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A*P*E

a/k/a King Kongui daeyeokseub

a/k/a Attack of the Giant Horny Gorilla

a/k/a Super Kong

Part Five of Monkey See --

Monkey Doo-Doo!

     "Let's see him dance for his organ grinder now!"

-- Colonel "Kill that Hairy Sumbitch" Davis      

 

     

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Sights &
Sounds:
A*P*E
(1976)
 Director:
  Paul Leder
 Screenplay:
  Paul Leder
  Rueben Leder
 Producer:
  Paul Leder
  K.M. Yeung
 Jack H. Harris
 Enterprises

Newspaper Ads

Career Killer?

Joanna Kerns

Ohhhhhhhh Show me that smile again...

 
Attack of
the 38th
Parallel:
Korea's Giant
Monster Movies.

Yongary

Pulgasari

A*P*E

Reptillian

The Host

 

Alas, our Mad Mammoth Monkey Marathon must sadly come to an end. As we like to say around these here parts -- Stick a fork in it; itís done. And I canít think of a better final turkey to gouge than the American / Korean co-production of A*P*E.

Our film opens with the S.S. Fisher Price desperately trying to stay afloat somewhere on the American Standard Sea. On board, we find two old salts deep in conversation, worried about the "big boy" down in the hold. And while one exposits that the gas they used has him sleeping like a kitten, the other sailor, who was present at the capture, feels sorry for the 36-foot tall ape thatís destined to be the next attraction at Disneyland. Then suddenly, just as the first man brags about how the gas will keep it out for at least five more days, the boat begins to shake as a large hairy hand -- with giant press on nails! -- smashes up out of the hold, and before the crew can react, the S.S. Fisher Price inexplicably explodes in a huge fireball ... When the smoke clears, we can barely make out our monster ape splashing around in the dark waters (-- and apparently completely unaffected by the ginormous explosion.)

As the shaggy and soggy ape wades toward shore, he encounters a little trouble in the shallows when he runs into a giant shark! Then, the ape either attacks the big fish or dances with it (-- itís really hard to tell which --) until the primate gets bored and splits the shark in half. (A truly disturbing scene as itís pretty obvious they're using a real "deceased" shark as a prop.) Once ashore, the ape starts to make a general nuisance of himself. First, he destroys the port facilities by chucking oil barrels around that inexplicably explode on impact. (A new volatile high grade crude, perhaps?) And this rampage continues until we quickly jump to the Korean International Airport in Seoul, where crack reporter, Tom Rose (Rod Arrants), picks up his girlfriend, Marilyn Baker (Joanna de Verona -- better known today as Joanna Kerns of Growing Pains fame), who has come to Korea to star in a new movie. As they wade through the local paparazzi, it appears these two lovebirds canít quite get over the matrimonial hump because she has issues with career over commitment. Taking her to the hotel, with an extended padding sequence/tour of Seoul (-- a city on the move, a city of industry, a city of the futureÖ) along the way, the couple part ways, promising to meet later and hash things out.

Meanwhile, in the Korean countryside, as a farmer plows his field, he discovers some very large footprints. Slowly he looks around for the culprit, first left, then right, and then looks up and screams in terror as he comes face to hairy kneecap with the giant ape!

Okay, waitaminute ... Heís in an open field with no trees or obstructions ... HOW IN THE HELL DID HE NOT SEE HIM BEFORE?!? And in the daylight, when we finally get a good look at our giant gorilla, all I could muster in my notes was this: I'd definitely get a refund on the Scotch-Guarding. Wow. Press on dear viewers at your own cinematic risk.

Back in Seoul, when Captain Kim (Lee Nak Hoon), a member of the Korean security force, starts to receive calls about the gorilla attacking a small village, he assumes itís just a hoax -- but the sheer volume of calls necessitates at least sending someone out to investigate. And investigate they do, finding the village not only burning but completely demolished. Turns out there really is a giant monkey running loose, so Kim contacts Colonel Davis (Alex Nicol -- whose not quite as cranky as the General in The Mighty Peking Man), his liaison to the American Military. Unfortunately, Davis still doesnít believe the reports and figures itís all a publicity stunt for the big movie thatís being shot. Yes, I believe the same blockbuster Marilyn is involved in.

