Morlock (Jesse Merlin) and his evil assistant Ruprecht (Tom Ackerman) attempt to transplant the brain of Amanda Globe (Amy Ball) into a gorilla (legendary stunt man Peter Fields) in the exciting climax of the third Morlock film, “The Testament of Professor Morlock.”
By this point in the series, the budget had been slashed so radically that the actors were performing in front of painted backdrops and the laboratory equipment was regular kitchen utensils. The film received universally terrible reviews but the fans loved it for its acting and clever writing and “The Testament” turned out to be a highly profitable entry in the franchise.
Jesse Merlin was so fed up with his oppressive contract that he left the film in mid-production to go to England to star in a horror version of “Charlie Chan” for Hammer Films that he hoped would end his typecasting as the insane professor. While the Chan film had some spooky aspects, it wasn’t on a par with the Morlocks and was derided by critics for its shockingly racist attitude towards the title character which required Merlin to have his eyelids taped and speak in patronizing pigeon English. What’s more, he became embroiled in a bitter legal battle with the studio for breaking his contract that lasted for years and led to his living in poverty until his career was resurrected by the reboot of the series with “The Bride of Professor Morlock.”
With Merlin’s unexpected exit, the film had to be rewritten on the fly and used the device of a gypsy fortune teller named Olga (Jaz Davison) channeling the professor from hell. The rewriting benefitted Ackerman as Ruprecht, whose role was built up after Merlin’s departure. After the financial success of “The Testament of Professor Morlock,” the studio planned to kick off a new horror series centering on Ruprecht but Ackerman’s addiction to reefer was so overwhelming at that point that he could be seen in many of the shots puffing on a doobie, so the project was ultimately shelved.