We open on an orange-lit fake skull mounted on a bamboo crossbar. Whether it’s wise to blow your best shot this early remains open to debate. The camera pans left, and to a blare of music, we see…another orange-lit fake skull mounted on the bamboo crossbar. Whether it’s wise to blow your second best shot this early also remains open to debate. Then we pull back, and see that the skulls are decorating a poorly constructed set of pillars. Between these are tied a somewhat less then credible ‘native’ woman making some somewhat less then credible protests at her fate. My own such protests, I can assure you, are rather more energetic.
Anyone who’s seen King Kong – and not been struck instantly blind after being the above – knows what we’ll witness next. And sure, a giant ape soon approaches through the nighttime woods. Or rather, a guy in a bad ape suit walks under a tree in somebody’s backyard. This is cleverly obscured (well, OK, not really) by being shot in an extreme close-up and lit with, I think, a flashlight. Also not particularly well hidden is the aforementioned badness of the gorilla costume. How bad it is? Well, it’s much worse than the one used in A*P*E. Much worse.
The ‘gorilla’ beats its chest (of course). The ‘native’ woman, who looks a bit like Jo Anne Worley, pretends to be terrified. We cut to a miniature copy of the set-up with a doll standing in for the woman. Then the woman is seized. Admittedly, you have to fill in the action because, unlike any of the often dirt-cheap productions we’ve examined during the last four weeks, this one can’t afford a giant gorilla prop hand. So the ape suit guy reaches towards the camera, then the camera zooms in on the woman, like it’s approaching her, then we fade to black. Wow, that was grea…oh. There’s still some movie left.
We cut to a lion tamer act, accompanied by cheerful circus music and the opening credits. The production company proves to be American General Pictures. Given what follows, that appellation proves to be an act of immensely unwarranted boasting. To boot, a number of the names that follow are sure to strike terror in the hearts of knowledgeable film buffs.
First there’s “Starring ANTHONY EISLEY.” (Uh oh.) Next appears a regular litany of low-grade thespian miscreants: Scott Brady, Kent Taylor, Bruce Kimball, William Bonner, Gary Kent, Gary Graver, Sheldon Lee, and the worst of the bunch, Greydon Clarke. They say Clarke once screened one of own directorial efforts for a man, just to watch him die. Considering that a partial list of his cinematic crimes includes The Uninvited, Final Justice, The Forbidden Dance and Angels’ Revenge, I see no reason to doubt this tale. In any case, if Movie Town has a post office, these are the names and faces up on the wall.
Put all these actors together and the trail leads to Al Adamson, a director whose filmland atrocities makes Clarke look like the show business version of Albert Schweitzer. Every actor listed above worked in at least one of Adamson’s film, most of them in several. The majority of them appeared in both Satan’s Sadists and Dracula vs. Frankenstein. I’m not sure if Adamson has a direct connection with The Mighty Gorga, but obviously something was going on.
As Adamson didn’t direct this film, you’d be warranted in thinking that whoever did had to be an improvement. Unfortunately, you’d be tragically amiss. The Mighty Gorga was directed by the infamous David L. Hewitt, best known on these pages for overseeing the execrable special effects for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. And there’s our connection: Hewitt similarly provided the effects work for Adamson’s opus Horror of the Blood Monsters.
The camera pulls back from the lion tamer’s cage. We see that barely two rows of the on-looking auditorium have costumers in them. (Watch the girl in the pink dress who keeps turning around to look at the camera.) Down the aisle meanders a worried looking and inevitably smoking Anthony Eisley. As he comes to towards the camera I form a theory to explain his nervousness. It involves his hideous checked sports jacket and orange shirt with the top three buttons undone. For those interested, this provides evidence that Eisley is a natural brunette.
Instead, as suggested by the puny crowds, he’s worried about the state of his circus. His concern is reinforced after ticket seller Charlie (Greydon Clarke!) hands him an anemic tally of the day’s receipts. Here we learn that Eisley is playing Mark Remington. Perhaps later we’ll meet his friends, Burke Winchester and Clark Browning. Remington grabs the cash box and heads off.
Soon Mort the Clown approaches Charlie, looking for the boss. In a tour de force thespic display, Mort is played by Bruce Kimball. Kimball returns after donning a Moe Howard wig, red loincloth and coat of tanning cream to play the film’s inevitable Evil Witch Doctor. Mort relays some bad news. Mr. Shy, a representative from “Consolidated Circus Attractions,” is on the lot looking for Remington. CCA (as I like to call it) is infamous, we learn, for buying competing small circuses and shutting them down.
