A*P*E (1976) [REVIEW] | Flipping Kongs

Sure, Konga wasn’t great, and earlier this year we also spotlighted another King Kong rip-off, the italo-canadian Yeti: The Giant Of The 20th Centhury, which indeed is worthy of being called “craptacular”, as in it’s really bad but also frigging hilarious and with some odd innocence for italian exploitation cinema. Even if there’s a crime thriller subplot that almost kills off Lassie.

But we can go lower down the cinema alphabet, and for theatrically released feature lenght movies about giant apes, you can hardly go lower than the american-south korean A*P*E*, quickly put out to cash-in this wave of Kongsploitation, as it released the same year of the Dino DeLaurentis backed remake, with 3D effects because if we’re gonna do this, might as well make it gimmicky.

Yeah, i’m doing this one because i feel more people are at least aware of The Mighty Peaking Man, also made to cash-in the popularity of the 1976 DeLaurentis’ King Kong remake, but far better than most Kong rip-offs, definitely far better than A*P*E*.

Obviously they tried to sell it as “New King Kong” or “Super Kong”, but of course RKO sued for damages, Dino DeLaurentis sued them on the grounds of exploiting his King Kong remake publicity campaign for their own ape movie, so it was re-titled Ape (stylized with * to spoof M.A.S.H.), and later it went under different titles, like Attack Of The Giant Horny Gorilla for its grindhouse theather release, or Hideous Mutant (?).

This of course didn’t stop them from putting this line in the poster “Not to be confused with the original King Kong”. 🙂

While it’s kinda pointless to discuss plot in a Kong rip-off, this one clearly doesn’t give a fuck and implies the popular school strategy “copying homework from the kid on the front row but shuffling around some paragraphs or embellishing some of them in the hope the teacher won’t notice”.

So there’s no them going to a remote island, we just cut to the giant ape escaping from an oil tanker (which is blatantly copied from the DeLaurentis remake), fighting a giant white shark (as to mock Jaws, released 2 years before) before reaching land. The US Military receives reports of an unknown creature nearby, giant footprints are found, but all is dismissed as just work of a cinema crew that’s filming a movie nearby, one that includes a rape scene…. and a martial arts flick which isn’t related but is filmed nearby, not that anybody ever acknowledges it.

Yeah, this sound like a spoof, but i don’t think it was conceived as such, more likely the producers noticed how bad it was turning out to be, and decided to crank the camp factor even higher, to make it worse in the hope it turns out funny to the audience. Yeah, purposefully going for pre-planned “so bad it’s good appeal” was also a thing back then, a perfect case of “everything old is new again”.

That said, it comes down if it works as a farcical campy crapfest, down to the blonde girl being held by the giant’s ape and asking “be gentle big fella” (real line from the movie), the monkey busting out dance moves, when the actor in the suit can muster the energy can muster the energy to do anything besides bumbling about and destroying crappy plywood houses while a cast with american and corean actors tries to do something about it. Not that it needs to be said at this point, but yes, acting is pretty bad all around, the only exception is Alex Nicol, whom MSTies will remember as Mickey from The Screaming Skull, in his penultimate acting role as a army colonel.

The special effects are really bottom of the barrell toybox theft, with crappy miniatures and stock footage of military manouvering around because the producer eventually ran out of toy tanks, but did have a tiny toy cow for the actor in the suit to pass by, and a mini-handglider with a toy man in it, the latter being guided by a visible string.

By comparison, the creepy ass marionette used the corean chief of state’s wife to entertain the children in a couple sequences looks way better, more believable, and you’re actually supposed to see the strings there!

While you can’t see the actor’s skin peek from under the mask (you can see the actor’s shirt under the suit through the holes in some shots) and suit as easily as you could in Konga, the gorilla suit is decidely worse looking, it really feels like it was bought – used – from a Hallowen dollar store. King Kong in King Kong VS Godzilla maybe have looked like simian roadkill, but it was funnier to look at, looked better and that movie was 14 years old by then. Just awful gorilla suit.

The only exception is the shark, as it’s clearly a real dead shark, it looks too real and this movie is too doman cheap to have a good looking fake shark made. And the “python”, a poor real snake that is launched at the camera, making it shake about for a second.

Why?

Because – as pointed out earlier – it was shot in 3D, and you can easily tell by many shots, be it a dude playing pool, burning arrows, or the “wire-guided rock” that ape throws at the army, one of the many moments when they just repeat the same identical sequences many times (often in a row).

This combo of incompetence and cheapness doesn’t end there, because you never see the ape interacts with any people, it never does, but there are some incredibly awful optical shots and crap matte paintings, so rejoice. Interiors and overall “misè-en-scene” is incredibly poor, with the classic “US Army general/colonel office” composed of a drab, flat looking room, just a couple of country flags in a school office desk, some shots of Hong Kong and a Garfield phone away from a Godfrey Ho joint.

No Z-movie would be complete without untintionally hilarious lines and some horrendous audio, and A*P*E* delivers big time on both. I’m not even referring to the infamously horrendous soundtrack, rightfully called by many one of the worst ever made for a film. No, i’m talking just audio balance, as there’s barely some, with some lines echoing, some barely audible, but rest assured, you can and will hear the annoying ass screams of Joanna Kerns (having her film debut here)… even whe she’s not on the screen, or no one looks to be screaming in some sequences.

The most memorable scene – and one that indeed works as a “single screenshot review” – is the giant ape looking at the camera and giving the middle finger to the audience.

Poignant cinema, indeed.

The movie could easily end right there and make as much sense, and it’s not like they even bothered to put an ending title, not even a “FIN”, just fades out, then credits on a garish red background. Quite fitting.

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