Editorial Note: For those reading the entire series of Mammoth Monkey Mondays reviews, the five pieces should be read in this order:
Konga The Mighty Peking Man A*P*E King Kong Lives The Mighty Gorga
PLOT: Krappy kounterfeit Kong kills Koreans.
It says something about A*P*E that the opening credits are perhaps the most thrilling part of the movie. (Well, actually, the most thrilling part of the movie is when the end credits begin.) The visuals aren’t much, being a sustained shot of the ocean surface. Still, there’s a vigorously bombastic score that will fool many into believing that an actual movie is coming. In fact, the music is so competent I suspect it was stolen from another source entirely. Finally, the credits come rushing at the screen. Like in Superman: The Motion Picture, only without the vapor trail effect.
Unfortunately, this sequence seems to have largely exhausted the filmmakers’ collective ingenuity. Not to mention a goodly portion of the production budget, or so the remaining 85 minutes would indicate.
A toy boat comes floating into frame. (The water tank used to suggest the ocean was considerably more effective prior to this moment.) Even in silhouette the vessel’s Tonka-esque qualities are readily apparent. Especially pronounced is the manner in which it bobs around in the water, indicative of a craft weighing at best a pound or two. Over this appears one of the all-time classic Bad Credits: “THE PRODUCERS WISH TO THANK THE UNITED STATES ARMY FOR THEIR COOPERATION IN THE MAKING OF THIS FILM.” Unless the Army broke open its secret store of really, really bad ape suits and toy ships, I’m not sure what this ‘cooperation’ might have entailed.
The ersatz nature of the craft is tragically confirmed when we cut to it sitting in what I suspect to be a backyard swimming pool. The ship is insultingly, jaw-droppingly chintzy, as bad if not worse than the toy boats displayed in such epics as The Sea Serpent and The Uninvited.
The following necessarily takes place at ‘night. ‘Daylight,’ you see, would reveal the walls surrounding the pool or tank they’re using. This holds true for the next three scenes or so.
Cut to the ship’s *cough, cough* deck. This is economically suggested by a waist-high ‘guardrail’ made from iron plumbing pipes and dressed with short lengths of rope and chain. Standing there is a ‘sailor.’ To be fair, the man is bearded and wearing jeans, a pea coat and a black cloth cap. This expert costuming makes him one of the film’s more successfully realized elements.
Another sailor comes topside through a particularly suspect hatchway. He greets the first fellow as Captain, which is more exposition than we often get from these things. This is actually an interesting exhibit of minimalist filmmaking. The actors are staring at a black wall, meant to be the ocean in the dark of night. They are also filmed from the back. This means their dialog can be looped in without having to match the actors’ lip movements.
“Yes, sir,” the back of the mate’s head says, “the big boy’s sleeping like a kitten.” In other words, the film isn’t going to waste a lot of time getting to the ape action. Then, in a bold directorial stroke, the actors turn towards the camera. Auteur! Auteur! Now we’re treated to a Doris Wishman homage, in which one actor speaks while we get a close-up of the other actor listening to him.
“Were you there on the island when they caught him?” the Mate asks from off-camera as we look upon the Captain’s face. “Sure was,” the Captain replies. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” Well then, too bad we in the audience didn’t get to see it. “Imagine,” says the Mate, whom I’m guessing is called something like Expository Pete. “Almost 36 feet tall! Wow.” ‘Almost’ 36 feet? I admire your predilection towards exactitude, Expository Pete, but I think you’d be justified in rounding down to 35 feet.
The Captain takes on a philosophical air. “You know, it’s almost a shame to put a beast into captivity and then put him on display for everyone to gawk at,” he muses. “Yeah, I know what you mean,” the mate replies, presumably with visions of straining yellow dump trucks in his head. Further conversation reveals that the unseen subject of their conversation is being taken to Disneyland. (!!) “I sure hope the gas that put him out lasts that long,” the mate avers. “I wouldn’t worry about it,” comes the response. “They say he should be out for another five days or so.”
