Director: Paul Leder
Starring: Rod Arrants, Joanna Kerns (Devarona), Alex Nicol
In 1976 Dino DeLaurentis unleashed his mega crap remake of King Kong. Thanks to a Kong sized publicity campaign (and lots of gullible moviegoers), it became the hit of the year. Suddenly, filmmakers from all over the world saw the possibilities of box office gold in the form of their own suitmation simian stinkers. Among these, we had the Hong Kong Shaw Brothers variation, Mighty Peking Man and the Italian/Canadian coproduction, Yeti - Giant of the 20th Century. All were poorly made, yet all were much more enjoyable than Dino's original local loser. One of the very worst of the ripoffs was this U.S./South Korean coproduction, A*P*E. Shot in 3-D (which is how I saw it theatrically as a wee 9 year old), it actually beat Kong into theaters by several months.
A*P*E (as in M*A*S*H?) starts awkwardly with a shot of a ship at sea which is the phoniest looking toy boat I've seen since Danger, Deathray. Out of the ship pop the captain and first mate, two of the worst non actors ever. They talk about their prize captive (the whole Skull Island thing having been eliminated in an obvious cost cutting measure), each acting like they are reading their barely legible cue cards for the first time. After several hilarious moments pontificating, our hero awakens prematurely and just like that, the toy ship blows up. After bobbimg in the water for several awkward moments (awkward being the catchphrase with this movie) a giant shark appears (cleverly ripping off Jaws from the previous year). The two battle (if you want to call it that) and A*P*E wins! He not so quickly heads to shore and begins his less than ferocious attack on the Korean countryside. The army is called in, but will they be any match for the awesome might of A*P*E?
I won't mince words, A*P*E is a bad, bad movie. It is one of the most incompetant that I have ever seen. Others who have viewed this epic have hated it. Many felt insulted by it. I on the other hand, thought it was a laugh riot from start to finish. Yes it's terrible, but hilarious in it's awfulness. I would rank this stupid movie right up there (down there?) with 1934's Maniac, Robot Monster, Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Creeping Terror and Massacre Mafia Style as one of the most entertainingly awful movies of all time. Highlights (cough!) include A*P*E interfering with the filming of a martial arts picture, A*P*E fighting a giant snake (which he hurls right into the camera for a would be nifty 3-D effect except the snake hits the camera tripod causing the frame to drop), A*P*E having a "playful" encounter with a man on a hang glider and (most memorably) A*P*E flipping the bird to the camera after dispatching a pesky helicopter (no, really)!
Nearly stealing the film from our beloved anthropoid is veteran actor Alex Nicols as the venerable (cough!) Col. Davis. The Col. is a tough guy, but also clueless and susceptible to throwing hissy fits. To wit: "Now what kinda bullshit you tryin' to hand me?", "What are you looking at, is my fly down or something?", "Let's see him dance for his organ grinder now!", "Screw the logistics!" and my favorite, "The hell with the press, I'm gonna smoke this Goddamn cigarette!". The Col. is not one to be messed with and Nicols plays it to the hilt, seemingly basking in every ridiculous moment.
A*P*E is an acquired taste to be sure and it's definitely not for everyone, but for those select few who relish such extreme nonsense (you know who you are), this film will prove irresistible... or maybe not.
***1/2 / ****