Remington enters his office, whereupon we get Hewitt’s big directorial moment. Remington picks up an empty coffee pitcher and through it notices the distorted image of Shy. Bravo! Auteur! Auteur! The breathlessly impressed Jabootian can only call to mind director Nathan Juran’s similarly bold distorted-face-seen-through-glass shots, as featured in both Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman and The Brain From Planet Arous.
To my vast lack of surprise, Remington and Shy proves to have a history. Shy is clearly enjoying Remington’s dilemma, while the latter remains adamant on maintaining his independence. We then cut outside to the inevitable ‘Mort the Clown Approaches the Hippopotamus Pen’ scene. Boy, if I had a buck for every time I saw that one. (Too bad they didn’t make said hippo the film’s monster; it’s easily more impressive than what actually fills that role.) Dan, Mark’s brother, appears and checks in with the troubled performer. “You look as sad as these hippos!” he exclaims, as we cut to a hippo contentedly munching on some grass.
Dan heads off to the office, where Shy and Remington are still conversing. (The guy playing Shy is energetically fiddling with a pencil, a cheap trick to draw the audience’s attention. At one point in its perambulations, he comes dangerously close to picking his nose with it.) Remington flatly refuses to sell, especially to CCA. Here Shy drops his bombshell: CCA has bought the circus’ bank note. If Mark doesn’t have $83,000 – major money in those days – in six months, CCA will foreclose.
Mark is pissed, needless to say. Especially as his current straights began when CCA stole his number one act. Without this big draw, Shy confidently predicts that Remington will be bankrupt in three months. Remington, however, claims to have something up his sleeve. “I’ve got a main attraction!” he boasts. “Something so big, it’ll outdraw anything the circus world’s ever seen!” Three guesses where this is going.
After Shy is booted out, Dan asks if Mark’s statement was a bluff. No, he replies, more of a gamble. Turns out their wild animal supplier, “Tonga Jack,” claims to know the whereabouts of a “overgrown gorilla.” Dan is amused. “An overgrown what?” he asks, apparently thrown by the exotic term. Anyhoo, Mark’s desperate gambit is to assemble a safari to the Congo to locate and capture the beast.
We cut to a stock footage airliner taking off. This is spewing so much thick black smoke that either it’s burning oil or is running on kerosene. Between this and Mark’s nonchalant smoking in his window seat, you can tell this is a period piece. By the way, nice product placement, TWA. No wonder they’re no longer in business.
After wasting a minute portraying the trip via further stock footage shots, we see a stock footage landing. Mark walks through the terminal and lights another cigarette. Cue blistering bongo drum tattoo. This is exciting enough, as indicated by the drums, but then the camera zooms forward sharply to show Mark using a payphone. It’s chain smokin’ and rotary phone dialin’ action at its finest! Raiders of the Lost Ark has nothing on this baby.
Following the dramatic dialing is an actual conversation, or half of one anyway. Even so, the drums keep beating away. Mark arranges to meet a friend named Bill somewhere and, drums wailing, we cut to a close-up of an elephant’s eye. Assured in the knowledge that Dr. Freex is now thoroughly spooked, should he be watching the film, we proceed. The elephant’s appearance is due to the fact that Mark’s to meet Bill at a local zoo. Hmm. Zoos. Airports. Yep, we’re in Africa all right. Eventually we cut to some giraffes. Mark walks by and the drums are replaced by sinister harpsichord music. As you’d expect to happen. I mean…giraffes!! As if to emphasize this, the camera zooms in on a giraffe mom and cow in the background. Obviously these two are up to no good. Maybe they’re spies for Shy and CCA.
As the ominous tones continue, we cut to an ape. Watch out, Mark! Shy’s agents are everywhere! But I had no need to fear for Our Hero, who’s not fooled in the least. In fact, he brazenly stops by and begins to examine said ape. I know he’s on to the clandestine chimp. Otherwise this scene would serve absolutely no purpose other than to uselessly eat up running time. And that makes no sense. In any case, the simian is so flustered at being unmasked that he lays prone on a rock. Then he begins to break dance and then generally just roll around for about a minute straight. This would all be chilling enough, but the harpsichord music is what really sells it.
This tense standoff comes to a close when Mark’s friend Bill arrives. Apparently their secret signal to recognize each other was to wear awful clothes paired with white dress shoes. Bill’s contribution to this includes perhaps the ugliest short-sleeve safari jacket I’ve ever seen. Proving a master of communicating danger with a minimum of theatrics, Mark casually points to the ape he’s been observing. “New exhibit?” he coolly inquires, not even deigning to provide a wink to indicate his suspicions. With Bill now alerted to the enemy’s presence, the two move on.