Let me pause here a second. First, who is ‘they’? Second, on what is this estimate based? Did they use the recognized industry standard gas for rendering giant apes unconscious? Has there been intensive laboratory testing and field research to accumulate such data?
We never get the answers to these queries, however. For at that very second a really, really bad prop hand pushes aside a flimsy metal sheet pretending to the ship’s deck. It’s amazing that there’s a film that employs worse giant ape technology than Mighty Peking Man, but there you are. (If I was amazed upon learning this, I was downright flabbergasted to find the barrel was scraped still lower in yet another flick. More on that later this month.)
To indicate how bad this picture is, we cut to the toy boat being pulled with a string to make it ‘list.’ Then it explodes (??), like, well, like a toy boat full of fireworks and sparklers. I’m not sure what a freighter would be carrying to cause such a massive explosion, much less the resultant Obligatory Humungous Fireball. Still, there you go.
Ape, looking exactly like a man in a rental store gorilla suit, emerges from the water. Part of the ‘debris’ in the background looks to be a section of the toy boat’s painted orange keel. Which means that Ape looks about ten times too big to have been sequestered in the ship. The guy in the suit wriggles around in a manner suggestive of one whose wet underwear has bunched up in his butt crack.
Meanwhile, I attempted to formulate a theory to explain how the creature, trapped inside the bowels of the ship when it massively blew to bits in a gigantic fireball, would manage to emerge unscathed.
Aside from aping (sorry) the ’76 King Kong, A*P*E also followed in the wake of Jaws (1975). Prominently featured in A*P*E‘s dishonestly epic poster art — see above — was an image of a gigantic shark. Establishing how badass your animal menace was by having it kick shark butt was a device similarly employed in Dino De Laurentiis’ classic maritime farce Orca. Which is fitting, as De Laurentiis also produced the King Kong remake that ‘inspired’ this film. It’s a small world, isn’t it?
As if seeking to get this promised element out of the way as quickly as possible, we now cut to a really, really bad cardboard ‘fin’ cleaving the waters. The promised battle is realized through the expedient of a real, albeit dead, shark. This is manhandled by the guy playing Ape and thrashed about the water in a less than utterly thrilling fashion. That’s right, like Bela Lugosi ‘wrestling’ the ‘octopus’ in Bride of the Monster.
I was soon distracted from these tedious antics, however. First the actor’s white T-Shirt began peeking through evident holes under the ape suit’s armpits. Then I noticed how the lipped edge of the head cowl was entirely evident as it hung over and sometime pulled up from the suit’s upper chest.
Moreover, the wrists of the suit would gape away from the costume’s furry gauntlets, allowing us glimpses of the fleshy pink arm underneath. Again, this makes the crappy gorilla outfit featured in Mighty Peking Man seem of Oscar-caliber quality. A fact that is at once both sublime and appalling.
Oh, I just noticed that the music here is a blatant rip-off of the Jaws theme. Nice touch.
The mÃªlÃ©e concludes when Ape pulls the dead shark’s (precut) jaws wide apart. This is sure to draw a groan from any real monster movie fan. The ‘tearing jaw’ maneuver was used by the real King Kong, the ’33 one, to kill the Tyrannosaurus Rex it fought in one of cinema’s all time greatest sequences.
Walking to the other side of the water tank, Ape approaches a miniature set of a fishing village. One again wishes the lighting were better during these opening scenes. Instead, they use only one spotlight, which is kept trained (more or less) on Ape as he moves around. Again, the set is quite small and if better lit we’d see the walls around it.
The camera stays tight on Ape as he lumbers around the petite set. Even so, we can tell that the building are scaled too small, given that the beast’s supposed to be “almost 36 feet” tall. Ape quickly finds himself confronting some â€“ three guesses — electrical lines. (Now all he has to do is attack a train and he’ll have fulfilled all the relevant giant monster tropes.) Then we cut to a soldier. He’s behind a small length of wire fence and apparently guarding about a dozen rusty old metal barrels. A sign, apparently painted by the prop master’s eight year-old child, notes that the area is “OFF LIMITS.”
