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Captive Wild Woman

USA 1943
produced by
Ben Pivar (associate) for Universal
directed by Edward Dmytryk
starring Acquanetta, John Carradine, Evelyn Ankers, Milburn Stone, Lloyd Corrigan, Fay Helm, Martha Vickers, Vince Barnett, Paul Fix, Ray Corrigan (= Ray 'Crash' Corrigan) as an ape, Fern Emmett, William Gould, Ray Walker, Anthony Warde
story by Ted Fithian, Neil P.Varnick, screenplay by Griffin Jay, Henry Sucher, musical direction by Hans J. Salter, makeup by Jack Pierce, animals provided and handled by Clyde Beatty

Ape Woman Acquanetta, Universal horror cycle

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Renowned scientist and specialist for glandular diseases Dr Sigmund Walters (John Carradine) abducts female gorilla Cheela (Ray 'Crash' Corrigan) from Fred Mason's (Milburn Stone) circus to turn him into a human, using the glands of Dorothy (Martha Vickers) - incidently the sister of Fred's fiancée Beth (Evelyn Ankers). Why he wants to do that is beyond me, but after he has taken his nurse's brain (Fay Helm) and transplanted it into his ape, he succeeds, too.

The result is Paula Dupree (Acquanetta), a beautiful woman who doesn't speak but who has remarkable power over animals - and at one point she saves Fred's life when he's knocked out during a lion-and-tiger-taming act using nothing but her hypnotic stare. Fred hires her on the spot, and she proves to be a great asset and allows him to make his lion-and-tiger act more and more daring. She also soon feels drawn to him - but when he after dress rehearsal embraces his fiancée Beth rather than her, she is heartbroken and runs away. Her emotional turmoil though turns her partially back into an ape. Paula now wants her revenge on Beth, but when she wants to stop by her place to kill her, she only succeeds in killing her neighbout (Fern Emmett).

Ultimately, Paula returns to Doc Walters, and returns to her gorilla-state. Walters though wants to make her human again, but for that he needs some more of Dorothy's glands and another brain - so when Dorothy calls Beth for help, everything seems to come together quite nicely.

Meanwhile, Fred does his daring lion-and-tiger act without Paula's help - which goes fine at first until lightning strikes the circus tent ...

Beth, finding herself cornered by Doc Walters, releases Cheela the gorilla who once was Paula onto him, and the ape kills the scientist, then rushes to Fred's circus, where all hell has broken loose after lightning has struck, and now the animals are already attacking Fred - but Cheela still has her power over the lions and tigers, and she saves Fred's life once again.

Unfortunately though, she is shot dead by a guard grossly (but understandably) misjudging the situation when she drags Fred out of the cage ...

 

The main attraction of this little sci-fi-horror hybrid is not Acquanetta, who was given top-billing, and who looks as sexy as she looks exotic and downright weird, nor the rather pedestrian plot that differs little from Universal's other silly shockers from the 1940's, or Ray 'Crash' Corrigan doing yet another turn as the 1940's busiest gorilla - nope, it's the involvement of the era's superstar animal trainer Clyde Beatty's circus, which results in many fine and daring animal acts in which Beatty himself can easily be recognized not only by contemporary audiences doubling Milburn Stone. So if you love animal acts, you will most certainly not be disappointed by this film, if you like silly shockers from the 1940's, you'll be entertained, and if you love Acquanetta, you will probably have seen this anyways - but if none of the above applies to you, or you're into "quality genre films", then you'Re wasting your time with this one ...

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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from the post-apocalyptic
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Tales to Chill
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the new anthology by
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