Cut to tussling rhinos. Again, it’s hard to believe that this footage is included merely to waste our time. So I imagine one rhino is acting for Shy, but finds itself countered by one of Mark’s own undercover agents. Brilliant!! Then we cut to some elephants, seen splashing around in a lake. We’re not fooled, though. Now that we’re watching with a jaundiced eye their actions prove, say we say, a little too studiously nonchalant.
Bill and Mark arrive at “The Compound.” Mark stops to talk to a black man. Here Eisley employs some ‘native’ vernacular so patently bogus and awkwardly phrased that I suspect the script read, “Mark stops and speaks to a native. [Actor should ad lib appropriately foreign sounding words here.]” Are you ready for the punch line? After listening to Mark jabber for a while, the bewildered black guy replies, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” In English!! Get it?! He doesn’t speak Native at all! What a knee-slapper!
The man identifies himself as George. They continue to engage in a long, drawn-out conversation that’s as authentically humorous as it is pithy. (Actually, when I timed this scene it only lasted sixty five seconds, which was significantly shorter than my own estimate of 27 minutes.) Eventually, however, George gets into Mark’s truck to direct him to where Tonga Jack can be found.
We now meet Morgan and April, the latter a stacked young brunette and thus probably the movie’s female lead. (Especially since a film this cheap probably can’t spring for many more cast members.) Signaling his status as an old jungle hand, Morgan is imaginatively clad in jungle khakis with a red bandana tied around his neck and topped with a tan hat sporting a leopard print band. He’s pressuring her to bring him in as a partner on her animal collecting service. Since this echoes Shy’s actions with Mark, I think it’s safe to assume Morgan will prove a villain.
In fact, just after I wrote that, Morgan whips out a loan note owed him by April’s purportedly deceased father. April scornfully replies that the note will be paid – she has a water buffalo shipping out the next day – and has the just-arrived George escort Morgan off her land. Mark, meanwhile, asks to see the owner, only to learn that April’s in charge. (That’s right – a girl!!) However, he soldiers on and explains that he’s looking for Tonga Jack. Unfortunately, April reports that TJ – I’m not typing ‘Tonga Jack’ through this whole piece – disappeared in the brush some months ago. Then we get the kicker: Tonga Jack is *gasp, choke* April’s father.
By the way, the sound during this scene is horrible. I could barely make out the dialog half the time. I’m assuming this is a problem with the source material, given that I’m watching the film on DVD. (!!)
We cut to a bunch of monkey footage. More spies, I guess. Damn, Shy’s tentacles extend all the way to *cough, cough* Africa!! Next we see Mark and April sitting at a patio table outside her house. Megan Timothy, the actress playing April, was perhaps paid a dollar for every line she stumbled over. If so, she must have retired a rich woman. April proceeds to reiterate her backstory, although she doesn’t really add much to what we’ve already gathered. She does, however, eat up another minute or two of screentime.
Meanwhile, we watch Morgan set fire to April’s animal pen. They couldn’t afford a set to burn down, so instead they employ a horrendous optical effect where flames in. (Watch when he tosses a plastic jug into the ‘fire.’ It turns transparent as it passes under the composited area.) Aside from being a really awful effect – ah, the days before CGI, when special effects could be this charmingly bad – the scene is intercut with shots of Mark and April’s conversation. Which is weird, as the arson is occurring in the middle of the night, the chat in broad daylight.
April relates how her father, while on safari, came across a dying native. Before passing on, the fellow talked about a “legendary ape god and the lost tribe that worshipped him.” (Gee, where do they get their ideas.) The details of this narrative allowed TJ to fix the approximate area in which these beings might be found. “It’s a place no white man has ever traveled,” she concludes. Actually, I’m pretty sure that by 1969 places untrammeled by a white man’s foot were comparatively rare. But anyway.
George runs up to inform them about the fire. The three speed back – actress Timothy visibly breaks character here, as she’s clearly smiling as she trots past the camera – but it’s too late. And when I say ‘too late,’ I’m also referring to the fact that it’s still nighttime over where the fire is. Then we cut back to the patio. (Hey, how many camera set-ups do you think they could afford here?) April realizes that all is now lost. Then Morgan shows up. Lest anyone should think it strange that he arrives so soon after the fire, he provides a ready excuse. “News travels fast in the Jungle,” he announces. Yeah, that should fool ‘em.
