To find out why so many people - myself included - treasure Something Weird DVDs, you need look no further than the back of this disc, where a tiny box contains the following legend: "WARNING: This program contains violence, nudity, and sorry-looking monkey suits."
Mexican director Rene Cardona, Sr. made a lot of movies, but only a few, like Wrestling Women vs. The Aztec Mummy and Survive! ever made it to the American screen. He made all kinds of movies, some featuring masked wrestlers El Santo and Blue Demon; he even remade one of his own movies, Doctor of Doom, as the much more luridly titled Night of the Bloody Apes.
We start with a wrestling match (oooh, what a surprise!) in which the female lead tosses her opponent out of the ring, resulting in a terrible injury which leaves the unfortunate woman a vegetable. Hospital head Dr. Krellman has problems of his own - his son is dying of leukemia, which the doc feels can be cured by transplanting the heart from a guy wearing a gorilla suit (yes, it's supposed to be a real ape). This of course leads to the son mutating into a significantly more muscular actor with a bunch of lumpy ape makeup on his face. Carnage ensues, even after the gorilla heart is replaced with the heart of the comatose wrestler, because "lesions have already formed in his brain!"
As the title implies, Bloody Apes is a gory film (especially since footage of actual open-heart surgery is inserted at proper moments), but it also has a surprising amount of nudity. Okay, it's 1968, so it's not so surprising, but it is disturbing in proximity with all the violence. Picked up for American distribution in '72, more gore and nudity was inserted, resulting in a minor legend in sleaze cinema.
Though Bloody Apes takes a somewhat circular route to its plot major, the path taken by its co-feature, Feast of Flesh, makes it look like an exercise in drawing straight lines. Somebody is using organ music to lure women to a seaside home, shoot them full of heroin, and have his way with them. Eventually corpses start showing up with hypodermic needles in their hearts, and the police - both of them - are predictably puzzled. Feast of Flesh (also known in US release as The Deadly Organ) is another movie by Argentine director Emilio Vieyra, who also brought us The Curious Dr. Humpp . Deprived of even that movie's bizarre central rationale, Feast plays out like an Italian giallo thriller with a particularly sloppy plot and a killer that wears rubber claws instead of black leather gloves. The viewer can't get a grip on a large list of suspects until the movie's last ten minutes, and by then its far too late.
Where does Something Weird get their film elements for these things? Bloody Apes is dramatically clear and sharp, it's colors astounding. The wrestlers' costumes are bright reds and greens not found in nature, presented with no chatter or bleed. There is no appreciable grain, and very little damage. The surprising anamorphic transfer on Feast is a grainier black-and-white affair, with a fair amount of dance in the blacks, but it still looks far better than I had expected.
There is the usual Something Weird buffet of extras: Start with three minutes of Bloody Ape outtakes, as primitive gore effects fail to cooperate. Follow up with trailers for theatrical double features like this one, The Blood Spattered Bride & I Dismember Mama; Carnival of Blood & Curse of the Headless Horseman and Werewolf in a Girls' Dormitory & Corridors of Blood. Then go to more trailers: The Deadly Organ, Face of the Screaming Werewolf, The Flesh Eaters, Flesh Feast, Invasion of the Flesh Hunters, Shiver Shudder Show, and Tender Flesh, which features a nude Meg Foster (Not that this should influence you in any decision to purchase this disc). There are also two TV spots for each movie - though the ones for Bloody Apes are so gory I can't imagine any TV station running them more than once.
In the only tangentially-related-but-still-fun extras department, there are the usual strange short subjects: "Gorilla and the Maiden" is a burlesque strip tease featuring a dancer in diaphanous veils, and a guy in a monkey suit worse than the one in Bloody Apes. Worse than Mighty Gorga, even; "The World's Championship Women's Wrestling Contest" is a no-foolin' news short from 1938 or 39, featuring Clara Mortensen, "Champion of the World", Rita Martinez, "Champion of Mexico", and snarky commentary by Sam Hayes ("It looks like a couple of cocker spaniels, playing in the back yard!"). I won't spoil it by revealing who wins; In "Artist's Paradise," four 30s era nudes frolic in a stream until a guy in a bad ape suit scares them away; and "White Gorilla" takes a not-very interesting jungle adventures and condenses it down to 10 almost-interesting minutes.
Cap it off with another "Ghastly Gallery of Ghoulish Comic Cover Art" accompanied by a couple of tunes by The Dead Elvi, and you have yet another, unmistakably cheesy, if not sleazy, way to spend a few hours.
Dr. Freex, 5/26/2003