Doctor Adrian (Boris Karloff) desperately tries to find a cure for
Polio, because both his wife & his daughter once died from it, &
now he has found Frances (Maris Wrixon), an 18-year old girl who also
suffers from Polio, who looks just like his daughter, so he wants to at
least save her to make up to his dead wife & daughter.
But finding a cure for Polio isn't as easy as it sounds (& it
doesn't sound easy), so Adrian has to jump onto every opportunity there is
... & opportunity soon arises when he is brought an ape trainer
(I.Stanford Jolley) from a nearby circus that has been badly hurt by his
gorilla (Crash Corrigan), who has subsequently burned down the circus
& escaped, so instead of healing the man, Doc Adrian extracts some
spinal fluid from him & injcts it into Frances.
Soon, Frances' health does really improve, but Doc Adrian has to
realize he needs way more spinal fluid.
In an unrelated incident, that same night, the gorilla breaks into Doc
Adrian's lab, but the doctor can overcome the beast. Curiously enough the
doctor doesn't report this to the sheriff (Henbry Hall), who with a posse
made up of townsfolks, has long been looking for the gorilla.
The following night, Mason (Philo McCullough), the local moneylender
& arsehole, is killed by the gorilla ... & again, curiously
enough, Doc Adrian has enough spinal fluid for an injection for Frances.
Soon, Frances is progressing steadily, not onlycan she feel her legs,
she can even - if ever so slightly - move them, & even Doc McNulty
(Selmer Jackson), a former colleague of Adrian who has since been
suspecting him of the worst, is positively impressed.
Soon though,it becomes evident that Frances again needs more spinal
fluid, while the sheriff suspects Doc Adrian more & more of housing
the gorilla. Then one night, another one of the sheriff's posse is
attacked by the gorilla, but can be saved when the gorilla is shot at.
With the greatest of efforts, the gorilla makes it back to Adrian's
house, where the posse can catch up with him & shoot him ... but when
examining the animal, they have to realize it was actually Doc Adrian in
disguise. & breathing his last, the good Doctor can get a glimpse of
Francis - who was so brought up by the whole affair that she stood up,
forgetting all about her Polio - standing ion front of him, & he knows
now he can die in peace.
Despite the wild premise, The Ape is rather different from Monogram's
funniest, trashiest horror films: The pace of this film is deliberately
slow, the gorilla does take up rather little screentime, & neither the
script nor Karloff's performance represent Doc Adrian as the typical mad
scientist, he is rather a well-meaning & friendly old man, but
definitely misguided - but pure evil he is not.
This doesn't mean that The Ape is a groundbreaking, outstanding
film, after all it is about a man dressing up as a gorilla in order to
kill, but it's not bad, either.