Morgan’s triumph is thwarted, however – ever notice how only villains get ‘thwarted’? – when Mark advances April the six grand she owes. As you’d expect, Morgan is less than pleased by this turn of events. In any case, April agrees to join Mark on his search for the giant gorilla. Oh, and there’s also purportedly a treasure. That way the script has a way to reward the heroes no matter how the ape matter turns out.
We segue to the beginning of the expedition. Mark wonders why only George and not more of April’s “boys” are in attendance. “I need [them] here to run the compound,” she explains. Oh, and I thought it was because they don’t actually exist. (If they did, the film would require more actors.) And so the three drive off on their rather frugal safari.
Meanwhile, we cut to some insultingly extraneous footage of flamingoes. Or so the casual audience member might believe. The cannier viewer, however, will appreciate the sly intent behind these seemingly random interludes. Like the monkeys and elephants showcased before, the flamingoes are clearly spies. Therefore these shots are the film’s cunning way of informing us that Shy’s still being apprised of Mark’s progress. Admittedly, this situation never directly impinges on the plot. Even so, or perhaps because this is so, the constant, albeit subtly alluded-to surveillance adds an ominous, Orwellian texture to the proceedings. Hell, substitute Patrick McGoohan for Anthony Eisley and the thing’s practically ‘The Prisoner in Africa.’
The Range Rover slowly tools down a road. The jungle drums and monkey sounds on the soundtrack reinforces the already obvious fact that we’re in Africa and not, oh, I don’t know, Simi Valley, California. Stopping at a village, George is sent to fetch some bearers for the expedition. Meanwhile, a menacing note is struck as we cut to a seemingly innocent monkey pretending to caper amongst the buildings. You play your hand well, my simian friend, but we’re on to you.
George emerges with only two bearers. The other natives, we learn — you know, the ones we never get to see — wanted to be paid for appearing in this picture. Er, I mean, were afraid to challenge “the Green Hell.” (Apparently they read Dr. Freex’s review.) Even these two, George explains, demand double the normal amount of pay. Holy crow, that’s gotta be like, what, four bucks a day! Over a barrel, April agrees to their extortionate demands. By the way, I’m pretty sure the director didn’t tell Ms. Timothy that her role should be played with equal parts sulky and bitchy. So it must have been her idea.
Soon their vehicle’s path is blocked by jungle foliage. (Forgive my suspicions that this collection of branches and such was dragged there by grips rather than being entirely of natural origin.) Wow, good thing they brought porters to carry all their crap. We watch the group trudge though some woods for a while, in what I have no doubt to be Africa. Of course, bearers are put into Jungle Movies to balk once something triggers their superstitious beliefs. And so it occurs here, as they refuse to enter territory marked by – are you ready? – rubber skulls mounted on sticks. Boy, there’s a new one. Anyway, Mark orders camp to be made outside the markers, hoping the bearers will change their mind in the morning.
That night the two bwanas and George – might white of them to include him – hash things over. Suddenly jungle drums are heard in the background, coming from the outpost where they hired the bearers. The drums describe another safari, also lead by white men and in the same area. Our Heroes quickly deduce that it’s Morgan, hoping to follow them to the treasure.
We cut to a grass hut containing what are probably the most patently ersatz ‘natives’ I’ve ever seen. Which is saying something. They too hear the drums. Speaking in really embarrassing pigeon English, the tribe Witch Doctor – WD from here on out, since they never bother naming him — avers that any white dudes after the legendary treasure will have to deal with Gorga. In case you’re wondering, we can tell WD’s the tribe’s de facto leader. This is because he’s carrying a staff with a rubber skull mounted on it. As indicated before, WD’s played by the multifaceted actor Bruce Kimball, who earlier assayed Mort the Clown.
WD uses his “head of staff” – Ha! I’m so funny – to strike a gong. Rather then causing the Unknown Comic to end his act, this summons Gorga. Who, lest you’ve failed to put the pieces together, is our Ape Suit god. The guy playing Gorga awkwardly and slowly walks through a bush, presumably in an attempt to suggest a trek through a dense jungle. For those keeping score, he certainly succeeds in suggesting something dense.
WD looks up at the camera positioned perhaps a foot over his head. This fosters the illusion that he’s talking to a giant gorilla. It’s Movie Magic! He gives Gorga a speech about the White Despoilers, and beseeches his deity to serve up unto them a big ol’ can of whoop-ass. This accomplished, WD promises him the usual virgin, which is the giant ape god equivalent of a Scooby Snack. (Where do these teeny villages keep getting all these maidens, anyway? Certainly the homegrown supply can’t be all that big.)
