Captive Wild Woman

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(5/10) In a nutshell: Director Edward Dmytryk cuts and pastes together a surprisingly coherent and enjoyable tale of a gorilla being turned into a woman by a mad John Carradine in his first mad scientist role. The 1943 film made the mysterious Acquanetta an over-night star, and garnered two sequels, despite the fact that one third of the movie is reused footage from an old lion-taming film.

Captive Wild Woman. 1943, USA. Directed by Edward Dmytryk. Written by Ted Fithian, Neil P. Varnick, Griffin Jay, Henry Sucher. Starring: John Carradine, Evelyn Ankers, Milburn Stone, Acquanetta, Fay Helm, Crash Corrigan, Clyde Beatty. Produced by Ben Pivar for Universal. Tomatometer: 40 %. IMDb score: 5.7

Acauanetta as Cheela the ape woman in Captive Wild Woman.

Acauanetta as Cheela the ape woman in Captive Wild Woman.

Come and see ACQUANETTA the VENEZUELAN VOLCANO as the terrifying APE WOMAN! Watch as she lures men to their death with her savage beauty! That wasn’t a tagline for Captive Wild Woman, I just made it up, but it could well have been. When we think of the Universal monster movies post-1941, we usually think of it as the time when the studio simply milked money out of the series by teaming up their creatures in one bad B film after the other. But this actually wasn’t really the case. In 1943 Universal added yet another monster to its roster, and this time it was a woman, in the form of the exotic and mysterious actress Acquanetta as Cheela the ape woman. Continue reading

The Devil Commands

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(6/10) In a nutshell: The fourth of Columbia’s mad Boris Karloff films, this 1941 effort is probably the best in the lot, with some cool sci-fi designs, good atmosphere and splendid acting. Still, the formulaic mad scientist tropes remain and the lack of a decent budget is evident. Directed by Oscar winner Edward Dmytryk.

The Devil Commands. 1941, USA. Directed by Edward Dmytryk. Written by Robert Hardy Andrews, Milton Gunzburg. Based on the novel The Edge of Running Water by William Sloane. Starring: Boris Karloff, Anne Revere, Amanda Duff, Cy Schindell. Produced by Wallace MacDonald for Columbia. IMDb score: 6.2

This is how you made contact with the dead in 1941.

This is how you made contact with the dead in 1941. You used a medium (Anne Revere) and stuck her in a brass fish bowl with lamps on the sides.

In the late thirties and early forties horror icon Boris Karloff churned out a staggering amount of mad scientist films, some slightly better than others. Many of of them, five in fact, were made by Columbia, one of the three so-called second tier studios in Hollywood at the time, along with Universal and United Artists. I have previously reviewed The Man They Could Not Hang (1939, review) and The Man With Nine Lives (1940, review), and Before I Hang (1940) I can’t seem to be able to find online. The last entry in the line was the horror comedy The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942) with Peter Lorre. Like that one, The Devil Commands is a welcome (if only slight) deviation from form in a genre that became increasingly repetitive. Continue reading