Friday, May 14, 2010

Film Review: A*P*E (1976, Paul Leder)

Stars: 4.5 of 5.
Running Time: 87 minutes.
Tag-line: "Ten tons of animal fury leaps from the screen"
Notable Cast or Crew: Rod Arrants (HELTER SKELTER, DALLAS), Joanna Kerns (GIRL INTERRUPTED, V, GROWING PAINS), Alex Nicol (THE MAN FROM LARAMIE, BLOODY MAMA, THE SCREAMING SKULL), Nak-hun Lee (INCHON), Yeon-jeong Woo (TARZAN IN KOREA). Directed by Paul Leder (father of Mimi Leder, director of 'Namsploitation classic MY FRIENDS NEED KILLING and the painful, latter-day Paul Bartel/Karen Black vehicle THE WACKY ADVENTURES OF DR. BORIS AND NURSE SHIRLEY).
Best one-liner: "The goddamn monkey's on his way back to Seoul!"

A*P*E. Those asterisks boggle the mind. They'd already swooped down to cash in on Dino de Laurentiis' KING KONG remake, so why the asterisks? Trying for some M*A*S*H fanbase crossover appeal? The official line is that it's an acronym for "Attacking Primate Monster," but you'll quickly note that if that was actually the case, it'd be called: "A.P.M." And don't blame the translation, cause this thing was an American's brainchild. If it makes you feel any better, we'll just think of it as the first in a long series of head-scratching non-sequiturs.

This Korean-American co-production begins with some sailors on a ship. Their stilted line delivery of completely inane dialogue (the A*P*E is en route to Disneyland?!) is a mini-masterpiece of muttonheaded panache. The A*P*E bursts forth ("Ohhhhh, shiiiiiit!"), wrestles a dead shark for three minutes (á la Lugosi in BRIDE OF THE MONSTER) and begins some context-free destruction of cardboard sets. The sheer lack of style is nearly avant-garde. And the suit is horrible. You can see the neck flap on the headpiece.
Note neck flap.

Occasionally the A*P*E's mouth moves as if he's talking, but no words issue forth.
Other times, he mews like a cat.

Our hero is a sixth-rate James Franciscus (wrap your head around that one),
and his movie-star girlfriend (the Fay Wray-type) is about as bland as a bowl of Malt-O-Meal.
Put 'em together, and I'd rather be watching Gary Busey and Holly Hunter gettin' steamy.

There's an army Colonel (Alex Nicol) who thinks he's Sterling Hayden and spends the majority of the film on the phone, shouting colorful expressions like "The goddamn monkey's on his way back to Seoul!"
There are nearly as many pointless phone calls as in DEADLY WEAPONS.

The scale is WAYYY off. They keep remarking that the A*P*E is 36 feet tall, yet he towers over mountains and a two-story home.
Later, when he peeks in through a window, his head appears to be not much larger than a human's.
One scene sees either A. the A*P*E shrinking to the size of a man offscreen and battling a snake in a bush or B. the A*P*E battling a ginormous mutant snake (the one from HARD TICKET TO HAWAII?) in a ginormous mutant bush. That's kind of asking a lot.

There's lots of recycled, dubbed screaming and horrendous miniatures.
Hey at least it's not CGI

The pacing is excruciating. The music is this generic, half-assed 'Asian-style'... wait a second... is that TORGO'S THEME from MANOS?!? I think it is!

And did I mention that this thing is in 3-D? Five or six times, the same soldiers push their rifles straight into the lens.
Check out that smirk.

A man practices his breaking technique with a pool cue- you guessed it- right in our face.
A group of dudes does the 'ole battering ram routine'- straight at the camera!
The A*P*E flings the same boulder directly at the camera at least seven times. A flurry of flaming arrows *FOOOOSH* straight at our eyeballs!
Don't be embarrassed if you ducked

And, oddly, all the 3-D effects seem to be directed toward the right-hand side of the screen. Why?!

In one notorious sequence, yes, the A*P*E flips the bird.
He shows his appreciation for hang-gliding through playful, waggish applause:

He steps over a tiny cow:
And it all ends with some spurting blood, a sluggardly demise, and the tearful epitaph: "He was just too big for a small world like ours." Amen.
Something about the A*P*E's nipples makes me uncomfortable. Plus, this bears some resemblance to a certain demise in REVENGE OF THE NINJA.

Four and half goofy blood-garglin', bird-flippin', neck-flappin', cow-steppin' stars.

-Sean Gill


KaBluie said...

You forgot to mention (or didn't notice) that the "movie-star girlfriend (the Fay Wray-type) is" the mom on Growing Pains!

J.D. said...

I'm sure she would like to forget her appearance in this film as well!

Nice NINJA reference at the end there. Always up for a review of a NINJA film - preferably from the 1980s... NINJA III, ENTER THE NINJA, PRAY FOR DEATH...

Sean Gill said...


I did note it under the cast and crew header, but I didn't mention it in the review, mainly because I couldn't think of anything snappy to say about it. I'm sure there's something in there...primates...Alan Thicke... Kirk Cameron...I don't know.


I'm always up for a good ninja movie, and I have somewhat recently obtained NINJA III, so hopefully I'll find the time for a writeup one of these days.