Then it’s back to camp for some further time-wasting character stuff. Mark and April are (duh) starting to exhibit tender feelings towards one another. Also, April is sure that her father’s alive and waiting to be found. Given the way these scripts generally play out, I’d say she’s probably on to something.
Cut to WD and his flunkies dragging the promised woman outside. Again, that’s two chicks gone to Gorga since the movie started. This from a village whose population seems to number in the threes and fours of people. The woman struggles and screams, drawing the inevitable lecture from WD. “It is an honor to chosen as a bride to the great god Gorga!” he thunders. “It is through this sacred marriage that our village is protected from the wrath of Gorga!” When this litany of clichÃˆs fails, he tosses in the standard, “Do not bring dishonor to your family!” His rote exclamations exhausted, WD makes to withdraw.
First, though, he yells, “Start the ceremony!” as the camera zooms in on his staff’s skull. Ooh, spooky. And so the ‘maiden’ — they grow them pretty old in these parts — falls prey to the ravenous, or whatever, Gorga. Needless to say, this includes a shot of the ape suit guy lifting up a doll.
Back to camp. Note the obvious plastic ‘vine’ strung between some trees to make things look more jungley. The bearers are seen stealing off with all the gear. (You know a film’s lazy when they don’t even bother to mete out a horrible death to guys like this.) In the morning, George wakens the others with the news. “We can’t go on alone, just the three of us!” a shocked April exclaims. As if bringing two balky porters helps all that much. Hell, if they’d been carrying their own crap, they still be fully equipped.
Mark quickly lays out a new plan. George will remain in camp as their lifeline to the outside world. With the minimal supplies he had in his tent, Mark and April will move forward for two days. If they find nothing, they’ll return. If they don’t reappear after four days, George is to head back to civilization and gather up a rescue party. He, of course, doesn’t like this rear guard duty, but bows to Mark’s logic.
(One thing I found of continuous amusement is that Mark is definitely running things. Maybe he’s been on safaris before, but April was raised in Africa by an old jungle hand. You’d think she’d have more to add. In fact, he’s the one that carries her father’s map. This I didn’t buy for a minute.)
And so the two Caucasians head off. They each carry a rifle, April has what appears to be their one canteen (!) and Mark’s got a teeny backpack about the size of a woman’s purse. I know April’s a girl and all, but couldn’t she at least carry two canteens. Neither bothers to bring a hat to protect them from the fierce ‘jungle’ sun. In fact, they’re both wearing jackets, not a favored “Green Hell” sartorial choice.
Now comes the section of the film I’d normally call ‘The Boring Part.’ However, since the entire film is one long boring part, albeit broken up by the occasional laughable ape suit appearance, I guess ‘The Even More Boring Part’ would be more accurate. In any case, this involves our two leads wandering around a none-too impenetrable jungle for minutes on end. This was probably as boring for the actors to shoot as it is for us to watch, so my heart goes out to all involved.
The one spot they even try to make exciting is when the two ford a shallow muddy stream. April gets her boot stuck in the mud and Mark struggles for a bit before pulling her free. Whew! That was…too close! Perhaps we were meant to think April had stepped into quicksand. Still, even quicksand isn’t that threatening when it’s only ankle deep.
In another awkwardly blocked scene they discover Tonga Jack’s initials carved into a tree. April gets all excited blah blah. By the way, did we really need three motivations for the expedition? By which I mean Gorga, the treasure and April’s father? Seems two would have done the job.
Then we cut to another stock footage monkey. He looks towards the camera for a while, then turns his back to us and sits down. Is he indicating that Mark and April are no longer worth spying on? If so, brother, I’m with ya.
Gorga pays a visit to the village. This causes the entire population, like all eight of them (I counted), to panic. Ripping apart the *cough* roof of WD’s *cough* hut, the mighty monkey looks in. The primary reason the Gorga suit is worse than even the one from A*P*E is that it sports fixed eyes rather than eye holes. These seem to shift at times, lending Gorga a cross-eyed appearance. This, in turns, serves to somewhat diminish our awe and terror as we gaze upon his visage.
WD – actor Kimball seems to have patterned his read here after Jonathon Winters, and I’m being serious — gives his god the following pep talk:
“Oh, Mighty Gorga! I know your thirst for the blood of young maidens is great! But I pray you, leave our village in peace! Soon! Soon the invaders will be upon our plateau and you can destroy them! And then once again I will summon you to our Alter of Life! And you can once again drink the blood of the maiden.”
Gorga is satisfied by this blather and takes off.
