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A*P*E
(a.k.a. Attack Of The Giant Horny Gorilla, Hideous Mutant, The New King Kong, & Super Kong)
(1976)
 

Director:Paul Leder                                           
Cast:
Rod Arrants, Joanna Kerns, Alex Nichol


I am sure many people who visit this web site have seen or at least heard of Mighty Peking Man. For those who don't know, it is a 1977 Hong Kong movie which got re-released by Quentin Tarantino to theaters in North America last year. It was an attempt to cash in on the 1976 Goin' ape!remake of King Kong by ripping off the basic story of a giant gorilla. (Though from what I've heard, few people managed to get suckered into watching it during its initial release.) What you may not know is that a year earlier, some South Korean producers (with assistance from some Americans) had made and released their own giant gorilla movie. Several years ago I saw the poster for it, and they had thoughtfully written something like, "Not to be confused with the original King Kong" off to one corner. That, the cheesiness of the poster (promising more savage action than a cheapie could possibly deliver), and seeing a clip during It Came From Hollywood of the giant gorilla popping his middle finger (!) to the army attacking him had made me want to see this movie for several years. And of course, when I finally got to see the movie, I was let down.

A*P*E is a bad movie. Usually when people say a movie is bad, they can mean one of two things; so bad it is good, or so bad it is bad. Occasionally, though, you'll get a third kind of bad movie - the embarrassing kind. The kind that's, well, bad, but you have a stronger feeling of embarrassment than annoyance - you feel sorry for the actors doing and saying stupid stuff, you wonder if the people doing the special effects cringe when they think back on the movie, and you wonder what the director really felt when making this movie. If he knew it was a bad movie while making it, then you feel embarrassed that he had to make it. If he actually thought that he made a rootin' tootin' action flick, you feel embarrassed that he was so stupid to not realize he failed. True, some parts of A*P*E are so bad they are funny, and some parts are so bad they are bad. But most of the time, I just felt pity for everyone involved in the making of this movie.

The movie actually starts off with some promise that it will be entertaining, albeit in an unintentional way. We see a dinky little toy boat floating in the ocean (presumably near Korea), and we cut to two sailors on deck who have a conversation about what they found on some island and is now drugged asleep below in the hold. (Mentioned in the slowest, most monotone dubbed over voice you can think of): "I know...... imagine...... almost 36 feet tall....... wow.......", utters one of the sailors. We then learn they plan to take the giant gorilla (what else did you think it was?) to Disneyland (!) But something goes wrong, and the gorilla wakes up, and destroys the ship in a matter of seconds. (Last words of the monotone sailor: "Ohhhh...... s**t......") The gorilla stands triumphantly in the water, though I couldn't help but notice since half his body is out of the water, that means the ship must have been sailing in just 18 feet of water. Then instantly, the gorilla gets into a fight with a shark that's his size. I'm no marine biologist, but can sharks really grow to be 36 feet long? The shark doesn't seem to put up much of a struggle - in fact, the gorilla simply holds it vertically in front of him and shakes it back and forth over and over, symbolizing the masturbation act. Who says a monster flick can't be psychoanalyzed?

Meanwhile, South Korea greets with open arms blonde American actress Marilyn Baker (get it?), making a movie in Seoul which includes an attempted rape scene with happy music playing in the background. Her reporter boyfriend Tom (Arrants) also happens to be in the neighborhood, and he initiates the sappy and boring romantic subplot in the movie. Not only are the scenes with him are boring, but he's not really needed in the movie at all. The only use he seems to have is to lead Marilyn away from danger (can you possibly guess what kind of danger she ends up in?) at a couple of points in the movie, though only an idiot in those situations would not know to leave, and which direction to go - and she isn't that blonde. He comes across as a somewhat annoying jerk. Somewhat more watchable is Alex Nichol as Colonel Davis, the commander of the American troops in the country. True, even considering that giant gorillas don't appear every day, his character is unbelievably dense when the giant gorilla invades and starts to pound the countryside. I can understand that he wouldn't believe at first it was a giant gorilla doing all the damage, but you'd think that he'd at least realize there's something dangerous out there. However, in the second half of the movie, his character brings a lot of laughs with some hilarious lines of dialogue. Among other things, he yells at his poor aides, "To hell with the press - I'm going to smoke this cigarette!" and "What the hell ya looking at - my fly unzipped?" Near the end, when he brings the artillery onto the gorilla, he smirks, "Let's see him dance for his organ grinder now!"

Since we are talking about the characters, we might as well now discuss the giant gorilla. It's one of the worst gorilla costumes I've seen, seeming made out of brown carpet, and notable parts of its anatomy include a beer belly and nipples that apparently grown an extra size during the events of the film. But the worst thing about this gorilla is that it has no personality at all. That might sound silly, but when you watch the original or even the remake of King Kong, you have at least a good feeling of what the giant beast is thinking. Not with the gorilla here. All he does is go place to place and smash things up, with no reason. Godzilla may be guilty of this charge, but he at least did it with style; this gorilla has no heart to his pounding and smashing. He is neither a total killing machine, nor a beast with a compassionate side - he is actually boring. Yes, I did laugh at that middle finger scene, and I laughed at the scene where he has one paw on his hip and his other arm in the air, doing something almost like a disco dance. These sequences come way out of left field, and seem out of character for this gorilla, even though he doesn't have any real character!

The gorilla does indirectly provide a few other laughs. Several times in the movie, he stands not far away from a person or a group of people, and they don't notice him for several minutes. Well, he is standing still and not making any noise. There's also another time in a suburb where the residents, panicking after having seen him and running through the streets, turn a corner and run right into his feet. I guess even in a panic you wouldn't see a 36 foot ape a couple of blocks away in the direction you were racing. Scattered through the movie there are some more bits of unintentional humor, like kids breaking into the Korean equivalent of Disneyland to just play on the slides and swings, or the hideously amateur Korean martial arts movie the gorilla stumbles upon.

Most of the time, the movie is just embarrassing to watch. The movie was originally made in 3D, which means that there are sequences where soldiers stick their guns into the camera, or when the gorilla throws rocks or gasoline drums (held by visible wires) into the camera. These attempts are not just obvious, they are just so "Hey, look at this!" that it's hard not to grimace. What's interesting is that there aren't many of these in-your-face sequences at all; in fact, the movie is so blandly directed, I don't think it would have been an improvement to have seen it in 3D. When the (mildly) screaming crowds run, they almost seem as if they were overly choreographed. We hardly get to see the real South Korea - most of the movie is shot on soundstages or in rooms, and the few outdoor locations, both urban and in the country, look dusty and bland. There are also sequences of stock footage that s-l-o-w-l-y show the moving around of fire trucks, army trucks and helicopters. Each sequence goes on and on for so long, it becomes clearer that there isn't much of a story to tell. These and other pathetic attempts (such as long, pointless conversations) to stretch out the movie make A*P*E kind of the equivalent of seeing high school students prancing and singing I'm A Little Teapot during their graduation ceremony - embarrassing, and with no point.

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See also: The Crater Lake Monster, Godzilla VS King Ghidora, King Kong Escapes

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