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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Night of the Bloody Apes / Curse of the Doll People
Night of the Bloody Apes / Curse of the Doll People
BCI Eclipse // R // August 8, 2006
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted August 10, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Night Of The Bloody Apes:

Directed by Mexico's most famous exploitation director, Rene Cardona, and co-written with his son, 1969's Night Of The Bloody Apes (which was previously released by both Something Weird Video and in a horrid not so special edition by Beverly Wilshire Filmworks) is a grisly little monster movie with wrestlers, gore, nudity and remains one of the best known Mexican horror films of the era.

A lady wrestler decked out in a devil costume tosses her foe out of the ring and injures her, which sends her to the hospital. After the match, she goes to visit her where she finds that she is lying there in a coma.

Cut to a surgeon named Dr. Krauman who wants nothing more than to save the life of his son, Julio, who has been diagnosed with leukemia and is not long for this world. In a brilliant move, Krauman decides that the only way to save poor Julio from certain death is to take out his heart and replace it with that of a gorilla that he and his crony have drugged and kidnapped from the local zoo. The heart surgery (featuring some shockingly real inserts from actual transplant footage) seems to be a success but there's a catch – Julio now randomly transforms into a giant monkey man. When this happens, Julio is more beast than man and he's prone to running around Mexico City and kidnapping pretty girls and, when he can't figure out how to mate with them, killing them.

Krauman, knowing that he's responsible for all of this, knows that he must capture Julio before the authorities take him down and once he does, he'll have to get him a newer, human heart in order to set things right. Good thing there's that foxy lady wrestler just laying there all comatose, ripe for the picking.

A completely bizarre mish-mash of wrestling, gore, bad monster make up and mad scientist fun, Night Of The Bloody Apes is a blast from start to finish. The effects are shoddy and as fake as fake can be (save for the aforementioned heart surgery insert) and the make up looks like something out of a high school play but that's all part of the film's low budget charm.

BCI has included the original Mexican version of the film, which is pretty tame in terms of on screen sex and violence, as well as the export version, which contains a lot more gore and a few naked ladies to boot. The story is basically the same, though the content varies quite a bit between the two versions. The inserts are obvious – you'll know as soon as you see one because they stick out like a sore thumb – but they add some fun schlock to the film that makes the deliriously bad monkey man high jinks even more trashy fun than they already were.

Curse Of The Doll People:

In this Mexican import from 1961 a group of careless men working as archeologists head into an ancient temple where they swipe an idol that they figure will bring in some serious coin. Of course, stealing an idol is never a good idea in a horror film, and soon enough the four men find themselves the victims of a curse put upon them by a voodoo priest who is known too happy with their theft. He warns the four men that their family members will also be taken care of and before you know it, the men have been killed off.

A short time later, we find out that the priest's curse didn't end with the men being killed and that he meant it when he said he'd kill off their families as well. He resurrects the men as small dolls that stand about two and a half to three feet tall, in zombie form. From there, he sends them out to do his bidding and kill off those who have earned his infernal wrath. When the dolls kill someone off, they assume their likeness and continue their work.

While the story is fairly pedestrian and not particularly surprising, what makes the movie work are the dolls themselves. Played by midgets with really strange masks on, they're flat out creepy pretty much anytime they are on the screen, which gives the movie a lot more atmosphere than it would have had otherwise. Written by Alfredo Salazar, brother of Abel Salazar (the man behind The Brainiac), there aren't a lot of twists here that you won't see coming from a ways away but it's fun getting there thanks to the presence of a zombie or two and some oddball black magic scenes. While these don't really add much in the way of suspense they do make for some nice visuals.

Now for the bad news, and the only real caveat that comes with this set – the English dubbed version of Curse Of The Doll People, the one that AIP dubbed for television broadcast, included in this set runs roughly ten minutes shorter than the version that was previously bootlegged by Beverly Wilshire Filmworks (remember those Mexi-Horror DVDs you used to see at K-Mart for three bucks a pop a few years back?). The Mexican version is the full length cut, but the dubbed one is not, which is rather odd as the running time on the Mexican version of the film appears to be identical to that of the full length English dubbed version that BWF's DVD contained. Why this is the case is unknown, as unlike Night Of The Bloody Apes the English and Mexican versions of Curse Of The Doll People are the same aside from the audio, but those are the facts. Considering that the English dubbing on the export version is pretty horrible in the first place and that there are strange added sound effects thrown in that really don't work so well, this isn't as big a deal as it could have been when we have the complete, superior Mexican version of the movie intact but those who want the movie for the nostalgia factor that the dubbed version could potentially provide might be a little irked by this.

The DVD

Video:

The American cut of Night Of The Bloody Apes is the same fullframe transfer that Something Weird Video used on their release of the film a few years back. It's a very nice print with strong colors and only mild print damage to complain about. Mpeg compression artifacts aren't a problem nor is edge enhancement. The Mexican cut of the film doesn't look as good, it's a bit on the dark side and some of the fine detail gets muddied up, but it's perfectly watchable even if its far from pristine.

Both versions of Curse Of The Doll People are presented in fullframe black and white transfers that look quite sharp and have pretty decent detail evident in both the foreground and the background of the picture. You'll see some mild print damage here and there as you'd expect from an older low budget film but there aren't any serious issues here with the video quality, both cuts look alright (aside from some minor motion blurring in a few spots) and it blows the previous Beverly Wilshire Filmworks release out of the water completely – it's just a shame that the English cut is trimmed.

Sound:

Regardless of whether you choose the English versions or the Mexican versions of the films in this set, you're going to find that the audio is presented in Dolby Digital Mono. Quality wise, the English tracks are a little crisper than their Spanish counterparts but there aren't any major problems to report here. Expect a bit of background hiss in a couple of spots and the odd pop in the mix but dialogue remains clear and pretty clean sounding throughout. Levels are properly balanced and the score and effects never overpower the performers.

Extras:

The extras on the Night Of The Bloody Apes disc includes approximately three minutes of excised footage, all presented silent, that wasn't used in the final cut of the film (most of which is gore) that we've seen before on the Something Weird release. Additionally, the US theatrical trailer is included alongside a decent gallery of promotional art and advertising materials.

For Curse Of The Doll People look to find a decent little still gallery of promotional photographs. Rounding out the supplements is an insert containing some insanely detailed liner notes from David Wilt that explain the differences between the Mexican versions of the films and the export versions and that also provide some interesting information about the people who made them and starred in them.

Final Thoughts:

While the missing footage from the English cut of Curse Of The Doll People is annoying, particularly when it's been available on previous releases, this is otherwise quite a nice little package for Mexican horror movie fans. Considering the low MSRP on this set, Crypt Of Terror: Night Of The Bloody Apes/Curse Of The Doll People comes recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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