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Night of the Bloody Apes
Directed by Mexico's most famous exploitation director, René 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 and then a third time by BCI Eclipse during their all too brief love affair with Mexican horror on DVD) is a grisly low budget monster movie with wrestlers, gore, nudity and remains one of the best known Mexican horror films of the era.
As to what it's all about? If the title alone isn't enough to pique your interest, a lady wrestler decked out in a devil costume tosses her foe out of the ring and injures her. This 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 lying 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 makeup looks like something out of a high school play but that's all part of the film's low budget charm. It's paced well and it moves quickly, and the aforementioned heart surgery bits are grisly enough to make you take notice. The acting, all of which is dubbed in this version, isn't going to blow you away but it gets the job done without any issues, the performers are fun to watch here.
VCI has included only the export version on this disc. This is the 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, as the original Mexican version is very tame and doesn't have the gore or nudity that the export cut does. 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 and a whole lot of exploitation value to the film that makes the deliriously bad monkey man hijinks even more trashy fun than they already were.
Night Of The Bloody Apes arrives on Blu-ray from VCI in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer provided taken from a new 4k master, which sounds fantastic, right? Like all too many genre film releases from VCI, this transfer, which takes up 17.3GBs of space on the dual layered disc, suffers from some obvious and overzealous digital noise reduction that smooths things out to the point where grain is pretty much gone and skin looks waxy. It's a shame as the colors look pretty good and the picture has been cleaned up quite a bit, there isn't much in the way of print damage here outside of some small white specks now and then. There's no getting past the DNR, however, and it takes what should have been a cause for celebration and turns it into a bit of a misfire.
The only audio option for the feature is a dubbed English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. It would have been nice to have a lossless option here but that didn't happen. The audio is fine for what it is, but it's a bit flat at times. Still, the dialogue is clear and the track is properly balanced. There's some minor sibilance in a few spots but it isn't too distracting.
Extras on the disc start off with a new audio commentary by Travis Crawford that does a pretty deep dive into the three generation Cardona film empire that was so huge in Mexico during the boom years of its genre film history. He also goes over luchadore films, the different edits of this film and how and why they came to exist and more. He also covers how this film is basically a remake of Doctor Of Doom, the contributions of the different cast and crew members involved in the picture, the film's distribution history via producer Gerald Entrader and its North American marketing campaign, the heart surgery insert sequences spliced into the movie, the nude sequences inserted into the movie and the cast involved, the use of stock library music and how it's also used in Cronenberg's Rabid and loads more.
VCI has also included a second feature on the disc, however, in the form of the aforementioned Doctor Of Doom. This transfer also uses an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation taking up 16.1 GBS of space on the disc, with English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio and optional English subtitles. The black and white image also shows some egregious digital noise reduction, though it doesn't look quite as waxy as its full color counterpart.
The movie itself is pretty fun. The story revolves around a mad scientist, his grim visage hidden underneath a hood, who, with some help from his assistant Gomar, abducts beautiful young women to use in his brain transplant experiments. When he can't seem to get them right, he decides to use a more intelligent specimen and soon enough a female scientist is kidnapped and put on his table. This doesn't work either, and soon she's just another one of the many corpses he's left in his wake. What he didn't count on was his latest victim's sister, a professional wrestler named Gloria Venus (Lorena Velázquez) who will not rest until her sister's killer is brought to justice.
It's all as enjoyable as it is sincerely goofy, a fun horror romp padded out with some unnecessarily long wrestling match footage. Once again directed by René Cardona, it throws a lot at the wall to see what sticks but as far as low budget monster movies go, it's got some decent atmosphere and proves to be quite an entertaining time killer.
Also included here are video essays for both features by Dr. David Wilts. The thirty-five minute essay for Night Of The Bloody Apes goes over the films history, noting that it's more of a cult film outside of its native Mexico due to the fact that the original Mexican version is rather tame, how it was a rare Mexican horror movie at the time that had a widespread release in English, the three versions of the movie that exist and the differences between them, the film's home video history, the film's theatrical distribution history, how the film was topical for its time by using the concept of a heart transplant as part of its story, the cast and crew that worked on the picture and quite a bit more. The twenty-three minute essay for Doctor Of Doom goes over the different titles of the film, its quick eleven day shooting schedule, where the movie was shot, the film's connections to professional wrestling, how the production company behind it was willing to push the envelope with nudity in their pictures, how the film was essentially remade under an alternate title in the seventies, how the film ties into and compares to other female wrestling Mexican genre pictures, details on the cast and crew and quite a bit more.
Rounding out the extras on the disc is a trailer for the main feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.
As to the packaging, we get some great reversible cover art, a nice slipcover and an insert booklet that contains an essay on the film by Dr. David Wilt that cover the history of both films included on this release. A DVD disc is also included.
Night Of The Bloody Apes is a seriously entertaining trash/horror epic and Doctor Of Doom a really fun B-picture. Both of those movies are well-worth seeing, which makes it even more of a shame that VCI has taken the time to restore these films only to then go crazy with the noise reduction and mess up the picture quality and cheap out with lossy audio. The extras are pretty solid, however. Diehard Mexican horror fans will probably want this anyway as it's the only high definition offering around at the time of this writing, everyone else can safely rent it and hope that VCI starts treating their Mexican genre film releases better in the future.
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.