In my fantasy you are begging me to review Night of the Bloody Apes. "Please," you moan. "Tell us about the dirty lucha movie. The one with boobies." Needless to say, I am unmoved by your tears -- did I mention that you were weeping? -- and toy with you mercilessly. "What? You mean Now, Voyager?" "NO!", you wail. "The one that's just like Las Luchadoras contra el Medico Asesino, but with titties! Good God, man! The titties!"
It's at this point that I realize that, as much as I pride myself on being a hardened sadist, there are depths of self abasement that even I find a little nauseating. And so I relent. It's a classic control fantasy, really, one where I take all of the feelings of powerlessness and suffering that I endured at the hands of Night of the Bloody Apes and project them onto you. And seeing as you've been such a good sport about it -- I mean, you're still reading, aren't you? -- it's only fair that I give you the thing that I've imagined you asking for. Even though, in reality, you probably want it less than a sack of cold sores and Monday mornings.
The plot of Night of the Bloody Apes is one of lucha cinema's most often told tales. It made it's first appearance in 1956 in the sublime Ladron de Cadaveres, then reappeared in 1963's Las Luchadoras contra el Medico Asesino and then continued evolving downward until it came to rest within the damp confines of La Horripilante Bestia Humana aka Night of the Bloody Apes. In all three movies, monstrosity ensues when a mad scientist performs a gorilla to human organ transplant. In Ladron, only the local constabulary are available to combat the rampaging beast man, but Las Luchadoras introduces a pair of civic-minded wrestling women, with policemen boyfriends in tow, to aid in the fight. Night of the Bloody Apes, while more similar to Las Luchadoras than Ladron, strips things down by only featuring one policeman-dating wrestling woman, and, while she wears a cute devil girl outfit and appears in a couple of gingerly choreographed wrestling matches, she ultimately proves to be of absolutely no consequence to the plot.
However, it's not what Night of the Bloody Apes gives us less of that distinguishes it, but rather what it adds to the formula. It was a practice in the Mexican film industry at the time to occasionally spice up films for import release by inserting bits of female nudity that were not available in the domestic versions. Night of the Bloody Apes, the U.S. cut of La Horripilante Bestia Humana, is a rare extant example of one of these sexo versions of a lucha movie, though there were apparently others made. It strives to increase its appeal to decadent foreign interests by also inserting numerous shots of explicit gore, including some pretty nauseating footage of real surgery. These scenes are actually quite extreme for the time, though the staged shots are also laughably inept, combining the hasty, no-budget improvisation and stark utilitarian prurience of H.G. Lewis with the curiously liquid notion of bodily integrity exhibited in The Story of Ricky. Bodies break apart and separate like warm loaves of bread, an eye-gouging exposes the shockingly high foam rubber content of the human head, and, best of all, a "scalping" scene is accomplished by dragging a stage-blood-soaked toupee across the head of a Dr. Phil look-alike, revealing the grizzly horror of his male pattern baldness.
Most of these shots are inserted pretty clumsily, and the resulting abrupt transitions between them and the typically affable goofiness of the lucha movie that contains them can make watching Night of the Bloody Apes a jarring experience for those used to being lulled by the genre's familiar tropes. (The film was directed by Rene Cardona and -- when it's not shoving grue in your face -- has the same colorful production look as other of his luchadore films from the time, such as La Mujer Murcielago.) As for the nudity, as much as I'm wholeheartedly in favor of there being more female nudity in Mexican wrestler movies (and, come to think of it, maybe less of the male kind), it pains me to say that it being so inextricably intertwined with the gore in Night of the Bloody Apes makes it pretty unappealing. Other than in some boudoir scenes of star Norma Lazareno, all of the female bodies that are bared here are so done in the process of being broken. Granted, in some of these scenes there's certainly amusement to be had from the Benny Hill-like ridiculousness of the ease with which these women become relieved of their clothing in the process of fleeing or fending off the monster. But it's just not titillating.
Still, there is something bracing about the very sleaziness of Night of the Bloody Apes for me. Having become perhaps overly familiar with the formula of these movies, it was nice to see it get such a violent shake up here, and, in the process, to be reminded that all the cartoonish violence and juvenile innuendo usually on display is just a family friendly face put on some darker, more complex impulses roiling behind the camera's eye. That's the kind of thing we depend on extreme cinema for, and it's something that it often does best when it's at its crudest.