While on an Arctic expedition, two scientists accidentally discover a Neanderthal frozen in ice. Elated, they haul the iceman back to their lab and prepare to free him. Sure enough the beetle-browed fellow is alive, but he isn't very bright, so Lugosi decides to give him a brain transplant. Carradine is appalled and unfortunately ends up as the donor. After the operation, Lugosi attempts to civilize the missing link. Unfortunately, he cannot and the early hominid ends up on a murderous rampage and must finally be destroyed.
Directed by: Phil Rosen
. Starring: Bela Lugosi
, John Carradine
, George Zucco
, Frank Moran
, Teala Loring
, Tod Andrews
, Mary Currier
, Eddy Chandler
, Ernie Adams
, Horace B. Carpenter
, Mike Donovan
, George Eldredge
, Frank Leigh
Bela Lugosi and John Carradine, both men played Dracula at Universal Studios and both men said "Yes" when Monogram Studios came calling with offers of work. In VOODOO MAN John was Bela's half-wit servant (Long John called that "The worst film I ever made!" of course he said that before he did BILLY THE KID MEETS Dracula.) At least in this film they are fellow scientists.
Prof. Dexter (Bela) and Prof. Gilmore (John) have perfected a way to freeze human beings and then thaw them out unharmed. They have kept Willy The Weasel (Ernie Adams) a "notorious tramp" (as a newspaper article labels him) on ice for 4 months. When he wakes up he thinks he has just spent the night in their basement! Bela suggests they could revive a person who has been frozen longer and suggests they head up to the North Pole to find a specimen of prehistoric man. With hardly any hesitation Carradine agrees and off they go. (Just keep repeating "It's only a movie . . . only a movie . . .")
Do they find what they are looking for? Well this would be an even duller film if they did not! As Bela says "One chance in a million and we've won!" They waste no time in thawing the Neandertal Man (Frank Moran) out but he is far from happy at being awakened from his 50,000 year nap. Bela grabs a handy blowtorch and forces the man into an even handier cage (You see? Fire is his Master! He probably never understood it.")
Now just bringing a prehistoric man back to life would have any other scientist ringing up the Nobel Prize committee but NOT Bela! He wants to transplant half the brain of a modern man into the ape man's skull so the world can hear first hand what it was like to live back then. Carradine is reluctant to do this ("That would be murder.") but Bela retorts "Murder is an ugly word. As a scientist I don't recognise it." Of course while determining just whose brain should be hijacked the Ape Man escapes and brutally kills a policeman. There is a splendid shot of Bela walking down a city street wearing a tuxedo with a lit blowtorch in his hand! This movie just has to be taking place in a parallel universe! Anyway moral and righteous Carradine reads about the killing in the papers and decides to spill the well known beans to the cops. Bela persuades him to drop by the lab first. Can you guess why? Yes! He has found his brain donor!
This movie is fabulous because of the sheer eccentricity of its plot. Bela, who is not even a surgeon, successfully performs brain surgery without even bothering the shave the Neandertal's head; whats more the patient recovers from this complex surgery and it up and walking in just a few hours! Where did Dr.Lugosi study medicine? Also, why is the caveman not hurt by bullets? Was he petrified after having been frozen so long or is that just one really tough animal skin he is wearing? Watch closely for the scene where the ape man climbs through the window of Carradine's home. You will see this prehistoric man is wearing a pair of 20th century underwear!
Originally the Ape Man was to be played by 2 people. Former prizefighter Frank Moran, who appeared in many movies for Poverty Row studios and even a few for the majors, was to be the title character before the brain surgery and George Zucco was to be the post surgery ape man. A still does exist showing the ape man sitting on a table with Carradine and Lugosi on either side. The profile is definitely not Frank Moran! That nose and those eyes do remind me of George Zucco; but that is not him in the movie at any time. A story goes that he got so fed up during the makeup tests that he "got sick" before his scenes could be filmed and Frank Moran played the role all the way through. Maybe George was still mad at Monogram because of his role in VOODOO MAN.
Bela is great. John seems to be just walking through his role, something he seldom did not matter how bad the script was. Then again the script does not give him much to do. With lines like "I believe you're quite mad!" and "As a public minded citizen it's my duty to report how the poor man happened to have been killed." Maybe that is why Bela's character thinks his colleague could only donate half a brain!
Supporting cast includes Judith Gibson, who was sometimes billed as "Teala Loring" and Michael Ames are the young-couple-in-love. Mr. Ames would later change his name to "Tod Andrews" and would star in such things as FROM HELL IT CAME (1957). Watch closely for Horace Carpenter (Dr.Mierschultz from Dwain Esper's 1934 sleaze classic MANIAC) in a non speaking role as a security guard who is killed by the ape man.
They don't make movies like this anymore. You know what? I am kind of sorry they don't.
Review by reptilicus from the Internet Movie Database.