The soldier notices Ape â€“ there’s no doubt about it, the guy’s a professional â€“ and stares in amazement as the creature tears down the power lines. Then the beast attacks a model building, which immediately goes up in flames. Why does it attack the model building? Dude, giant monster. OK? I mean, why do birds fly? Why do fish swim? Anyway, it continues marauding through all the little buildings. Meanwhile, five or six Korean people unconvincingly pretend to flee in terror. They apparently couldn’t afford process effects to make them appear in the same shot with Ape, so we instead just cut back and forth between them.
Watch for the classic moment when Ape lifts up a toy barrel and chucks it at the screen. It careens towards the camera, wobbling noticeably on the wire holding it up. From this I’d have to assume the film was intended to be shown in 3-D. I’ll see if I can find any info to confirm that.
Cut to Seoul airport. Here we meet American reporter Tom Rose. He’s arraying in the classic ’70s combo of slacks, turtleneck sweater and tweed sports jacket. He’s introduced as he addresses a ticket counter worker as “honey.” Rose is played by Rod Arrants, who bears a disturbing resemblance to ’80s Jabootu mainstay Jared Martin (The Lonely Lady, The Sea Serpent). I’d say Arrants is the guy you got when Martin wasn’t available, but given the latter’s rÃ©sumÃ© I don’t think that ever happened.
Rose asks if a “Marilyn Baker” is on a certain flight arriving from Los Angeles. The counter attendant, reading from some apparent roster posted behind her counter, confirms this. Apparently they have so few flights coming to Korea that all incoming passengers’ names can be kept on a single sheet of paper. Rose departs, and so one of the Korean producers’ girlfriends’ moment of fame is over.
“Marilyn Baker,” it turns out, is a famous Hollywood film star coming to Korea (!!) to make a big movie. She’s played by Joanna Kerns, who later achieved a measure of fame as the mom on TV’s Growing Pains. Kerns doesn’t evince much star power here, and I wouldn’t have pegged her as the cast member most likely to have a long and successful acting career. You have to figure that jocular co-star Alan Thicke broke out a copy of this film during those Growing Pains Christmas parties.
Anyway, Baker is surrounded by reporters (like six of them), all abuzz over this classically blonde American celebrity in their midst. Tall Caucasian Rose towers over the homegrown press and is standing maybe three feet away and often in her direct line of sight. Despite this, Baker supposedly doesn’t see him until the script calls for it. At this the two exchange a Significant Look.
It turns out, unsurprisingly, that they were lovers back in the States. However, Baker wanted to cool things off a bit. Hence the trip to Korea. Rose, however, convinced his editors that her making a film there was a “big story.” Thus he wrangled an assignment to follow her over. (Did newspapers in the ’70s really fly reporters overseas to cover film sets?)
Oddly, Baker seems at best mildly perplexed that the lover she felt was moving things too fast has followed her halfway around the globe. In fact, when they meet she embraces him and says, “I’m so happy to see you.” Apparently this was before the concept of ‘stalkers’ had gained much currency.
There follows an odd scene where the two take a cab to Baker’s hotel. Rose points out the sights, thus providing a bit of padding and no doubt pleasing the Korean Tourism Board. However, they twice mention historic buildings without bothering to cut in stock footage of them. This seems a bit lazy. Moreover, why would Rose be so familiar with a city he presumably has just arrived in?
Meanwhile, he and Baker make out a bit. Then Baker is made uncomfortable again when Rose proposes they get married here in Seoul. (Let’s get back to that ‘stalker’ thing.) One can imagine the taxi driver calculating how much The National Inquirer will pay for this anecdote.
