Thursday, September 15, 2011

La horripilante bestia humana (1969)

... aka: Gomar: The Human Gorilla
... aka: Horror and Sex
... aka: Horror y sexo
... aka: Night of the Bloody Apes

Directed by:
René Cardona

Guilt-stricken female grappler Lucy Ossorio (Norma Lazareno) feels she's to blame when she throws opponent Elena Gomez (Noelia Noel) out of the ring and fractures her skull. Well here's some news for you, Lucy: You are to blame! Elena gets an operation to remove a sliver of bone from her brain and remains in critical condition, while her surgeon Dr. Krallman (José Elías Moreno) has some problems of his own. His son Julio (Agustín Martinez Solares) has been stricken down with a mysterious and incurable form of leukemia. Krallman's colleagues tell him Julio's days are numbered, so the doc must resort to extreme measures to try to save him. He and his very dedicated, limping assistant Goyo (Carlos López Moctezuma) promptly head to the zoo, tranquilize an ape (well actually it's an orangutan that transforms to a man-in-a-suit-ape after they sedate it), bring it back to their basement lab and then perform the first ever ape-to-man heart transplant. Julio rapidly recovers from the operation and feels no pain... but then the side effects kick in as he transforms into a barrel-chested ape-faced monster. After his first transformation, Julio escapes from the lab, scales a building and surprises a woman just coming out of the shower. After unsuccessfully trying to rape her, he pummels her to death. Krallman and Goyo manage to track Julio down, tranquilize him again and bring him back home for further study.

While the monster is out cold, the doctor and assistant decide they need a fresh human heart and head to the hospital to swipe Elena since "she'll be an idiot, anyway" because of her injuries. While they're away, Julio in monster form manages to escape again, heads to a park and ambushes a couple sitting on bench; ripping the guy's throat out and ripping the dress off the woman. The monkey-man then goes on a mini-rampage; stabbing a guy to death and popping out another's eyeball with his fingers. He's captured (again), taken back the the lab (for the second time) and then given a brand new heart (oh, here we go again), but history repeats itself as the creature escapes (again) and runs amuck (once more). It uses its bare hands to rip off a head and scalp another guy before transforming back to human Julio. He's rushed off to the hospital, transforms again, grabs a little girl and ends up in a rooftop police stand-off.

It's pretty familiar territory for prolific director René Cardona, as he'd already made four 'Las Luchadoras' (female wrestler) action-horror films prior to this one. Still, there's an obvious reason Bloody Apes (a semi-remake of the Cardona's DOCTOR OF DOOM) is the most famous and was the best-distributed of all these titles. That's because it's extremely gory and trashy for its time. The film was notorious way-back-when for using gruesome, graphic footage from an actual open heart surgery to supply the "effects" for the transplant scenes. Those scenes plus four different instances of nudity and some additional gore had initially been cut from both the theatrical and VHS versions of the film. It's all restored on the DVD and these scenes give the film an exploitative punch that's sorely lacking in most other '60s Mexican productions.

Of course, this is an incredibly ridiculous - though never unentertaining - little film. The dubbed dialogue is horrendous, the effects are primitive, some of the editing is choppy and the premise itself (devised by the director and his director son René Cardona Jr.) is clearly too absurd for words. At one point, Dr. Krallman does attempt to explain the science behind how putting an ape heart into a human results in the creation of a monster, but that only succeeds in making it even more confusing. So apparently...

"The heart of a gorilla is much too potent for any human and the volume of blood to the cerebrum, which couldn't control this great pressure, damaged to the superior parts and when this happens man becomes an animal completely without control, giving origin to the transmutation."

If you can make heads or tails of that explanation (delivered... with... frequent... pauses...), then you're clearly on something. Interestingly, the director seems most influenced by Frankenstein (the monster has an affinity for children) and King Kong (the beast scaling tall buildings to get to a chica).

Some important things have been compromised here to make room for the blood 'n' boobs, most notably in regards to our heroine Lucy, who's actually not the heroine at all (she's also not the lead, despite her star billing). In Cardona's other wrestling women films, the ladies at least get to take part in the action (including fist-fighting with men and helping to destroy monsters), while here our leading lady isn't all that tough (she gets her ass handed back over to her in her second match because she's too 'scared' of injuring her opponent) and has absolutely nothing to do with the main storyline. In fact, most of her scenes are just filler. Lucy does know how to shower, though. She's so good at it, she does it three times. And she's rather adept at nude phone conversations as well, but other than that the character is almost entirely disposable. Reflecting back on the ape man's rampage she dryly dismisses things, "It's unfortunate. Really sad." Even her detective boyfriend, played by Armando Silvestre (traditionally more of a support character in wrestling women flicks) gets more to do that she does. Then again, I guess this isn't an official Luchadoras movie for a reason.

The DVD release from Something Weird pairs the film with the Argentinean effort FEAST OF FLESH (aka The Deadly Organ); appropriate since the two films played on a double-bill in theaters. It includes three minutes of Night of the Bloody Apes outtakes, theatrical trailers, TV spots, a "Ghastly Gallery of Ghoulish Comic Cover Art," the short subjects Gorilla and the Maiden, Artist's Paradise, White Gorilla and much more.



Bill Dan Courtney said...

One of my favorites. Reviewed this one myself a while back. Lots of good information here. I liked Doctor of Doom too and maybe even a little more. It was a bit more intentionally comical I felt. I need to see a good Rene Cardona film now. Been a while.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I wasn't sure what tone they were shooting for. The ending was kind of solemn and dramatic with the father character all torn up over his son and much of the rest of it was pretty gruesome. Either way, it was very entertaining!

There are a ton of Cardona movies I still need to see. So far I've just seen this one, some of the female wrestling ones and The Brainiac. Most are difficult to find here in America.

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