Back to the Even More Boring Part. Ah, the ‘60s. Here the characters are supposed to be exerting their all to cut through the nearly impassable jungle, and Mark is seen smoking a cigarette as they wander around. You know, a couple of sweat stains on their clothes might add a little verisimilitude as well. Eventually they come to a cliff face. This, to my amazement – not to mention horror – augers the film’s Most Boring Bit Yet.
This occurs when they check the cliff against the map and decide they must climb it. “A mountain goat couldn’t even make that!” April exclaims. Since the terrain in fact looks readily scaleable, this represents a rare example of a Cliff Face Informed Attribute. To suggest how formidable the task before them is, the actors pretend to struggle as they walk up the patently slight grade that leads to the cliff face. The only thing that makes sense is that both are suffering from some sort of advanced inner ear infection, one affecting their sense of balance.
The climb, as indicated, proves tedious in the extreme. MS3K fans will remember a similar sequence being groaned over in Lost Continent. Eventually, and I do mean eventually, they stop next to a bad matte shot. This supposedly indicates that they’re very high up in the air. To be fair, although typically inept this is easily the most adequate of the film’s half dozen matte sequences. This is because the skyscape they matte in is static and thus doesn’t especially draw attention to itself.
The two stop to rest and chat and drag things out even further, and then finally haul their asses up to the plateau. By the way, if I may inject a slight note of sanity here, if it’s nearly impossible to climb up this ‘mountain,’ then how the hell does Mark intend to get Gorga back down? Actually, just these two climbing down would be a bitch, as descents are generally more difficult than ascents.
WD, who apparently has an intelligence network to rival Shy’s, is soon ranting to Gorga about the intruder’s arrival. Then we cut back to April and Mark, who are waking up from a night’s sleep. The daylight allows April to see a profusion of oversized crepe paper flowers. Eerie electronic music let’s us know this is, well, eerie. “Hey, what kind of trees are those?” she asks. Mark looks off-camera (!!), and replies, “They’re not trees at all. They’re giant mushrooms!” Oh, well, then. No need for us to see them.
Looking about at the various crepe and off-camera oddities, Mark notes that the plateau looks “almost prehistoric!” (And you’d know this how?) Then they move on. Cue further Even More Boring Stuff, but at least it’s not the Most Boring Stuff Yet. As they ford another stream, Mark finds a knife. April identifies it as her father’s. Hope spring eternal. Like my hope that this friggin’ movie will end someday.
Stopping to squander even more minutes of my life away, Mark begins to theorize.
Mark: “Look around you, honey. This whole area’s out of a lost age. Suppose years ago it was part of the jungle below. And Nature played some sort of a monstrous practical joke. I don’t know. Maybe the earth’s volcanic eruptions forced this whole area upwards, trapping its inhabitants.
April: “You mean, like the mammoths in Siberia?!”
April, chilled: “And I thought it was so beautiful.” [Huh?!]
On that credulous note, we continue. “Look at this,” Mark notes as they stop again (Shoot me!!), cueing the Eerie Electric Music. “A human skull!” April acts as upset as Ms. Timothy’s thespic skills will allow. “You don’t think it’s my…” she stammers. “No, of course not,” he hastily replies. “It’s Indian!” (??!!) “Some sort of ancient man,” he continues, now clearly just making it up.
April points ahead. “Look over there!” she exclaims. “Some kind of nest!” And sure enough, there’s three enormous pink eggs sitting in some straw. April (wisely) wants to move on, but Mark demands to examine them. Soon they’re amongst them. “These eggs are warm!” Mark warns. “Watch out for Mother!” Suddenly, April points and screams, and we see…
…the scene that earned this dreck The Crown for Worst Giant Ape Movie Ever. Stealing that distinction from the steely grip of King Kong Lives demanded something truly special. And it’s not that fact that The Mighty Gorga is by far the most boring of the films we’ve examined these past five weeks, nor that it’s by far the cheapest, or that it has the worst ape suit. Instead, it’s that the film here delivers the single worst special effects sequence I’ve ever seen.
Soon a rear projection shot of extremely dubious quality has the heroes facing the worst plastic T-Rex puppet I’ve ever looked upon. It’s hinged jaws wobble up and down as it bops its white plastic teeth together. Meanwhile, April is seen with her mouth closed as they dub in what’s supposed to be her tremendous screams. And so the scene proceeds, since the T-Rex and the actors are not actually in the same shot. Mark fires at it, it wobbles around, April screams in ventriloquist horror. Eventually, Mark hefts up one of the – now obviously Styrofoam – eggs and hefts it at their, uh, attacker. Yes, that should calm it down.