Cut to a mountain village, never a good sign in these things. A man is riding a wee little tractor. After a while he looks and finally notices the three-story tall ape standing in his field. This brings us to one difference between A*P*E and it’s Chinese equivalent, Mighty Peking Man. A*P*E, astoundingly, was quite apparently produced with a much lower budget.
MPM was awash in rear screen projections shots. These aren’t terribly expensive, but they are few and far between here. This means that it’s seldom that they try to put the real elements in the same shot with the effects ones. (And when they doâ€¦more on that later.)
This scene is a prime example. The farmer sees something. We cut to Ape. We cut back to the farmer. Etc. Never once do we see people and Ape in the same shot. Meanwhile, why when the villagers flee in terror do they run directly towards the area they’ve indicated Ape to be in?
Cut to the home of Korean army officer Captain Kim. The guy playing him can speak English adequately, while his wife and kids are rather worse than that. Were there really no English speakers in Korea they could have cast in these roles? Or again, were the wife and kids the family of one of the filmmakers? In any case, I found myself wishing that the DVD had supplied subtitles during the subsequent scene of the Kims conversing in broken English.
Captain Kim, who again is at least understandable, notes the call was about a farmer who saw giant footprints in his field. So he did, but wouldn’t he have likely mentioned also the giant ape that went with them?
We cut to a jeep driving somewhere. The occupant is an American Army Captain, albeit one with no apparently rank insignia and a really, really bad blond mustache. He turns and ends up driving into a wooden beam that come projecting through the jeep’s candy glass window and directly into the camera. I think my questions about this film perhaps being a 3-D project have just been answered.
He climbs out and looks around in horror. We then cut â€“ again, real and effects elements seldom mix here â€“ and survey a pretty lame diorama of what is presumably the village seen earlier, now destroyed and in flames.
Here we cut to a scene that gave me a real sinking feeling. It’s the *cough, cough* office of Colonel Davis, the commander of the American forces stationed in Korea. The reason I started having second thoughtsâ€¦alright, third thoughtsâ€¦about this movie is that Davis is clearly meant as a blustering comic relief figure. He’s played so broadly that I suspected the film was suddenly going to start becoming more intentionally ‘comical.’ I was right in this, as well as in my suspicion that this portended the movie becoming much less genuinely funny.
In any case, I won’t dwell on the scenes with Davis, despite the fact that they proceed at painful length. Just because I’ve got a headache, after all, doesn’t mean I have to share it with you.
Cut to a much too long scene involving kids playing in a closed-down amusement park. Ape shows up, and as calliope-type music booms across the soundtrack he cheerfully watches the children’s antics. (Oddly, said melody reminded me of the nostalgic theme music heard in the underrated adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.) Following what is already a clear pattern, the types caper until the huge primate is eventually spotted, long after he really should have been, and they run off screaming.
Here A*P*E begins losing whatever audience goodwill it’s managed to garner. Unlike Mighty Peking Man, this film doesn’t keep clipping along. Nor, as mentioned, are the attempts to inject ‘humor’ into the proceedings helping. The current sequence, for example, goes rather longer than it need to. This heralds an unfortunate trend. Scenes keep getting longer and the tedium factor keeps getting stronger.
After a bit more ‘fun’ with the buffoonish Col. Davis, we cut to Ape approaching a tree. This just happens to have a giant snake in it. (??) Genre buffs may recalls that in an amazing coincidence, the original King Kong also wrestled with a humongous snake. This was also the only scene containing another monster to be (briefly) replicated in the Dino De Laurentiis remake. Such a bit also appears in the desultory animated Mighty Kong.
Ape basically just holds the evidently real snake aloft and tosses it towards the camera. This, presumably, to produce another amazing 3-D effect. Unfortunately, the serpent sails under the lens, although it noticeably bumps the camera as it lands. The snake is shown slithering around and then we cut away. Soâ€¦whatever.
FURTHER COMEDY WITH COL. DAVIS ALERT!!