Next, we shift to a horde of kids breaking into a playground, and while they play, the giant ape watches, obviously enchanted by the goings on. Eventually, the kids get busted by their teacher, who rounds them up and herds them back to class. But one student tries to take one more turn down the slide, and upon reaching the top finally spots the ape, causing the kids to scatter in terror. (Again, how they couldnít see him before is a mystery.) Wandering on, our ape spots a giant snake sunning himself in a tree. Grabbing the snake, he tosses it away and then watches as the snake lands and slithers off. (Wow, not quite the epic battle the poster depicted.) Moving on again, our boy interrupts the filming of a medieval martial arts film. When the crew recovers from the initial panic of this unwanted extra, they pelt the giant with flaming arrows, managing to drive it off...

...Okey-dokey, at this point, I think it's time to pause and let you know that A*P*E was also shot in 3-D -- and Paul Leder, the film's director, used the Dr. Tongue approach to this trans-dimensional technique by seizing every opportunity he could to thrust objects at the camera; the flaming arrow attack at the movie set is the first of many, many clumsy attempts to enhance the effect. Leder also employs the old lather, rinse, and repeat with his 3-D F/X shots, so we get to see the same arrow, rock, and tank coming right at us again and again and again. And Leder proved to be just as competent at editing as he was at directing. Featuring a ton of jarring jump cuts, if you listen real close, you can actually hear the director yell cut that made it into the film!

Co-written by Leder's son, Rueben, their film is a blatant and rather pathetic attempt to cash in on the Kong-mania generated by Dino De Laurentiis' much ballyhooed remake, and actually beat what they were aping into theaters by almost two months. In fact, the director featured in the film is even named Dino (-- played by Leder himself). The unabashed Leder clan also tried to cash in on the lingering JAWS phenomenon by having the ape fight a giant shark, and even pays homage to Beyond the Green Door by naming its female lead after Marilyn Chambers. The elder Leder was an old school exploitationeer, with films like My Friend Needs Killing and I Dismember Mama, and Rueben would go on to a moderately successful career in episodic television. With this thing as his inaugural effort, one can only boggle as to how. Made mostly with Korean money, the film was picked up for distribution by the venerable Jack H. Harris, who over the years wrote and produced several seminal B-Movie flicks, including The Blob and Equinox, but even he couldn't salvage this film, which became an even bigger critical and box-office disaster than the King Kong remake.

Yes. It's terrible. Yes. It's incompetent, on every conceivable level. And just when you think it couldn't do anything dumber, the film does not disappoint. That said ...  A*P*E is helluva lot more entertaining than the Big D's King Kong, epitomized by the next scene, where we see a cow grazing, and then pan back and cut to the gorilla stepping over a toy cow painted the same color. The ape then plays with some poor hang-glider (vroom-vroom), tossing him around like a paper airplane, and is completely overwhelmed with giddiness at this fanciful display, triggering a spastic clapping fit and organ-grinding jig.

No longer in denial, Col. Davis hold a press conference about the giant menace, and promises that the monster will either be captured or killed by nightfall. He also swears that the ape poses no immediate threat to anyone and that the situation is completely under control. A skeptical Rose doesnít believe this assessment is all that accurate, and badgers the evasive Davis until the press conference prematurely ends. Since Rose and Kim are old buddies, Kim allows the reporter to accompany his expedition to find and neutralize the ape. Set to leave in about two hours, this gives Rose enough time to go to the movie set and warn Marilyn about the dangerous primate running loose. Arriving in time to watch a rehearsal for the film's big rape scene, Marilynís co-star gets a little too rough, bringing a quick call of cut. (Damn method actors.) And while the director efforts to get his male lead to tone it down, Tom and Marilyn sneak off to have a talk about marriage and giant monkeys. Alas, sheís still unsure about the whole marriage thing, but promises to be very wary of any male over ten feet tall.

