Boris Karloff plays a village doctor who is doing personally funded research into a cure for paralysis, in the short B-feature The Ape (1940). His favorite patient is wheelchair-bound Frances (Maris Wrixon), who trusts her doctor a lot, even though most of the villagers do not.
Dr. Adrian's tendency to experiment on his patients has caused the locals to stop consulting him for anything. But Frances, even as she experiences increased pain from the doctor's experimental treatments, believes him when he assures her that endless pain is better than no feeling in her lower extremities.
He actually seems like a pretty nice grandfatherly chap who wouldn't intentionally hurt anyone. But he doesn't like to follow proper medical protocols, if he's convinced he knows better than the medical community at large, for which reason he is virtually excommunicated from the medical profession thus works secretly in a small town.
Meanwhile over at the visiting circus, a killer ape has escaped & gone on a mini-rampage, mostly just wandering about in the woods. At one point he breaks into the doctor's house, but exactly what happened between the ape & the doctor is for a while left a little muddled.
The victims of the ape have provided the doctor with the spinal fluids he requires for his serum to treat the young wheelchair bound woman. But the two stories of the escaped circus gorilla & the paralysis research do not connect until the last scene, which is also when any hope of a sensible or cohesive story is lost.
[SPOILER ALERT] When the ape is finally shot dead, it turns out to be the doctor in an ape suit. Since the "real" ape was also a man in an ape suit this double-whammy of the stunt actor pretending to be an ape which is killed so that Boris can pretend to be an ape is a silly little twist on filmic verity. The story requires that we accept a man in a gorilla suit as a real gorilla then be "surprised" that there was an identical gorilla that was just a man in a suit.
In retrospect it's clear the doctor killed the ape when it broke into his house. Where he got an ape costume that looked just like the escaped gorilla is never shown or stated, although we might guess he skinned the ape to get inside its skin, which would've been creepier than the actual story told if they'd actually conveyed this as a possibility. Or if we really want to make it credible we may suppose that after the doctor killed the original escaped gorilla, he discovered it was actually a man in a gorilla suit, & so just swiped the suit.
Apparently it was so important to cure the young crippled woman that the doctor had to kill people, in the guise of the ape, to get those spinal fluids. He dies in expiation for his crimes, & this is a happy ending because suddenly Frances leaps out of her wheelchair & can walk. Now she can get married & live happily ever after. Hooray for mad scientists in ape suits! [END SPOILER ALERT]
The movie is really bad because the story is so maximumly stupid. But Boris is good & it's only too bad that the idiotic climax doesn't justify his performance.
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