Greetings, readers. Now, in the world of horror fandom, one often encounters people who are passionate for Italian horror films, Japanese horror films, and recently, French horror films. But how often do you encounter someone passionate for Mexican horror films? Well, readers, outside of the various Santo and Blue Demon films in which the valiant Luchador-hero squares off against supernatural foes, there aren’t many Mexican horror films readily available, and most of the ones that are feature the Aztec Mummy. Tonight’s film is sorely lacking in vengeful, preserved undead members of ancient Mesoamerican empires, but it does have mad scientists, women wrestlers, gratuitous nudity, apes (well, okay, AN ape), rapes, murders and one goofy ape-man. But above and beyond that, the shocking content that landed this Mexi-Monster Movie on the Video Nasty List? Read on and find out, O Brothers and Sisters of the Psychotronic Video World!
Meet Lucy Ossorio (Norma Lazareno), a popular and successful Luchadora — female masked wrestler. Bedecked in her bright red spandex jumpsuit and mask, she jumps into the ring against her friend and colleague Elena, decked out all in green. A throw goes wrong, and Elena’s skull is fractured. Lucy blames herself, despite her boyfriend, Lt. Detective Arturo Martinez’s (Armando Silvestre) assurances that it’s the risk everyone takes when they become wrestlers.
Meanwhile, Dr. Krallman (José Elías Moreno, best known for playing Santa in the surreal Mexican film SANTA CLAUS (1959), forming the basis of an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000), the surgeon in charge of Elena’s operation, has a dirty little secret. Krallman’s son Julio (Augustín Martínez Solares) has leukemia; the other doctors don’t give him much of a chance for survival. Krallman is not going to accept his son’s illness so readily, however, and has formulated a plan to bring his son back to health. With the help of his Igor-like assistant Goyo (Carlos López Moctezuma, who may have been the Dwight Frye of Mexican cinema; he certainly has the eyes for it), Dr. Krallman is going to implant the heart of a gorilla into his son, in the hopes that the stronger ape heart will be able to cleanse Julio’s blood of cancer.
The operation goes smoothly — and here let me just say that director Rene Cardona spliced footage of ACTUAL HUMAN HEART SURGERY into the film. That’s a real chest being really cut open, spilling real blood as a real, shuddering heart is really pulled out and poked and prodded. It’s honestly hard to watch — at least for me, and I consider myself pretty thoroughly jaded. And that, Brothers and Sisters, is what got this film on the Video Nasty list.
Once the gorilla heart is in Julio, he undergoes a frightening transformation, into an ape-faced muscleman. Well, “ape-faced”…the makeup is not particularly convincing. Heavy brows, a broad nose, and puffy cheeks, all the color of liver, topped with a roughly trimmed fright-wig do not an ape make. Ape-Julio breaks free from the operating table and goes on a rampage, murdering two men and raping two women, one to death, before being recaptured by his father and Goyo. During this rampage, Detective Martinez is put on the case, much to Lucy’s chagrin, as it makes him unavailable to take her out for dinner.
Convinced that the ape heart is too strong for Julio’s frail body, Krallman remembers the Luchadora in the hospital — Elena. Her heart is strong enough to keep Julio alive, he reasons, without being so inhumanly strong that it turns him into a monster! Krallman and Goyo kidnap her comatose form from the hospital, and transplant her heart into Julio’s body, leaving Elena to die. Julio becomes human again — temporarily. He soon reverts to ape-faced form, decapitating Goyo before taking to the streets to continue his rampage.
Julio grabs Lucy, intent on making her his latest sexual conquest, but is driven off by Martinez, before reverting to Julio-form and fainting. Taken to the hospital, he again becomes an ape, grabs a young girl (maybe four or five) and heads for the roof. Martinez follows, as does Krallman, who attempts to talk Julio-ape down. Julio puts the girl down and collapses, turning back into a man as he dies.
Largely a rehashing of Cardona’s earlier film DOCTOR OF DOOM, NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES is a fun piece of sleaze, a father and son tale penned by father-son team of Rene Cardona and Rene Cardona, Jr., the latter of which remained an active filmmaker until his death in 2003, and who is survived and succeeded by his son, filmmaker Rene Cardona III. To me, it feels like the wicked sleaziness of THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE applied to MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, and I totally dig it.
It’s pretty clear to see why the film got put on the Video Nasty List — multiple graphic sequences of sexual assault, decapitations, strangulations, lots and lots of naked women, and of course the two sequences of actual open-heart surgery footage. That still blows my mind. That’s a real, still-beating human heart you’re seeing. It really doesn’t resemble a prop heart at all — less red in color and the shuddering motion so dissimilar from the steady “lub-dub” beat we’re so conditioned to imagine.
Blood, monkeys, boobs, and women-wrestling might sound like it all adds up into an amazingly fun movie, but NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES is actually fairly slow-moving, occasionally coming to a complete halt to make room for sequences of Lucy wrestling. While this is fun, it does interrupt the plot, and you can tell the actresses are not actual wrestlers — rather than the high-flying acrobatic fights of Santo or Blue Demon, what we have here is Lucy getting her opponent in a headlock and throwing wild punches.
Nowadays, NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES is pretty readily available. I have it on DVD from Something Weird Video, on a double-feature disc with FEAST OF FLESH and a great deal of bonus material (including bloopers and behind-the-scenes footage from BLOODY APES), a hallmark of SWV releases. Unfortunately, SWV no longer offers BLOODY APES, though if you check Amazon.com for the Beauties and Beasts boxed set, you can get this release with several other fun monkey movies. Other releases of this film exist as well, and you can watch the entire film free on Google Video.
I leave you with the trailer: