Night of the Bloody Apes directed by Rene CardonaNight of the Bloody Apes directed by Rene Cardona

Night of the Bloody Apes directed by Rene CardonaAlthough the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema is generally said to have lasted from the years 1936 – ’59, it wasn’t until the very end of that glorious run that the country really began to excel in the realm of horror. Indeed, it was only in the mid-‘50s that Mexico began to make an impact in the fright arena, but in a very big way; I have already written here of such marvelous Mexican horror entertainments as The Vampire (’57), The Vampire’s Coffin (’58), The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (’58), Ship of Monsters (’60), The Witch’s Mirror (’60), The Brainiac (’61), and the masterpiece that is The Curse of the Crying Woman (’61). But even after this marvelous run of horror films had run its course, the Mexicans continued to produce unusual horror fare, taking advantage of the new freedoms as regarded sex and violence. Case in point: Rene Cardona’s Night of the Bloody Apes, which opened in February ’69 and has been shocking and stunning audiences ever since. Unlike those other films just named, this one, a supposed remake of Cardona’s 1962 film Doctor of Doom, was shot in full color and featured copious amounts of gore and nudity, its only real ties to the films that had preceded it being the presence of a “luchadora”; that is, a wrestling woman. But here, that woman, rather than being the film’s protagonist and heroine, is very much a minor player in the proceedings. But what proceedings they are! When it first premiered, Night of the Bloody Apes went by the titles La Horripilante Bestia Humana (The Horrible Man-Beast), Horror y Sexo (Horror and Sex …talk about truth in advertising!) and, confusingly, Gomar — The Human Gorilla. But whichever title you happen to see it under, a flabbergasting time will surely be in store!

In the film, the viewer is introduced to pretty Lucy Osorio (Norma Lazareno, who is still acting today, at age 78 as of this writing), who plies her trade as a wrestler dressed as the Devil. Lucy is heartbroken after throwing her opponent, Elena Gomez (Anna Thomson, a NYC-born actress, here in her first film), out of the ring and fracturing her skull. With her boyfriend, a police lieutenant named Arturo Martinez (Armando Silvestre, who had also appeared in Doctor of Doom), Lucy goes to the hospital where Elena is being operated on. The surgeon in charge of the procedure is one Dr. Krallman (Jose Elias Moreno, a character actor whose filmography extends all the way back to 1937, and here in one of his final films), who, we soon find out, has a handsome young son (played by Agustin Martinez Solares) who is dying of leukemia. And thus, we come to the crux of this story.

Krallman, desperate to save his son Julio’s life, goes to the local zoo and steals a massive gorilla from its cage. Back in his lab, he and his scarred, Igor-like assistant, Goyo (Carlos Lopez Moctezuma, whose filmography extends all the way back to 1938, and who also appeared in The Curse of the Crying Woman), surgically remove the ape’s heart and transplant it into Julio’s body, hoping that a transfusion of “stronger” blood might work a miracle cure. But as things turn out, instead of effecting a return to health, Julio becomes some kind of half-man/half-ape hybrid. The resultant monstrosity, which we finally get to see at around the film’s 29-minute mark, has the body of a massive human (and now played by former-wrestler-turned-actor Gerardo Zepeda, who had also appeared in Doctor of Doom, as well as the 1964 wonder known as Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy) — with a horribly scarred surgical incision in its chest, natch — and the head of a simian. Escaping from the doctor’s lab, the “Monstruo” hightails it to the apartment of a beautiful young woman, whom it rapes and kills. Dr. Krallman and Goyo successfully capture the monster before it can do any more harm, and Krallman determines that the ape heart in a human’s body has just proved too much of a strain on his son’s system. He thus decides to replace the ape heart with a human donor’s … but whose? Fortunately, Krallman recalls that Elena Gomez, whom he had just operated on, really has very little likelihood of a recovery, and so abducts her from the hospital and places her heart into Julio. But sadly enough, even this procedure is a failure, and Julio once more becomes a human/ape creature, who breaks loose again and goes on a homicidal path of mayhem throughout the streets of the small Mexican city…