Cut to a martial arts battle. (!!) After minutes of this we learn it’s being filmed for a movie. By now you may have noticed a certain disconnected quality to events described so far. Indeed, this portion of the film plays like a sort of “Curious George Tours Korea and Looks At Stuff.” So we watch some rather uninspired Kung Fu action until, again, the actors just happen to see Ape. At which point their first inclination is to fire volley after volley of flaming arrows at him. (??)
This goes on at, that’s right, some length. Like something in those Three Stooges 3-D shorts, the arrows travel erratically down wobbling wires and sail directly into the camera lens. Meanwhile, I noticed the arrows seen hitting Ape were scaled wrong. Probably because if they were the correct size we wouldn’t be able to see them. I also learned learned that arrows bounce off huge gorillas, something I hadn’t known before. The scene abruptly ends, as you’d expect, when three other guys show up carrying a log and run into the camera lens with it. (??)
FURTHER COMEDY WITH COL. DAVIS ALERT!!
In the next of our series of vignettes, Ape comes across a guy hang gliding. (Great shot: We go from a stock footage shot of a cow to seeing Ape step over a plastic toy one!) This is also accompanied by the calliope music heard earlier.
Ape reaches up to the (now toy) hang glider and bounces him up and down on the palm of his hand. Then the fellow continues on his way. Ape reacts to the sight by swaying and clapping his hands in slow motion as the music continues to loudly play. This image proved incredibly bizarre, like something from a universe in which Fellini made Ed Wood movies.
We cut to Tom standing outside a building. Col. Davis and Captain Kim appear, surrounded by journalists. The studly Rose naturally takes over the questioning, showing his Asian brethren how this reporting thing is done. I felt this was a little, well, not racist exactly, but insulting nonetheless. Rose’s technique, meanwhile, consists of acting like a jerk. At one point Davis frowns on the use of the word “monster.” Rose jumps in. “Just what the hell would you call it?” he inquires. Oddly, Davis reacts by calling him “Mr. Rose.” Just how famous a newspaper reporter is he supposed to be, anyway?
Being the hero, Rose will of course prove correct in thinking that Davis is underestimating the situation. However, that’s only because Ape will eventually demonstrate your standard Giant Monster resistance to massive levels of firepower. In real life, such a creature would handily fall to a squad armed with conventional rifles, especially if a couple of grenades were tossed his way. Here numbers of tanks will be required to get the job done. By the way, Rose greets Kim as an old acquaintance, meaning he has worked in Korea before. This could have been spelled out a bit more clearly, however.
Rose stops by the International Movie Company (gee, that’s clever) to see Marilyn. He’s now attired in a horrible blue denim suit, featuring monstrous jacket lapels and bell-bottom slacks, worn over another turtleneck. Here we get a pretty lame in-joke: Marilyn’s director is played by Paul Leder, who actually directed and co-wrote A*P*E. I was hoping as penance he’d have written himself a horrible death, but ’twas not to be. Furthermore, the director in the movie is named “Dino,” presumably japing on Dino De Laurentiis. Ha. Ha.
They’re rehearsing a scene in which Marilyn is molested â€“ how charming â€“ and her co-star gets a little too rough. Dino tells the guy he has to be more gentle. “Gentle?!” he angrily responds. “This is a g*dd*mned rape scene!” Actually, this is almost an interesting moment. Rape scenes were used way too often to provide titillation in movies of this period, running through much of the ’80s. Therefore one can easily imagine such a conversation taking place, with the director wanting a more ‘savory’ rape.
Tom pops up to warn Marilyn she should go back to Seoul. (Due to the giant ape and all.) Meanwhile, he hustles her off to a secluded sport for further making out. Yuck. This leads to a horrible ‘character’ scene, wherein she wonders why he’s always joking if he really loves her. “Maybe I’m afraid!” he replies. “Maybe I’m afraid that if I ask you straight out [to marry him], you’ll say no.” Needless to say, this baring of his soul is rewarded with yet more lip locking, and I mean lots of it. Unfortunately, their passion doesn’t exactly ignite the screen. Hell, it doesn’t even thaw it out.
Back to Davis’ office. He’s receiving a call about another destroyed village, accompanied by many fatalities. Why is it that whenever we see Ape he’s merrily gawking at playing children and hang gliders but off camera goes on seemingly unmotivated rampages? I mean, the first one, well, he’d been captured, tossed in a ship which then exploded and threw him into the ocean, where he was attacked by a huge shark. You can see where that would get your dander up. Since then, however, he’s mostly been played for comedy, and we’ve yet to see him kill a person.
Oops, spoke too soon, although we still don’t witness any deaths. Ape enters a village and indeed knocks down a series of miniature houses. (Wouldn’t trodding upon building after building hurt your feet? Of course, he does shrug off tank fire later.) Meanwhile, people who quite apparently are nowhere near this â€“ the towns they’re in are completely different in appearance from the ‘village’ Ape is attacking — run around in a panic.
Some jump aboard a transport truck. A grandmother-type mimes terror at as a young tyke stands there looking at the vehicle. Eventually she jumps out, grabs the kid and climbs back in. Whew. I guess the idea is that Ape could appear at any moment and kill them all. Again, though, we never really believe that these people are even in the same film as the creature. This dissipates the tension somewhat.
A classic moment occurs when a running crowd turns a corner and runs into a pair of really bad giant prop legs. Luckily, these obviously can’t move and so they escape unharmed.
Cut back to the movie set. The crew is now filming outdoors and, believe or not, Ape just happens to be in the area. As comical music plays, they shoot the attempted rape scene. Ho ho! After breaking free, Marilyn starts running around the complex they’re in as the guy chases her. In real life they wouldn’t really shoot this in one take. It would require too many cameras.
Marilyn runs outside, still ‘acting.’ Then they return to the starting point. Dino says they’ll have to shoot it again. Marilyn acts all surprised and upset at this, as if retakes aren’t part of filmmaking. I think this scene was meant to be funny, how Ape watched the action like a theatergoer. If so, it didn’t work. Also, how could Ape be close enough to see the humans without being seen by them? He’s the one who’s thirty-plus feet tall.
Repeat staged molestation, chase and wacky music. This time when Marilyn runs outside Ape is waiting. Somehow she runs right past Ape without seeing him â€“ the hell, does he refract light or something? â€“ and directly into a giant prop hand. This proves even faker than the one in Mighty Peking Man. (In a lovely moment, the enhanced clarity of DVD allows us to savor the all-too visible wires manipulating the artifact’s thumb.) Turn about is fair play, of course. So when we cut back to the ape suit guy, Marilyn becomes a really obvious doll.
Dino, hearing his star’s continued screams, assumes she’s still acting and yells out “Cut!” This makes no sense. (Big shock.) Why is Marilyn running though the entire place if the only camera, as is now apparent, is back with Dino? It’s quite plain here that she’s meant to be completely out of his sightline. Especially since you’d otherwise expect him to comment on the ape. Orâ€¦maybe not. (Stupid movie.) Because the next thing we know, Dino is running around, er, somewhere.
He rather fortuitously comes across Kim’s military convoy and tells them the situation. Normally, yelling “he’s got Marilyn” to a bunch of Korean soldiers probably wouldn’t mean much to them. However, Kim has brought Rose along, which conveniently allows for most of our cast can be on hand here.
Col. Davis, still in his office, is being told “they” want Ape captured alive. This is greeted with much incredulity. Now, I’ll admit, capturing such a beast would be trickier than just killing it. (Unless it somehow proves to be weirdly resistant to gunfire.) Still, though, how about gassing it? Or shooting it with large amounts of tranquilizer? Or dropping fishing nets on it from helicopters? I mean, this thing’s big, but it’s not that big.
Now follows a long sequence watching a squad of army helicopters flying around. This pretty much has to be stock footage, given the apparent budget of the proceedings so far. Meanwhile, Ape is running around with his catch. It’s an interesting debate. Does the blatant toy doll make the scenes with guy-in-a-suit Ape more embarrassing? Or are the Humiliation Sweepstakes won by the shots of actress Kerns writhing around in the horribly threadbare prop hand? My vote’s with the hand, but it’s a surprisingly close race.
Soâ€¦ Kim and Rose are in the area, watching helplessly. Ape has stopped to consider his prize. “Be gentle, big fella,” Marilyn tells him. (!!) This emotional scene comes to a close when stock footage helicopters fly overhead. Ape reacts by putting Marilyn down. In the ape-suit guy shots, she’s placed some distance from a cave. In the shots with actress Kerns, however, she’s left right outside its entrance. In any case, she scoots inside. There follows a classic “screaming person just barely beyond the reach of a giant monster” sequence. (Note that ape-suit guy reaches in with his right arm, while the prop hand used in the Kerns shots is his left one.)
Ape pauses to do Tai Chi moves — that’s what it looked like to me, anyway — and otherwise react to some approaching stock footage paratroopers. Soon soldiers are tossing gas grenades as toy helicopters buzz him. Wouldn’t the rotor wash help blow the gas away?
Inevitably a couple of ‘copters fly too close (see my discussion of this trope in my Mighty Peking Man review) and Ape swats them down. As you might have gathered, the ‘effects’ for these bits are eye-rollingly bad. Soon arrives the film’s most infamous moment, in which Ape flips his tormentors the bird. (!) This is a moment that you will either find extremely funny or distinctly unfunny. Put me in the latter camp.
With Ape distracted, Rose runs in and rescues Marilyn. (Who, of course, doesn’t think of running off on her own.) He unwisely continues to loudly yell out her name as he approaches. Luckily, she hears him while Ape doesn’t. Which, since the beast’s like fifty feet away from her, seems sort of weird. But anyway. Per previous arrangements, Rose takes her to Kim’s apartment in Seoul.
FURTHER COMEDY WITH COL. DAVIS ALERT!!
Ape himself heads to Seoul, presumably in search of Marilyn. Despite this potentially disastrous turn of events, Col. Davis is again ordered to try capturing the creature. This is the subject of two different scenes, actually, which explains why the the picture is really starting to bog down. Anyway, Rose and Marilyn arrive at Kim’s house. She’s taken in while Rose leaves to follow the story. First, though, we get a *blecch* ‘romantic’ moment where Marilyn agrees to marry him.
Cut to an American businessman entering a hotel room with a local hooker. (We can tell, because she’s chewing gum in a brassy fashion.) As she begins to undress, she sees Ape staring at her through the window. She screams and they flee. End scene.
More of the same. Running crowds, giant ape wandering around Seoul, an exasperated Davis on phone, etc. However, they do try a couple of matte shots here. The results explain why they didn’t try more of them. Frankly, they’re awful. Worse than the ones in The Amazing Colossal Man, and he was rendered transparent by his.
Ape lumbers through town, interacting with people who for some reason have ignored the evacuation order. This includes workers in an office, a family at dinner and a group of men in a pool hall. One of the latter pushes his cue back and forth towards the camera. This results in one of the cheesier 3-D effects I can remember. Meanwhile, Ape assaults various model buildings. These look OK on the outside, but reveal an evident lack of interior detail once smashed open.
Since Korea apparently lacks TV or radio broadcasting, not to mention boasting the best soundproofing in the world, Marilyn and the Kim family remain unaware of Ape’s depravations. Instead, they spend a great amount of time having rather too much fun with a puppet. Until, of course, Ape inevitably finds the building they’re in. Marilyn is soon recaptured via the old smash ‘n grab.
Davis finally convinces the Korean authorities to destroy Ape rather than capture him. Cue scads of military-themed stock footage and bad music. Then back to Davis, leaving to survey the final attack. Unsurprisingly, this happen in “the mountains,” so as to limit the number of miniature elements required. Soon we see Ape standing on a pile of rocks, er, a hill. He’s sustaining fire while flailing around his Marilyn doll, who rather luckily remains unscathed during all of this.
