A*P*E* (1976) – By Timothy Martinez

 There is an old saying that states, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Well, in Hollywood circles, where a film with a relatively good idea can be announced one day and a slew of cheap knockoffs can be rushed into production and out on home video by the end of the month, that expression should be translated to, “hey, we think you may have a good thing and we want to cash in on your perceived success.” Very, very rarely are any of these copycat projects any good. Quite the contrary, their frantic and hurried rush to completion usually means that a few vital elements get left out…usually all the things that make a film worth watching. Making the situation even worse is the fact that there are a handful of films that positively defined their genre, and attempting to emulate them is only going to make any imitation look even worse. There has never been a shark movie better than Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark was the epitome of action and thrilling adventure and My Dinner With Andre was the undisputed master of movies centered around a dinner conversation. You get the idea. Similarly, movies about giant apes have a long way to go to reach the same level as the original King Kong. Sadly, A*P*E never gets out of the gate.

The movie doesn’t even try to show how a giant ape was discovered or caught. The film completely dispenses with this entire aspect and in hindsight I am very grateful for it, as it no doubt shortened the running time of the movie considerably. We start off with a plastic boat and two sailors who, in a bout of expository dialog, inform us that there is a big ape in the cargo hold “almost thirty six feet tall” and that he was caught on an island. Then within seconds the ape busts loose, the boat explodes (yes, explodes…it must have been carrying dynamite or something) and the big simian is wrestling a shark that, given the ape’s credited size, must be a Carcharodon Megalodon holdover from the Jurassic period. Afterwards the ape makes it to shore and bounces around Korea on the most asinine monster rampage since Yongary, Monster From The Deep hemorrhaged to death from its anus.

The human element is represented by a Korean police officer, an American Military officer who spends ninety-eight percent of the movie at the same desk, on the same phone and berating the same assistant (and who seems to be the film’s comic relief), an American actress who is in Korea to shoot a movie as well as an American reporter who was there…nope, don’t remember why he was there, but he is the actress’ lover. Throw in hordes of screaming, running Korean people who feel the need to point out the giant ape despite it being mere yards away and you have a recipe for b-movie boredom. Alas, there is one thing that lifts this movie from the terminally boring level to the upper echelon of craptastic filmmaking, and that is the effort (or lack thereof) put into the FX.

To call the FX laughable is beyond an understatement. I’ve seen old Super 8MM films from the 1970’s produced by eight-year-olds that had better FX than this film. Hell, I think I may have even made one of them! First off, the ape suit has got to be the second worst ever in the history of film. Why second and not first place? Well, unlike The Mighty Gorga, at least there is a full suit to see here, so I gotta give them props for that. However, everything about this suit is just plain crappy. From the obvious folds in material, to the gaps that reveal the actor’s skin and T-shirt to the freakin’ tennis shoes painted brown(!) used for feet, it is just horrible. Naturally, the “model work” is just as terrible, with poorly detailed toys used for ships, tanks, jeeps and helicopters. The varying sizes of these toys has the unintentional result of making the ape’s size fluctuate anywhere between thirty six feet and about a quarter of a mile. Toss in some dolls of differing sizes, horrible moments when “giant” boulders are thrown by the ape only to be seen moving along guide wires, absolutely hideous life-sized feet and legs that threaten a panicked crowd, an avalanche of Styrofoam rocks (where the tiny bits of foam can be seen breaking off), all manner of things being directed at the camera in a sure indication the film was originally shot in 3D and so many other things too numerous to mention and what you end up with is a truly, truly horrible movie. It’s only saving grace is it’s sheer “badness” and that for that reason alone I recommend it to B-movie fans.

Final Grade: 2 out of 5

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