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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Captive Wild Woman (1943)

Nature cannot be tamed.  This is the theme of Captive Wild Woman that tells the parallel and often intersecting tales of Fred Mason [a wild animal trainer] and Dr. Sigmund Walters [a mad scientist].  Milburne Stone [Gunsmoke] plays the former and has a strong, charismatic presence on screen.  A young John Carradine [House of Frankenstein, The Mummy’s Ghost] plays the latter and gives his usual slightly quirky performance.  Evelyn Ankers [The Wolfman, Son of Dracula] rounds out this trio and runs interference between the two male leads.  All three are great and fit the bill nicely.  The only odd one out is Acquanetta who plays Paula Dupree, the ape woman.  In her human incarnation she has very little to do but stare; and I’m quite certain she didn’t don the ape suit which belongs to a person of a much bigger frame than she.  She is also hampered by the “transformation” make up effects which are laughably bad.  It’s shocking to learn that the one and only Jack Pierce did the make up for this film.  It is some of his weakest work by far which makes me suspect he had no budget and limited creative freedom in the final look of the creature.

Director Edward Dmytryk does a fine job of directing the cast and keeps the action moving along.  The problem is they give him very little material to work with.  This is especially true of the pseudo-science that transforms the ape into a woman.  Carradine gives it his best shot as he tries to convince us this transformation could work but it comes across at utter nonsense.  The other annoying feature are the way-too-long circus scenes where the music starts to grate on your nerves.  We got it.  He’s a talented and fearless animal trainer!  Let’s move on…PLEASE.

Captive Wild Woman is not a bad film.  It’s just not that interesting.  It might have worked for 1940’s audiences, but it’s rather dull for modern audiences.  Watch this one only if you’re a Carradine fan.


For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.

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