In any case, the two manage to escape. This is probably because the T-Rex is, when it comes right down to it, immobile. What follows is the inevitable and suitably hilarious showdown between Gorga and the T-Rex. We now see that the ersatz T-Rex head is scaled to match the ape suit. The saurian’s other accoutrement proves to be a rubber T-Rex hand purchased at some dime store or other. This is run over Gorga’s face, but since its claws are made of plastic, they do little damage. (The beast’s teeth prove of similar ineffectiveness.) Gorga proceeds to lightly bob on the prop head a couple of times and emerges the victor. Wow! It was truly a battle of titans!!
Afterward, Gorga keeps examining one (obviously uninjured) finger. Just then the rear projection magic reoccurs as Mark and April stumble across the scene. Wouldn’t they have been running their butts off going away from here? You’d think. This shot also is badly composed to an insanely horrendous degree. Mark ends up noticing Gorga when he’s about four feet away from him. Gorga is scaled incorrectly, in this case being too small. Also, although they’re supposedly meant to be standing right next to each other, Mark’s head and Gorga’s are nearly level. This is because Gorga is being shown from only the waist up. For this to make any sense, Mark would have to be up on a hill (or Gorga in a pit), which isn’t the case.
“That’s him!” an awed Mark exclaims. Thanks, Sherlock. Mark removes from his pocket a “pentothal cartridge.” (What the…) “It should be potent enough to knock him unconscious for half a day!” And you know this how? Let’s just move on from the whole ‘pentothal bullet,’ thing, which is clearly ludicrous. The question remains, even if the shell works as advertised, what the hell is Mark planning to do with an unconscious giant ape?! And in the twelve hour allotted time, to boot.
For some reason, despite standing right next to the beast, Mark moves around before taking his shot. Then he mimes a problem with this gun for a full half a minute, to milk what I presume was meant to be the ‘suspense.’ Finally he gets the shot off, and Gorga instantly falls to the ground. Wow! That was one potent pentothal cartridge!
He and April stand looking down — although actually they should be looking up — at the predictably off-camera prostrate primate. “Now my problem begins,” Mark notes. “How am I going to get that hulk back to civilization?” Hmm, you’re right, that is a fly in the ointment, isn’t it?
As a lit cigarette magically appears in Mark’s hand, April notices Gorga’s off-camera ‘injured’ finger. “He’s got a big splinter in it!” she exclaims. It must be a plastic one, since he was supposed to have sustained his injury while fighting the T-Rex. She bends — off-camera, of course — to minister to this. Mark hands her a bandana (every jungle guy has one) to use as a bandage. By the way, as the T-Rex fight was stolen from King Kong, the woman-bandaging-the-ape’s-injured-finger is stolen right out of Son of Kong. Got to keep our clichÃˆs straight.
Gorga starts to rouse. (Half a day, my ass. Somebody’s getting sued here!) Our Heroes wisely retreat. Gorga, meanwhile, pays elaborate mimed attention to his bandaged digit. Next we see Mark and April being captured by four villagers. These emerge unseen from the sparse brush, despite their bright red loincloths and headbands. April stumbles over another couple of lines and they are brought to the village.
They are herded into a hut. Mark prepares to jump the next guy that enters, but it proves to be…are you sitting down?…a surprisingly natty looking Tonga Jack. April rushes over to greet her father. He’s still alive, we learn, because he used some quinine tablets to cure the Chief’s wife of malaria. There’s a lot of exposition here – after all the wasted running time we’ve only thirteen minutes left to resolve everything – and it involves a (rather convenient) underground passage that leads back to the jungle below, that runs past the Cavern of the Dead, which is where the treasure is, and that is a “volcanic chimney,” which provides for the inevitable climatic volcanic eruption which is mandated by Lost Civilization union rules. Oh, and get this. The treasure is “King Solomon’s”. (!!!)
As they take the two youngsters to see the Witch Doctor, Gorga makes another appearance. The idea is that bandaging his finger put him on Our Heroes’ side. The villagers again flee at their goofy god’s arrival, and in the very same shots used the last time this happened!! Then Gorga again tears yet another hole in the Witch Doctor’s roof. (Dude, just get a skylight.) The WD looks up in another shot borrowed from earlier, but this time Gorga beats down the hut, presumably killing him. Why? Got me. Hey, gods are capricious.
The three whites run off, joined by friendly native Kabula. Or he’s supposed to be friendly, only he has to be forced to show them the passage. (“You’ll die a slow death [if you don’t],” a knife-wielding Mark charmingly warns. Ladies and Gentlemen, Our Hero!) Given that he’s helping them, Kabula is likely to end up dead, since that’s what usually happens to such characters. Not a very good deal for them, you’d think, but what’ya going to do?
