Reviews

Night Of The Bloody Apes (1969) + Feast Of Flesh (1967)

In the early 1980s, Wizard Video released a badass trailer compilation tape called The Best Of Sex And Violence. It included trailers for Emmanuelle Around the World, Dolemite, and Zombie, among others. But really, they weren’t even close when it comes to the best of sex and violence. Today, thanks to the wonders of this DVD, we get the real deal. Namely, “sex” and “violence” are nothing without a rapist gorilla-man and a syringe full of heroin.

What if El Santo hired H.G. Lewis to direct a deranged wrestling/ape-man movie? Wonder no more! Crudely crafted by Rene Cardona, Sr. (Santa Claus) and Rene Cardona, Jr. (Night Of A Thousand Cats), Mexico’s premiere family of sleazoids, this UK Video Nasty is an overachiever in the realm of morally bankrupt trash. What starts as a standard Luche Libre wrestling adventure quickly morphs into nonsensical, gross-out excess, as a mad doctor transplants the heart of an orangutan into the body of his ailing son. Really. That’s what happens. From there, the shirtless ape-man embarks on a brutal psycho-sexual rampage, as innocent people are assaulted, disembowled, skinned, de-eyed, and decapitated for no good reason. All in seething close-up. On top of that, the Cardonas throw in a wrestler/super-heroine who wears a red Catwoman suit, insaniac dubbing, and real-life open heart surgery footage. Now that’s a night at the movies!

Goddamn! Though quaint in its intentions, Night Of The Bloody Apes is a complete shock to the senses. But that’s all it is. Photographed with little inspiration and devoid of personality, this movie feels like Barry Mahon on an angst pilgrimage. That’s not such a bad thing. But it’s no celebration either. The authentic, extended surgery sequences (two in all) are less surgical, more “Hey, let’s rip this guy apart while his heart is still beating!” The cheap gore (the removal of eyes, decapitation) is surprisingly brutal and bathed in crimson neon. Arbitrary women are attacked, stripped, and killed. Between all of that, you’re left to fast-forward through wrestling scenes and doze while people sit around and talk.

I need some fresh air. I’m in luck.

Argentina, 1967. Offbeat and stylish director Emilio Vieyra decides to kick off his sex-horror jams. In black and white. With a Wurlitzer. And so much more. In 1971, Vieyra would cap the crass weirdness with The Curious Dr. Humpp, but in ’67, it was warm up time. Feast Of Flesh aka The Deadly Organ stews with flesh and frenzy, but it’s no dummy. In fact, the film is too smart to worry about anything.

A strange man tolls the beach, clad in a rubber mask, a Beatles wig, hairy gloves, and a windbreaker. He likes the women. The women like him. Through the mesmerizing strains of his organ and 45 RPM singles, the man beckons women to his mod house, gropes them, injects them with heroin, then dumps the bodies by the sea. People frolic on the beach while lesbians tease us and “Dr. Bermudez” gets name-dropped. I still don’t know who he is.

At times, Feast Of Flesh will put you to sleep. The nightclub and beach padding, the discussions between doctors, the indefinite characters — the Zzzs can’t be helped. But then, there are the shadows. The open spaces. The silent waves crashing on the beach. Vieyra builds a mood with these elements, an eerie, random cloak of style that blankets the trashier elements (brief nudity and blood, odd sexual suggestions) and ultimately saves the film. The killer’s unsettling segments clearly escaped from the same poetic spookhouse that birthed the ballroom from Carnival Of Souls. They’re just as tingling, albeit on a cruder level. As a whole, the film swims in senselessness, but I’d be surprised if Emilio Vieyra was concerned with that.

I watched the sex. I watched the violence. I liked it. I’m not ashamed.

From the Archives