‘Born of horror to live in terror!’
Captive Wild Woman is a 1943 American science fiction horror film, starring John Carradine, Milburn Stone, Evelyn Ankers, and “introducing” Acquanetta (Lost Continent). It was released by Universal Pictures and was directed by Edward Dmytryk (The Devil Commands; Bluebeard) who was tasked with re-editing footage from a 1933 circus movie The Big Cage.
Jack P. Pierce handled the beastly makeup effects.
Two sequels, both starring Acquanetta, followed: Jungle Woman and The Jungle Captive.
Animal trainer Fred Mason (Milburn Stone) returns from his latest safari with a horde of animals for his employer John Whipple (Lloyd Corrigan), owner of the Whipple Circus. Among them is Cheela (Ray Corrigan), a gorilla with remarkably human characteristics. Mason relates that she is the most affectionate jungle animal he has ever encountered.
Mason’s fiancée Beth Colman (Evelyn Ankers) is present at the dock for his return. She tells him of the recent health problems encountered by her sister Dorothy (Martha MacVicar). In a flashback sequence, Beth tells of taking her sibling to see Dr. Sigmund Walters (John Carradine), an endocrinologist of some standing. Dorothy is staying at Walters’ Crestview Sanatorium for treatment.
Fred and Beth arrive at the winter quarters, and Dr. Walters pays a visit. He is extremely interested in Cheela, and in inquires about purchasing her. Whipple tells him that she is not for sale. Upon returning to his lab, Walters finds that his latest experiment has resulted in the lab animal’s death. He becomes convinced he needs larger animals that possess the “will to live.”
Walters enlists the aid of a disgruntled former circus employee to steal Cheela. After the ape is loaded onto his truck, the scientist callously pushes the man into the gorilla’s grasp and stolidly watches as the beast wrings his neck…
“If you like being shocked, this far-fetched piece is your cup of tea.” Picturegoer, 1943
“It’s fast-paced, surprising and filled with action, although most of the action is stock footage of Clyde Beatty during his lion and tiger circus performances.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“Rather more enjoyable than the story line might suggest and short enough not to outstay its welcome.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook (Batsford)
“Sure, it’s as dumb as the proverbial bag of hammers, and one cost-cutting measure or another can be observed in almost every scene, but Captive Wild Woman is so totally shameless that it’s next to impossible not to be charmed. John Carradine makes a great mad scientist, Acquanetta makes a great ape-woman (it doesn’t matter that her acting is unequal to the task of conveying a single human emotion when she’s supposed to be playing a gorilla)…” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting