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Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Study in Classic Horror- CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943)

Captive Wild Woman is the first of three films featuring Paula Dupree, the Ape Woman, and mainly because of availability, the only one I’ll be viewing in my project. A scientist played by John Carradine grafts some glands and a cerebrum from unwilling human donors into the body of a stolen female circus gorilla. The operation transforms her into a beautiful woman played by Acquanetta. He then reintroduces her as his patient at the circus where she demonstrates a strange influence over other animals, which makes her a natural assistant for their big cat act. This results in a romantic trial between her, the cats’ tamer and his fiancée (Milburn Stone and Evelyn Ankers), and Paula’s fury not only makes her homicidal, but also causes her to revert back to ape form.

I don’t have much to say other than this brief synopsis, because I had a hard time enjoying this one. As far as story goes, a sort of female Wolf Man in reverse, it’s not bad, although it ends abruptly and leaves some things unresolved. The cast does a fine job, with, perhaps, the exception of Milburn Stone, who I had a hard time buying as a rugged animal trainer. It’s just that I found it difficult to watch what was deemed acceptable animal treatment in the 1930s and 40s. There’s a lot of stock footage of lions and tigers being kept in small cages, and also being whipped for the purpose of entertainment. I may have gone to the circus a lot when I was a child, but I’m just not interested in seeing that sort of thing any more. I’d rather see wild animals simply be wild, rather than watch someone flaunting his bravado by making them do tricks. Normally, I can separate my feelings and opinions and watch something for what it is, but in this case my enjoyment was marred by my sympathy for the animals.

I often forgive older works of art for not being in sync with today’s mindset, and I forgive this one as well, but in this case, it doesn’t make it any easier for me to look at.

This week’s supporting features:

Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam in Mutiny on the Bunny (1950)

The Our Gang short A Tough Winter (1930) which, speaking of older sensibilities, featured the now-often discussed African-American performer Stepin Fetchit.

Next week’s film:

Werewolf of London (1935) starring Henry Hull, Warner Oland and Valerie Hobson

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