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Friday, November 6, 2015

CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN (1943)

Director Edward Dmytryk was making this little Universal horror pic when his recent pic, HITLER’S CHILDREN, became the ‘sleeper’ hit that bumped him up to B+ features; and the best pics of his career. (Ironically, Dmytryk only made the A-list after serving time in prison as one of the Hollywood Ten.) CAPTIVE is hooey, of course, and seems to be missing a finale at a brisk 61 minutes, but it's not without a few tasty fright-filled moments & decent camp appeal. John Carradine makes for a rather sedate Mad Scientist, specializing in gland-swapping between species and various eugenics-based atrocities. (In hindsight, a timely subject in 1943!) So, why not purloin a few glands from his new & pretty patient and turn that intelligent gorilla he met at the circus into a bewitching woman? (Wha? Hard to get too worked up over a man in a gorilla suit anyway.) Meanwhile, back at the big top, animal hunter Milburn Stone is having trouble working inside the cage with his lions & tigers when Carradine’s lovely, if unnatural gorilla gal (South American bombshell Acquanetta) shows up just outside his cage and mesmerizes the beasts. Okay, it’s painfully dopey. But the wild animal act, culled from earlier footage with Clyde Beatty, is darn frightening stuff. Talk about non-PC animal rights. Yikes! Dmytryk does a reasonable job with what he’s got to work with; the cast pitches in (especially Carradine); and the editing & camera tricks work up a decent level of suspense. Or do until that where-did-it-go ending. But our barely awake Gorilla Gal, Acquanetta, brings little to the party. Universal took note and let her go the following year after a couple more pics.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: A rare romantic lead for likable Milburn Stone (‘Doc’ Adams in GUNSMOKE). He must have been the only Universal contract player who physically ‘matched-up’ with the recycled action footage of lion-tamer Clyde Beatty.

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