This is the big climax, of sorts, and runs for nearly ten straight minutes. Highlights include a series of soldiers who fire directly into the camera lens, then advance until their rifle barrels jump out at the audience. Ooh. Ah. 3-D. Let’s see, there’s more obviously plastic tanks and airplanes, tossed boulders that wobble on their guide wires, several shots used repeatedly to save money, mismatched continuity in terms of who’s where when, exaggerated pyrotechnics, a foam rock avalanche and more. None of which, let me stress, is anywhere near as interesting as it probably sounds.
Eventually Ape starts spitting up copious amounts of stage blood through the mouth hole of his mask. He dies, Davis gloats, Marilyn mourns, and I smile. “He was just too big for a small world like ours,” Rose observes. It’s not “Twas Beauty killed the Beast.” Still, whatever gets us done here.
This is a cheap, ludicrous picture marked by laughable special effects and weighed down by bad comic relief. Even so, some of the people behind the scene are of interest to buffs.
The American cast, while unlikely to win bouquets for their performances, acquits themselves in a comparatively professional fashion. It’s notable that the film’s three major Caucasian actors are known mostly for their TV work.
Kerns â€“ appearing here as “Joanna de Varona” — suffers from the nature of her role, but doesn’t actively humiliate herself. Ms. Kerns continues to act, mostly in TV movies, and also directs episodes of numerous TV series.
Rod Arrants (Tom Rose) is stolid but workmanlike. Which is as you’d expect for an actor who was most often employed on soap operas. Mr. Arrants appears to have retired from the acting game.
Alex Nicol probably has the worst of it, since his Col. Davis bears the brunt of the film’s woeful attempts at humor. Mr. Nicol’s acting career began in the ’30s. He worked steadily in the decades to come in supporting roles. Genre fans may remember his troubled gardener from the 1958 cheesefest The Screaming Skull, a film he also directed. Jabootuists will perhaps recall him from his brief appearance in Sincerely Yours. Mr. Nicol passed away in 2001 at the age of 85.
The big name here, though, is producer Jack H. Harris. Although Mr. Harris’ IMDB entry doesn’t allude to A*P*E, he has a “presents” card that opens the film. He might therefore have just been the film’s American distributor. Even so, Mr. Harris produced many genre films beloved by nerds like myself. These include Dinosaurus!, 4D Man, Equinox and Schlock, a film that has quite a lot in common with this one, actually. His most famous film is the Steve McQueen classic The Blob, and he also produced both the sequel, Beware the Blob!, and the 1988 remake.
ClichÃ© Watch List:
Giant gorilla transported in hold of freighter: Check.
Giant gorilla interacts with power lines: Check.
Someone stumbles across mysterious giant footprints: Check.
Spectators of giant gorilla feel they must point to drawn attention to it: Check.
Giant gorilla carries off blond woman: Check.
Giant gorilla comes across giant snake: Check.
Giant gorilla beats chest in macho fashion: Check.
Asian giant monster proves strangely immune to modern weaponry: Check.
Mass crowds of Asians run around in a panicked fashion: Check.
Person hides in cave as giant hand (tongue/head/claw/etc.) sweeps through the entrance, trying to dislodge them: Check.
Attack aircraft fly close enough to monster to be smacked down: Check.
Giant gorilla rampages through city looking for blond woman: Check.
Scientists demand giant monster be captured alive: Check.
The Blond develops deep sympathy for giant monster: Check.
Giant gorilla peeks through hotel window at woman: Check.
AMAZINGLY PROPHETIC IMMORTAL DIALOG:
Tom Rose, as played by actor Rod Arrants: “I’m a reporter, not Charlton Heston!”
Summary: A moderately funny party film, although the boredom factor can be an issue.