Like The Elephant Man, The Ape Woman (original Italian title: La Donna Scimmia) is based on the real-life exploitation of a deformed human being. Ugo Tognazzi stars as a charming ne'er-do-well who happens upon young Annie Girardot, who outside of the fact that she is covered with hair from head to foot is a normal woman with normal desires and dreams. Tognazzi inveigles her into the European carnival sideshow circuit as "The Ape Woman", securing her cooperation by making love to her. She dies in childbirth; though overcome by grief, Tognazzi has not lost his cheapjack showman's touch, and he mummifies the bodies of both mother and daughter and continues to tour with them! The Ape Woman was inspired by the true story of 19th century Mexican "freak" Julia Pastrana, whose career was also covered in brief fashion by a half-hour episode of TV's Alfred Hitchcock Presents. While the original Italian version of The Ape Woman retains the cynical, faithful-to-the-facts denouement, the French version substitutes a happy ending in which the woman and her baby survive.
by Hal Erickson synopsis