of Las Luchadoras contra el medico asesino (1962), the first film blending elements of the lucha libra and horror genres. The English translation of the original title says it all, “The Wrestling Women vs. the Killer Doctor.”


In it, a mad scientist, in an effort to save his dying son, performs a transplant with a gorilla’s heart. This transforms the boy into a murderous ape-man that’s eventually brought to justice by a female wrestler (luchadora). While La Horripilante bestia humana (“The Horrible Man-Beast”) honors the original story, its English language version, Night of the Bloody Apes, reduces the role of the luchadora.


I want to be clear that I’m reviewing Night of the Bloody Apes, which was released in the United States in 1972, three years after the original was released in Mexico. Due to its Americanization, the story of Lucy Osoria (Norma Lazareno) is less integrated with the rest of the story. She’s only indirectly connected via her boyfriend, Arturo Martinez (Armando Silvestre), the detective investigating the murders.


At the end of the movie, instead of bringing the ape-man to justice, Lucy becomes its potential victim. When Arturo invites her to join him and his partner on patrol for the killer, because that’s a totally professional thing to do, she encounters the creature and her screams alert the police to its location. Why then spend so much time watching Lucy, dressed as a red cat-demon, wrestle?


Well, at the beginning of the movie, she throws her opponent out of the ring, causing her to be injured and hospitalized. Later, this woman will be removed from the hospital by the mad scientist, Dr. Krallman (Jose Elias Moreno), in an attempt to reverse the effects of the original operation on his son by transplanting her heart back into him.


It also creates a subplot in which Lucy feels guilty and risks losing her champion status because she holds back during a match. Arturo attempts to convince her she’s not responsible for the accident. Astonishingly, this all works in the movie. However, we’re then denied the satisfaction of watching Lucy retain the championship. We hear the results of the match in a throwaway radio report.


The ape-man in Night of the Bloody Apes reminds me an awful lot of Lou Ferrigno in the late-1970s television series, The Incredible Hulk. When Julio (Agustin Marinez Solares) transforms, he’s shirtless, but retains his shrunken pants. All that’s missing during his rampages is slow motion. Oddly, here, his face takes on the characteristics of an ape, but his body becomes more hairless than its human form.


Made on the cheap, Night of the Bloody Apes utilizes actual footage of heart transplants. We see it all, the slicing of skin, the opening of the chest cavity and the removal of the still-beating heart. Inexplicably, this footage did not make me cringe as much as the less realistic special effects of the ape-man poking out a victim’s eye or pulling off another victim’s head.


To fully represent the sordid nature of the movie, I must add that it features ample nudity. The ape-man’s attacks on a woman begin with a little foreplay that includes him tossing her on a bed and rolling around with her, which releases the ties on her nightgown. Or, when chasing a woman outside, she’s previously been making out with a man on a park bench so that she becomes half-naked when running.


Astonishing, odd, inexplicable… these are words I’ve just used to describe Night of the Bloody Apes. I’ll repeat them to describe the fact that I actually enjoyed it. It makes no sense that I did! I can’t say it’s fun to watch; it’s too distasteful for that. However, it moves fast and is entertaining. This is a perfect example of a movie I would call a “guilty pleasure.” I like it, but I don’t feel good about it.


Written by Rene Cardona Jr., Rene Cardona

Directed by Rene Cardona

Starring Jose Elias Moreno, Carlos Lopez Moctezuma, Armando Silvestre, Norma Lazareno, Agustin Martinez Solares

Released February 6, 1969 (Mexico)

RT 83 min.

Home Video Image Entertainment (DVD)

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