Those viewers expecting to see a final showdown between that rassling Lucy and the killer beast of this film might be in for a surprise at how things unreel here. Unlike the previous luchadora films of the early to mid-‘60s, here, our putative heroine is very much a minor figure, whose role in the film seems to exist solely as a means of giving the viewer a few scenes in the ring, as well as a means of introducing us to her policeman boyfriend, and to Dr. Krallman as well. But fans of the horror genre will surely not be disappointed in the many sequences of gory and explicit carnage that this film dishes out in spades! Among the many instances of stomach-churning grossness on display here are those two surgical procedures, in which director Cardona utilized footage from actual open-heart transplants. (And if you can stomach these sequences, you might very well be a candidate for medical school!) And then we have the attacks that the Monstruo perpetrates, thus treating the viewer to such visuals as a woman being raped and slashed to death in her bedroom; a man getting his throat torn out; another hombre getting stabbed in the chest multiple times; an eyeball being popped out of a dude’s noggin; another man getting his head literally twisted off of his torso; and yet another fella getting scalped as the entire top half of his skull is ripped off! Yes, all the gorehounds out there should be very well pleased, indeed.

Night of the Bloody Apes directed by Rene CardonaAnd then there is the matter of nudity. In this film, no fewer than four women are shown in various states of undress, including Julio’s two rape victims, as well as Lucy and Elena (the latter being shown nude on the operating table). Is it any wonder that one of my bibles, The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, deems Night of the Bloody Apes “totally tasteless,” and that TV Guide once described the film as a “gross, unbelievably inept offering”? And those accusations really are difficult to refute. And yet, the film does have its moments.

Directed with some flair by Cardona (who had been helming motion pictures since 1937, including Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy), from a script by himself and his son, Rene Cardona, Jr., the film moves along at a brisk clip, with nary a wasted moment in its 81-minute length. Cardona utilizes overhead shots and unusual camera angles to heighten the strangeness quotient, and seemingly relishes shoving all those sequences of carnage into our faces in bloody close-up. (But when will filmmakers realize that actual blood is hardly ever cherry red in color, but rather a dark crimson?) Cinematographer Raul Martinez Solares (the father of Agustin Martinez Solares?), whose filmography also extends back to the mid-‘30s, and who had previously shot the awesome sci-fi/horror film Ship of Monsters, here gets to show off his obvious skills in a color film for a change, while composer Antonio Diaz Conde (whose filmography “merely” extends back to 1942 but includes such wonders as The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy, Doctor of Doom and Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy) provides a bombastic score for the film that is guaranteed to stick in your head for days.

The film has a unique aura, cheaply made as it is, as well as a few lines guaranteed to make the viewer chuckle. For instance, when Lt. Martinez tells his supervisor of his suspicions regarding the man/ape, he is reprimanded with the line, “I’ll say that’s absurd … It’s more probable that of late, more and more, you’re watching on your television more of those pictures of terror!” Doubtless, the dubbed version of the film loses something in translation; how nice it would be to see a good print of this film with well-done subtitles, instead. And despite the horrific proceedings on display here, the film can also be quite touching in parts. I mean, it is heartwarming to see the lengths that Krallman is willing to go, all to save the life of his dying son … even if those lengths entail the killing of a poor zoo creature and a woman lying in hospital. Conversely, in one scene, the raging monster, seeing its father lying unconscious on the floor, does not do the expected thing (namely, pounce upon him and shred him apart), but rather, tenderly carries the old man to his bed and lays him upon it. Some touching moments in a film filled with so much in the way of gruesomeness.

I don’t wish to oversell Night of the Bloody Apes, but will admit to having a very fun time with it. From its blood-dripping opening credits to Lucy’s avowal at the end that the preceding events had been “unfortunate … really sad,” the film might just prove a bloody good time for you, too!


  • Sandy Ferber

    SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....