Meanwhile, said ape is in the process of flattening another village. There is some unintentional slapstick, here, with a protracted scene of the fleeing citizens -- for no matter where they go, or what corner they round -- they keep running right into the gorilla. But for some reason, Kim's patrol can't seem to find him. (Youíd think his swath of destruction wouldnít be that hard to follow.) Back on the movie set, theyíre still having some trouble with that rape scene. (Oy!) When the director calls for action and the actors fight, following the script, Marilyn manages to break away and flees from her tormentor. Forced to redo the take several times, due to mounting technical difficulties, trying everyone's patience (-- including mine-- ), unbeknownst to cast or crew, they have a new audience member watching from the hills. Once more the scene starts, and this time everything progresses nicely -- until Marilyn goes off script by running right into the giant ratty-natty hand with the press on nails!

Enchanted with his new prize, the ape wanders off. Flagging down Kimís lost patrol, who are at least on the right trail, Dino the director tells them the beast has captured Marilyn and went thataway. Kim puts a call into Davis, who sends reinforcements, but is stupefied by the new orders to catch the beast alive. With all the death and destruction it has caused, Davis feels the monster should be shot on sight.

While tracking the gorilla, Rose frets and worries, certain the animal will kill Marilyn. But Kim isnít so sure; he feels if that were the case, the ape would have killed and eaten her right away. Speaking of Marilyn, cradled in the monkeyís paw, she pleads "Be gentle big fella" and then strikes a disturbingly prostate pose in his hand. As the ape coos with excitement, a fleet of helicopters comes into sight. Preparing for battle, the ape sits his captive down, allowing her to scramble into a narrow crevice, where his hand wonít fit. (Is the film trying to tell us something here? Forty foot monkey -- five foot girl? Man I hope not. Paging Dr. Innuendo. Code Blue. Dr Innuendo. You're needed in the mismatched metaphor room. Stat!) With the ape distracted, the helicopters circle closer, allowing the ground troops to launch a massive gas bomb attack ... During the ensuing mayhem, Rose borrows a jeep to try and save his girl. And while the ape knocks a few choppers out of the sky (-- sorely missing the gonging sound that they added in It Came From Hollywood), Rose finds Marilyn and whisks her away. Behind them, the battle rages on, reaching its *heh* apex when the ape flips Kim the bird.

Okay, movie. With that gesture, it's now official: I surrender. Pilot to bombardier! Pilot to bombardier! The film is now yours.

During the trip back to Seoul, our couple still canít commit to marriage. (This conversation is done completely by voiceover over shots of the jeep making several right turns.) Also of note, Marilyn confesses that she, somehow, felt safe with the ape, and found something appealing in his eyes. (Donít look at me. I gave up, remember?) Not surprisingly, when Rose doesnít like that kind of talk, she accuses him of being jealous. Meanwhile, when Davis receives word that the ape managed to escape the gas attack, he calls the Korean authorities, recaps the movie, and reports that the ape is heading for Seoul and, more than likely, after the girl. Begging them to use lethal force -- Davis doesnít go for that "scientific phenomenon bull@#%*" -- the Koreans still want to try to capture the specimen at least one more time.

When Rose drops Marilyn off at Kim's house, his girl wishes theyíd just catch the ape and send him home. Rose says that isnít very likely, and before he leaves, when he mentions that he knows a Buddhist priest that has never married two Caucasians before (-- Hey! Iíve heard that joke), she asks if the holy man is free on Saturday. (AwwwwÖ) While Kim's wife and children welcome Marilyn into their home, the gorilla reaches the outskirts of Seoul and starts tearing up the buildings, looking for her. The authorities quickly move to evacuate the city -- but somebody forgot to warn or check on the occupants of Kimís house. (Who were obviously distracted by that creepy marionette.) As Rose links back up with Kim, the streets of Seoul are quiet, too quiet, but not for long! At Kimís house, they can hear the monster getting closer, and after he rips the roof off, our boy scoops up Marilyn and heads out of town. Back at Army HQ, the casualty reports are mounting, causing Davis to call General Pak, the supreme military commander of all South Korea, who finally gives permission to "Kill that hairy sonofabitch."