The ‘secret’ passage, which proves to a big honking cave — in Bronson Canyon, I wouldn’t be surprised — is marked with oddly standing and articulated skeletons. Are the joints of movie skeletons magnetically joined, or what? Kabula doesn’t want to enter, because it’s taboo, but Mark puts a knife at this throat and forces him onward. Why? Now they’re at the tunnel, why not let him go?
Next we see them walking through the passage, and Kabula magically has a torch in his hand. Frankly, you’d think a torch would beat Mark’s knife and that he’d fight his way out. That’s why these savages always lose to us White Men, I guess. No sand.
Eventually they come across a (fully articulated) skeleton lying by the cheesiest little ‘treasure chest’ ever featured in a film. Apparently King Solomon gathered his fabulous treasure by flashing his chest at people during Mardi Gras.
Frankly, our protagonists’ Hero Credentials are starting to look a little worn around the edges. They’ve off-handedly threatened to kill Kabula, there’s their evident greed in stealing the treasure…well, we’re not exactly talking Mother Theresa here.
They pause to stuff their pockets with priceless rhinestones and plastic beads, the strings of which hilariously break apart as they’re handled. Kabula wisely takes the opportunity to book during all of this. “Kabula!” Mark shouts. “Stop him!” Uh, why? Anyway, Kabula proves quite slow and klutzy for someone who’s survived the rigors of jungle life all these years, and he soon trips. Rather than using his handy torch, he clobbers Mark with a Styrofoam rock. Which, frankly, is about what Our Hero deserved at this point. Anyway, Kabula got away, and I’m glad. Glad, you hear me!
Moments later, after “hours” of walking around, the group finds the skeleton of a white man. We can tell from his strangely intact khakis and pistol. Since it’s been ‘hours,’ it’s fortunate that Mark’s torch is of the EverLite™ variety, as apparently are all the ones merrily burning away on the cavern walls. In fact, Mark reports that his is now burning even brighter – if you say so, dude – which indicates fresh air and thus, presumably, a passage out.
In another ghastly ‘effects’ shot, they see a dinosaur in a matted-in cave off the main tunnel. This has clearly been stolen from another movie, as it’s a fairly decent stop-animated beastie. Oddly, I can’t identify it. Perhaps it’s from a European film, a Hercules picture or something. They show some brief scenes of this on its own. When it’s seen from in the same shot as the group, though, it’s a two second matted-in clip that they play forward and backward and forward again. Needless to say, this doesn’t exactly foster any suspension of disbelief.
Suddenly, and I mean suddenly, they intercut in a ‘volcanic eruption’ that rivals the one climaxing Monster From Green Hell in its ineptitude. If I had to guess, I’d say the Mountain God was angered that they stole its treasure. Of course, here Our Heroes just happen to find the exit to the outside world. Whew. Meanwhile, badly superimposed flames indicate the skeletons, dinosaur and remaining ‘treasure’ being destroyed. A line of dialog further expositories that the entire plateau must have been destroyed as well. I’m not sure why, exactly, but that’s what we’re told.
So why are there still almost six minutes of film left? Because we’ve still, I’m sorry to say, got one plot thread to tie up. And so no sooner have they met up with George then an armed Morgan and flunky jump them. Morgan orders them to divest themselves of their ‘treasure,’ which they reluctantly do. Loyal George goes for his knife – yeah, brilliant plan – and takes a fatal bullet.
Morgan also murders his henchman, of course, so that he doesn’t have to share the treasure. (Wouldn’t you wait for later to do this? Killing five people with a six-shot revolver might get a bit hairy.) Why does anyone ever become a henchman, anyway? They’re always being betrayed in this fashion. Get a clue, people.
Mark’s just about to buy it when, suddenly, Gorga, appears on the scene. (!!) “Wait, Morgan, don’t shoot!” Mark yells, but it’s too late. Yeah, I’d fire at a thirty-foot ape with a .38 pistol too. How’d this guy ever survive in the jungle all these years? Anyway, exit Morgan, via one of the worst matte shots I’ve ever laid eyes on.
“How do you reward a gorilla for saving your life,” Mark asks. (Membership in the Fruit-of-the-Month club?) “Maybe he’ll settle for his freedom,” he decides. Yeah, like you’d have been able to capture him at this point anyway. Besides, they’ve got all the treasure, so why bother? So Gorga moseys off, the leads declare their love and intention to get married, and the picture draws to a close.
As does Giant Gorilla month!! WAAA-HOOO!!!!
Summary: Worst giant ape movie ever!