Directed by:
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REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

A 36 foot tall gorilla is found in Harlem and is starting to be transported to Disneyland when it escapes. Meanwhile actress Marilyn Baker arrives in Seoul airport to shoot her first picture to be made outside the United States, and is met by loads of reporters, plus Tom Rose, a reporter with whom she was involved with though they’re now supposed to be “cooling it”. Marilyn begins to make her film at the same time as the huge ape starts to rampage through the country in a direction that leads him straight to Marilyn….

How bad is this movie? Well, there’s a scene in which you can hear somebody saying something which sounds awfully like the word “cut” just as the scene cuts to another. Obviously nobody cared to edit it out. A.P.E., which is what would probably have happened if Ed Wood had gone to Korea to make a King Kong film, could almost be the definition of a “so bad it’s good” movie. It’s quite simply the funniest picture I’ve seen in ages, its total ineptitude resulting in comedy genius. It does seem like the filmmakers became away of the incredibly low quality of what they were making towards the end of shooting, as the occasional bit of intentional humour turns up here and there, such as the – well let’s just call him Ape – giving the military [and the audience as it’s done to the camera] the finger, and I’m tempted to defend the amateurish special effects because the film was so low budget, but on second thoughts I’m not going to do that, because of the thoroughly exploitative intent of this film in the first place, the sheer idiocy of trying to make a giant monster movie on peanuts, and the complete awfulness of virtually every other aspect of the film.

The reason this film was made was the fact that the 1976 remake of King Kong was in production and it was decided, much like all those DVD releases from the Asylum label, to quickly make a similar movie to capitalise on all the hype surrounding the new film. In fact, when the film was going into production in February 1976, it was announced as The New King Kong on a teaser poster in Boxoffice magazine. When RKO got wind of this, they filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against the company, and the title was changed originally to Super Ape, then to A.P.E. in October 1976, and the tagline “Not to be confused with King Kong was added to the theatrical posters and movie trailer, though the Korean title King Kong eui daeyeokseup still translated as The Great Counterattack of King Kong. The entire budget for A.P.E. [which apparently stands for Attacking Primate Monster] was $23,000, and it was shot in a very cumbersome 3D process in just 14 days with an American director, screenwriter and ‘stars’. When filming was supposedly completed, the film only ran for an hour so some hasty reshoots were required. Perhaps this is where the intentional humour came from, everyone looking at what they had so far and thinking that the only way to save the film was to poke fun at it. The film hit North American screens in October 1976, merely two months before the release of King Kong, and immediately sunk, though it was later re-released under the titles Attack of the Giant Horny Gorilla, and Hideous Mutant for video. Star Joanna Kern’s name was originally Joanna DeVarona, but she was so traumatised by working on this movie that she changed her name.

You know what you’re going to get from the very first scene. Two people are standing on what is supposed to be a large boat talking about their precious cargo, and you will have seen better acting from monkeys. From what they say we learn that Ape was discovered in Harlem [no doubt if the film was made today idiots would call this racist] and is en route to Disneyland – which is dumb enough for a start. A fist [or I think it’s a fist, the scene is so dimly lit] bursts through the floor and a toy boat explodes. Swimming away is Ape, and if you thought the gorilla suit in King Kong Vs Godzilla was shoddy, then you need to see the one in this film in which the head part moves separately from the rest of the costume, and which has holes through which you can sometimes see the white T-shirt the guy inside the suit is wearing. The mouth often moves but hardly any sounds come forth. Ape now encounters a shark, but it’s obviously a dead one, so the entire fight consists of Ape holding the shark and repeatedly moving it from side to side. Then he reaches the mainland of Korea. Now, think about it – he’s off the coast of America, and finds himself in Korea. Did nobody involved with the film have even a rudimentary knowledge of geography? Amidst very loud crunching sounds, Ape smashes up a few buildings with his back to the camera so we can’t see much detail – though the whole scene is so dark that in some shots you can barely even make out the creature, except for a shot of extras fleeing which is in broad daylight. By now, I was chuckling so much to myself that I wanted to rewind the film and watch the first part again. It did then cross my mind that the rest of the movie wouldn’t live up to the opening section, but fortunately I wasn’t disappointed.

Now we meet our main human protagonists. There’s actress Marilyn in Korea to make a movie, her reporter boyfriend Tom with whom she’s supposed to be on a break, and Col. Davis, who seems to be in the movie just to say lines like: “This is Korea, not Scotland. The Loch Ness Monster couldn’t make it over the Berlin Wall”. He doesn’t believe the stories about a large gorilla in Korea for some time, and I actually wondered if they’d shot his scenes after the film was supposedly wrapped, as he seems quite divorced from the rest of the story until he joins the action near the end. It soon becomes obvious that the script has had to be padded out to make a 90 minute movie when you get scenes like Tom driving Marilyn to her hotel and she keeps asking him what the buildings they’re passing are called. Anyway, Ape is heading for Seoul, scaring lots of people along the way, including some people making a martial arts film [and even the martial arts, which you’d reasonably expect to be good, is crap],and eventually picking up Marilyn, who’s busy shooting a rape scene in her film, which is directed by somebody called Dino [think about it]. To make this bit funny [?!], they’ve put comical music over it, something which they do elsewhere over scenes which were probably originally intended to be serious. Tom sets out to rescue Marilyn, and the army [which is partly represented by footage from 1967 Korean kaiju effort Yongary, Monster From The Deep] eventually mobilise and go after Ape too. The endless ape vs military finale is actually the only part where the film almost gets boring.

Generally though it really is a laugh a minute. Bits of foam fly off rocks hurtling towards people on strings. Trucks with the Tonka logo are hurled into the air. People supposedly fleeing in terror are actually seen to be laughing. Firemen are rushing through the supposedly panic-stricken city but in the background you can see people calmly going about their day. Ape throws a snake he’s just killed at the camera and the camera jolts, you can see part of it at the top of the screen. Ape, despite being supposedly 36 feet tall, seems to vary from about 20 to about 100 feet in size. Editing between scenes is abysmal, with frequent instances of music or dialogue being suddenly cut out and sound disappearing for a few seconds. Scenes of crowds fleeing, a tank and a helicopter, and two kids laughing hysterically at the ugliest puppet you’ve ever seen, go on for ever to pad out the running time, but it’s not boring because the viewer is by now totally within the world of A.P.E. The acting is as lousy as you would expect, though Meryl Streep would struggle saying things like [Marilyn talking about Ape]: “I don’t mind telling you, I was scared out of my mind up there, but when he looked at me there was something oddly appealing in his eyes”. And Joanna Kerns does prove to be a good screamer.

The guy playing Ape occasionally moves like one but loves throwing his hands in the air and moving side to side as if he’s at a music gig. The bits of intentional humour tend to be so weird that they don’t at all weaken the out of this world entertainment value. The score, which is credited to a Bruce Macrae but often sounds like stock music, is terribly recorded and sometimes drowns out what people are saying. Being shot in 3D, there are numerous instances of things like guns and snooker cues being pointed or thrown at the camera, though it’s sometimes the same shot repeated over and over again, and for some reason they seem to be directed toward the right-hand side of the screen. A.P.E. is quite simply a terrible, terrible, terrible motion picture by any normal standards, and yet it almost seems to exist on its own plane of existence and get the viewer to reassess his or her view of what is good and what is bad. By the time the final line of: “He was just too big for a small world like ours” came along, I actually felt really sad that the movie had ended.

I’m going to rate these three films on entertainment value rather than quality. So:

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★½ [loses half a star for the drawn out climax]

About Dr Lenera 3150 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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