Tracking the beast down, and despite it having the girl, Davis gives the order to open fire. As the mobilized tanks and machine guns start blasting away (-- in 3-D again, so the same toy tanks pop off and the same soldier thrusts the barrel of his gun at the screen and fires again and again and againÖ), the ape shields the girl from the barrage with its body. Taking hit after hit, when the soundtrack starts to turn sappy, the wounded gorilla gently sits her down, allowing Rose to swipe another jeep and rescue her. And though gravely wounded, the ape still has a lot of fight left in him as he starts chucking boulders at the tanks, managing to smash a few of them. (The same rock. Three times. He does have one helluva curveball though.) He then causes a rockslide, that forces the infantry to retreat, but in the end, Davis has too much firepower, and after taking several direct hits from the tanks, the ape vomits up a shower of blood (-- ewwww!), keels over and dies -- much to Davisí delight.

Off to the side, Rose consoles a distraught Marilyn, saying "It was just too big for a small world like ours."

The End

Some actors have skeletons in their closets. George Clooney has both Return to Horror High and Return of the Killer Tomatoes lurking in his. Sam Elliot has the moldy and mildewed Frogs, and Paul Walker has Tammy and the T-Rex. But they all pale when you compare them to the 36-foot tall skeleton in Joanna Kerns closet. A*P*E was her big screen debut and itís easy to see how she got the part. The lady has quite a set of pipes as she screams constantly throughout the film.

Now, having sat through the entire film, the most mind-boggling element of A*P*E -- and that's really saying something -- is when you realize that aside from a few coos and trills, the giant ape makes absolutely no noise. No grunts. No ook-ooks. No primal screams. Nothing. As I watched the film I felt that something was missing, and it wasnít until the first battle with the helicopters did I finally realize our mammoth monkey was a mute (-- Has anyone else noticed this? --), who just dopily wanders around the countryside, switching from fits of playfulness to tantrums of utter destruction. Obviously, this drastic shift doesnít allow the audience to really identify with or take sides on the big monkey issue. The monkey suit itself is probably the worst of the five films in our retrospective. The head is obviously a separate piece, as well as the gloves. The huge hand prop is pretty terrible, and the giant leg props are even worse. Also of note: the monkey is filmed in slow motion to try and give it some scale. But the actor inside the suit also moved very slowly and deliberate, too. So instead of getting the illusion of size, we get the illusion of some idiot in a gorilla suit ... Mooovvvvvviiiiinnnngggg ... Rrrrrreeeaaaaaaaalllyyy ... Sslllllllllloooooooooooooooowwwwwww...

This movie ... Omilord, this movie ... This movie defies all logic, but it has one fatal flaw: Itís incredibly dull. And as the action sequences are very repetitive, and very clumsy, the film's only real saving grace is the sheer absurdity of it. And it is this absurdity that saves A*P*E from the ultimate B-Movie sin -- being boring.

My advice, if youíve seen the clips in It Came From Hollywood, then thatís probably enough. Seriously, A*P*E is so padded out that even with that brief clip, youíve basically seen the entire movie. If you havenít seen the clip, and happen to find this turd-burger, then do what I did (-- aside from ducking and covering): shut the brain off and let it ride, or youíll be the one flipping the bird at your TV screen.

If nothing else, A*P*E really makes you appreciate the fine Kaiju-eiga and miniature model work that Toho has been putting out for years. For it takes more than a guy in a monster suit running amok on a cardboard set to make something entertaining. Haven't I said that already? Oh, boy -- too many Monkey Movies. No more! Theyíre all starting to run together. Yipe. Monkeys! Mammoth Monkeys! All over me! Aaauugghh! Get them off! Get them oooofffff!

More Monkey See --
Monkey Do-Do!

Originally Posted: 04/19/01 :: Rehashed: 06/20/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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