The Ape (1940 film)

The Ape is a 1940 American horror film directed and produced by William Nigh, co-written by Curt Siodmak, and starring Boris Karloff.[1] Produced and distributed by Monogram Pictures, it was the last film in Karloff's nine-picture contract with Monogram.[2]

The Ape
The Ape (1940) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWilliam Nigh
Produced byWilliam Nigh
Written byKurt Siodmak
Richard Carroll
StarringBoris Karloff
Maris Wrixon
Gene O'Donnell
Music byEdward J. Kay
CinematographyHarry Neumann
Edited byRussell F. Schoengarth
Distributed byMonogram Pictures Corporation
Monarch Film Corporation
Release date
  • September 30, 1940 (1940-09-30)
Running time
62 minutes
CountryUnited States

Plot summaryEdit

Dr. Bernard Adrian is a kindly scientist who seeks to cure a young woman's polio. All he needs is spinal fluid from a human to complete the formula for his experimental serum. Meanwhile, a vicious circus ape has broken out of its cage and is terrorizing the townspeople.

The Ape eventually breaks into Dr. Adrian's lab. The Doctor manages to kill it before any harm can come to himself. However, the spinal fluids he requires to perform his experiments have all been destroyed during the struggle between him and the Ape.

Doctor Adrian then concocts an idea: he will tear off the ape's flesh and use its skin to disguise himself as the escaped circus animal and murder townspeople in order to extract their spinal fluid. Thus the murders will be blamed on the Ape and he, himself, will manage to avoid any suspicion.

However, one of his attacks towards the film's ending is unsuccessful; he is fatally knifed and the Ape's "true identity" is revealed.



Original playEdit

The film was based on a play by Adam Hull Shirk. It made its debut in 1924 by the Paul Gershon drama school in Hollywood.[3] The Los Angeles Times praised a 1926 production saying "it has thrills galore and rather more of a plot than average."[4] Critics claimed it was in the same genre as the plays The Cat and the Canary and The Bat, noting its similarities to The Gorilla and Rudyard Kipling's short story The Mark of the Beast.[5][6]

The play had a prologue set in India, where an Englishman has killed a sacred ape and a Hindu priest puts a curse on him. Thirty years later, the Englishman has become a nervous wreck and sent to Los Angeles to be looked after by his family.

Film rights were bought by Monogram Pictures who filmed the play as The House of Mystery (1934).[7]


The film was to be one of Monogram's "top bracket productions" for the 1940–41 year.[8]

Curt Siodmak was hired to write the script on 9 July 1940. Siodmark later argued the only element he kept from the play was of a character disguising himself as an ape; the notion of fluid taken from the spine to cure a crippled girl was all Siodmak's.[7]


Filming began August 6, 1940, the final feature in Boris Karloff's six-picture contract with Monogram, returning only once for Frankenstein 1970 (1958). Filming took a week.[7]

The Ape was filmed in the city of Newhall, Santa Clarita, California.[9]


The Los Angeles Times called the film "engrossing... [Karloff] shows himself the skilled player of slightly eerie but really kindly character roles for which he is famous."[10]


According to an article for the British Film Institute:

Karloff made his fair share of ludicrous B pictures. This may be the most ludicrous, but it's no less wonderful for that. No matter the material, Karloff gave it everything, bringing dignity to his performance as a surgeon who impersonates an ape in his quest for spinal fluid for an experimental serum. Don’t stop to think, just watch and enjoy.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Jacobs, Stephen (2011). Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster: the Authorised Biography. Tomahawk Press. p. 261. ISBN 978-0-9557-6704-3.
  2. ^ The Ape article at Turner Classic Movies
  3. ^ Hussong, E Merle (Aug 10, 1924). "Trunks by Ton Unclaimed: Baggage Master Tells How and Why Travelers Let Valuable Luggage Go to 'Graveyard'". Los Angeles Times. p. B11.
  4. ^ Kingsley, Grace (Apr 23, 1926). "Flashes:: Goes Abroad Fox Star to Take Long Vacation Trip". Los Angeles Times. p. A9.
  5. ^ Busby, Marquis (December 14, 1927). "Monkey Business Goes On: The Ape Has Premiere Presentation by Norman Sprowl Players". Los Angeles Times. p. A11.
  6. ^ Mark of the Beast at Kipling Society
  7. ^ a b c Weaver, Tom (1993). Poverty Row Horrors! Mongram, PRC and Republic Horror Films of the Forties. McFarland. pp. 6–14. ISBN 978-0-8995-0756-9.
  8. ^ "Monogram Lists 50 Films for Year: Program of 26 Features and 24 Westerns on Production Schedule for 1940–41 Karloff To Play in Ape The Pioneers' of Cooper, 'At Dawning' and 'Old Swimmin' Hole' Will Be Screened". New York Times. Apr 19, 1940. p. 28.
  9. ^ Boston, John (March–April 2013). "Frankenstein's Monster in the SCV". The Heritage Junction Dispatch. Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. 39 (2): 6–7.
  10. ^ "Ape Engrossing Picture". Los Angeles Times. October 17, 1940. p. A11.
  11. ^ "Boris Karloff: 10 essential films" by Vic Pratt, British Film Institute

External linksEdit