Mad scientist John Carradine steals an ape named Cheela from the circus so he can do glandular experiments on it. He transfers a woman’s glands to the ape and transforms her into a beautiful mute woman played by Acquanetta (The Lost Continent). She falls in love with an animal trainer (Milburn Stone) but when he spurns her for the love of Evelyn (The Wolf Man) Ankers she literally goes ape and regresses back to her simian state and kills. In the end, the ape murders Carradine and saves Stone from a lion attack before being senselessly gunned down by the police.
Captive Wild Woman is a relatively minor entry into the never ending subgenre of ape man movies, but it’s at least notable for featuring an ape WOMAN. The best part of the film is the make-up of Acquanetta’s half simian appearance. I particularly liked the Wolf Man style transformation as Acquanetta slowly changed into an ape, but I wish there were more of them. The film suffers from an unmercifully weak and abrupt ending, but you can’t be too upset by it since the movie moves at a steady clip and has a running time of barely an hour.
Circus impresario Clyde Beatty doubled for Stone during the scenes involving lions and tigers and the plentiful lion taming footage is a highlight of the movie. Carradine is as fun to watch as ever and he’s pretty great, especially in the operating scenes. Even better is the sultry performance by Acquanetta who makes quite an impression, even though her screen time is limited. She returned the next year for the sequel, Jungle Woman. Director Edward Dmytryk later went on to direct such classics as The Caine Mutiny.