Curt Siodmak

The Ape (1940, William Nigh)

I always forget awful films have always been made; I usually establish some arbitrary point in the mid-fifties when they started getting unwatchable. Then something like The Ape comes along and reminds me I need to set that point earlier.

The film’s based on a play, which must be a hoot considering how many different locations it moves from. Nigh loves to intercut one sequence with a glimpse of another, a technique he probably came up with for the film, but who knows… All of those intercuts are awful and jarring, much like the rest of Nigh’s direction. When he does manage to compose a mediocre shot it’s startling, because the rest of The Ape looks so bad, just looking normal is too much for it.

The story seems absurd, but I’m sure there are other low budget films with a similar one. A mad doctor lives in an otherwise innocent little town. They use a Western set for some of it, which fits since the sheriff (Henry Hall) walks around dressed up like a cowboy. The mad doctor-played by a terrible Boris Karloff, who’s almost unrecognizable due to a goofy hair style-thinks he’s found the cure for paralysis and he’s going to do anything to make sure he succeeds.

Anyway, the script’s awful. The dialogue sinks over and over. Especially with otherwise earnest young lovers Maris Wrixon and Gene O’Donnell.

The Ape stinks. One might feel bad for Karloff, but he’s so absent charm, it’s unlikely.



Directed by William Nigh; screenplay by Curt Siodmak and Richard Carroll, based on an adaptation by Siodmak and a play by Adam Shirk; director of photography, Harry Neumann; edited by Russell F. Schoengarth; music by Edward J. Kay; released by Monogram Pictures.

Starring Boris Karloff (Dr. Bernard Adrian), Maris Wrixon (Miss Frances Clifford), Gene O’Donnell (Danny Foster), Dorothy Vaughan (Mother Clifford), Gertrude Hoffman (Jane), Henry Hall (Sheriff Jeff Halliday) and Selmer Jackson (Dr. McNulty).

Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956, Curt Siodmak)

Siodmak sure does love his medium shots. He uses the same medium shot for every indoor scene in Curucu, which, along with the atrocious acting and writing, brings some regularity to the film.

I’ve wanted to see this one since I was a kid, mostly because of the excellent poster. It’s strangely unavailable from Universal, even though it’s one of their fifties monster movies. Well, not exactly. It spends most of its running time acting as a travelogue for Brazil and propaganda for missionaries. The native peoples who don’t accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior are evil morons. They’re so moronic, they even have a chief (Tom Payne) who’s wearing blackface. Brown face. Whatever.

Amusingly, priest Harvey Chalk is one of the creepiest priests I can think of in a movie. His performance is awful, but he’s also really creepy.

The acting in Curucu is uniformly horrendous. When budgeting Curucu, which shot on location in Brazil, Universal must not have been paying for cast. They also don’t seem to have wanted to pay for audio–the majority of the running time, Raoul Kraushaar’s terrible score is blaring.

But besides Siodmak (it’s hard to believe this guy wrote The Wolf Man), the fault mostly lies with leading man John Bromfield. Rarely does one get to see such a terrible performance in a theatrical release. Love interest Beverly Garland is bad too.

Save as a cultural artifact (Curucu endeavors to be misogynistic), there’s no reason to subject oneself to this film.



Written and directed by Curt Siodmak; director of photography, Rudolf Icsey; edited by Terry O. Morse; music by Raoul Kraushaar; produced by Richard Kay and Harry Rybnick; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring John Bromfield (Rock Dean), Beverly Garland (Dr. Andrea Romar), Tom Payne (Tupanico), Harvey Chalk (Father Flaviano), Larri Thomas (Vivian), Wilson Viana (Tico) and Sérgio de Oliveira (Captain of Police).

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