Director: Phillip Rosen
Writer: Robert Charles (Uncredited)
Cast: Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, George Zucco, Frank Moran, Judith Gibson, Michael Ames, Mary Currier, Ed Chandler, and Ernie Adams
Composer: Edward Kay
Release Date: 7/17/1944
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
During an Arctic expedition, Professor Dexter (Bela Lugosi) and Professor Gilmore (John Carradine) discover a caveman frozen in the ice. Upon returning home, Prof. Dexter decides to endow the Ape Man (George Zucco and Frank Moran) with the faculties of a developed human brain—specifically that of Prof. Gilmore.
A faux sequel to The Ape Man, this production offers a slight improvement on the premise of its 1943 predecessor. Nevertheless, Return of the Ape Man is marred by a languid pace, a meandering climax, and a bizarre musical score.
As opposed to Dr. Brewster from the previous film, Prof. Dexter provides a realistic motive to justify his cruelty. Notably, by allowing his quest for scientific discovery to outweigh his sense of compassion, Lugosi’s character commits a variety of crimes in the name of progress—similar to Henry Jekyll, Victor Frankenstein, and Jack Griffin of The Invisible Man.
Though extremely hirsute, the title creature appears almost identical to a modern human—much in contrast to the original Ape Man, whose simian visage and primitive posture serve as outward reflections of his monstrous character.
Also unconvincing are the actions of Prof. Gilmore, who, despite behaving as a moral compass for Prof. Dexter, has no problem kidnapping, freezing, and experimenting on a homeless man. In addition to his dubious ethical standards, John Carradine’s protagonist fails to exercise caution when confronting a mad scientist and attempted murderer—possibly the most puzzling aspect of the entire film.
Hoping to gift his creature with the power of reason, Prof. Dexter steals the brain of a fellow scientist in order to complete his objective—the main story for The Ghost of Frankenstein, which explores the concept of good intentions resulting in terrible atrocities.
Classic monster buffs and B movie fans may enjoy Return of the Ape Man, which benefits from the combined talents of Lugosi and Carradine. Viewers of a strictly serious inclination, however, should avoid this film for its inconsistent characters, subpar make-up effects, and tiresome hijinks of the Ape Man himself.
Overall Quality: 4/10
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