WRITERS: Paul Leder and Reuben A. Leder
DIRECTOR: Paul Leder
STARRING: Rod Arrants as Tom Rose
Joanna de Varona as Marilyn Baker
Alex Nicol as Colonel Davis
Lee Nak Hoon as Captain Kim
Woo Yun Jong as Mrs. Kim
Jerry Harke as Lt. Smith
QUICK CUT: A loveable monkey runs amok in Seoul as people try and catch it before it can get into too much mischief!
Tom - A journalist stationed on Seoul, who ends up stumbling into following the story of the giant monkey. He's long been in love with Marilyn, but the timing has never been right, in addition to their busy lives taking them all over the world. When he finds she's filming a movie in his backyard, he tries to rekindle the old spark.
Marilyn - An actress, and love interest for Tom. As is typical, she doesn't have much personality beyond that and being grabbed by a monkey.
Colonel Davis - The representative of US armed forces in Korea. He's gruff, wants to get the job done, but he also seems to have a good heart, when he's not trying to figure out why he's got to deal with a giant monkey.
Captain Kim - Davis' Korean counterpart, and much calmer, much nicer, and that's probably in part due to his being a family man.
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! I don't often go outside of the US or Europe with my looks at bad movies, but when this one landed on my desk, I knew I had to share it. This week's little messterpiece is A*P*E from South Korea. It is very much King Kong with the serial numbers filed off, but we'll get into that later.
Now, what is an A*P*E you might ask? Well, so did I, and SOMEwhere in the original promotional material, it gets revealed to stand for Attacking Primate...uh...monstEr. Seriously? Seriously guys?? You couldn't have gone with Entity? The E is RIGHT there. This is not hard. Sigh. Bad acronyms aside, let's just get into this...
The movie opens up with a toy boat sailing through the dark seas, and we meet a pair of the sailors manning the ship. And they better be damn good sailors, because their acting is atrocious. I have never seen "Oh shit" said with less emotion than what happens here.
We get told that their precious cargo was gassed and caught in Harlem. So, does that make him a Brooklyn Gorilla? Anyways, he's being transported to Disneyland, and should be out for at least five more days.
So cue the monkey waking up at precisely that moment and sinking the toy boat. Which begs the question... Captured in Harlem. That's New York. Being taken to Disneyland. In California. How in the heck does this boat go down in such a place where the monkey ends up in *Korea*? I know the US educational system is terrible, but even I can figure out that makes no sense on a map.
Also, a giant monkey rampaging through New York City? Yeah, that sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it? I guess beauty did not kill the beast, and he was actually gassed and shipped off while Fay Wray wasn't looking.
But anyways, the monkey escapes, and we get to see a guy in a terrible gorilla costume which I am going to make fun of for the next 90 minutes straight, as it falls apart on him. He splashes about in the water, until a shark comes by, and they fight. This scene was literally thrown in at the last second so they could say something like KING KONG FIGHTS JAWS
And this entire scene is hilarious, because the shark is clearly a rubber toy, so never moves on its own. It's worse than those scenes of someone capturing a flying critter in a bag, and they have to fight themselves for the acting. So you get two minutes of a walking carpet splashing around with a dead fish, trying to look like they're fighting. And I knew in that instant I was in for a ride and a half.
Once the monkey is done playing in the bath with his toys, he finally comes ashore in Korea. He gets caught on a power line, shocking him, and I assume this makes him angry and he goes ape, smashing the nearby facility and catching it on fire. And let me tell you, I don't REALLY know how close the man in the suit is to those flames, but he LOOKS really close, and I am terrified for him, even forty years later.
RIGHT I completely forgot to mention! This movie? Filmed in 3D. So you know what this movie has tons of? Cheap gimmicks of things flying at the camera! The monkey makes sure to swing his hands at the camera during his smashy smashy time, and also flinging exploding barrels of gas right at the camera.
But after all that wonton destruction, we actually have to introduce the boring human characters into the plot. The two main ones are Americans. Reporter Tom Ross, who is stalking the love of his life, actress Marilyn Baker, who is in Korea filming a movie. And we'll get to THAT later.
For the longest time, I was trying to figure out who Marilyn was, and finally the voice clicked for me; that's Joanna Kerns, from Growing Pains fame. The name didn't click, because she was using a different one for this film. And frankly, after being in it, I might change my name too.
The pair drive off and reconnect, as they point out assorted buildings around town to establish that yes, this is in Korea.
But we do get back to the monkey business as the man in the suit looms large over the camera elsewhere, and a farmer discovers gigantic footprints. All this commotion finally summons Captain Kim from his home to look into it and organise the Korean military response. He doesn't quite believe it yet, which is reasonable.
A military vehicle comes upon the facility from earlier, I presume...a scene of some of the monkey's destruction at least, and the soldier crashes into a very obvious pole he should have been able to avoid...but they wanted to make the cheapest 3D gimmick of all with it coming right at the camera through the window.
Which is what brings in the US military, as lead by Colonel Davis. He yells at someone over the phone, and I believe its Captain Kim, and...the way he stammers, the way he fumbles around, I swear he's improvising. But the Colonel is even less convinced than Kim, because he sees the paper talking about Marilyn's movie and assumes its a publicity stunt.
Meanwhile, the monkey shines continue at a playground called Familyland. Let me tell you, it is a far cry from the happiest place on Earth.
The movie torments us with making us watch the kids come running aaaaaall the way down a street to the playground. And this is not the first scene of running. Nor is it the last. So much running.
So the kids break in and play around while Grape Ape watches them. And somehow, the approach and arrival of a monkey three dozen feet tall does not catch ANYone's notice. But finally someone does and MORE RUNNING!
Davis gets another call and actually says, "if you should bump into him, ask him if his name is King Kong!" Maybe we should not highlight the impending lawsuit quite so boldly? Also he says, "Have any of OUR people seen this supposed monster??" Oh, so it's only real when an American sees it, gotcha.
But we get more jumping monkey time, as he comes across a giant snake! He grabs it, flings it, and I shit you not, takes out the camera with it. It's wonderful.
After snake tossing, the monkey runs into some guys doing some martial arts work, which I think is another movie being filmed. But it gives us more 3Dery as they whish their weapons by the camera. I'll admit, the guy doing a jump kick at the camera is kinda great.
This also starts doing something the movie comes back to a few times; using the same shot over and over again. In fairness, it's a good way to pad out the action, with more events, and also saves money with footage you've already shot.
Once they see the monkey, they grab a bunch of flaming arrows and fire away at the poor guy. He just wants to get home!
And I wish there were better shots of the flames it briefly has, but oh well. Ahem, anyways... The monkey moves on and steps over a VERY TOY COW and that's when a guy in a hang glider finds him. Well, a toy of the guy is guided in on wires.
The A*PE* bounces the guy around a few times and lets him go, because if you love something, you must set it free.
And the monkey is so gods damned pleased with himself, so happy at the flying man, he starts clapping. HE STARTS DANCING. This movie has everything, from snakes hitting cameras, to dancing giant monkeys.
Kim and Davis hold a meeting with the press, and Tom is there, naturally. They urge people to stay calm, they're working on the problem, etc etc. Tom meets with Kim afterwards about going on a recon patrol with him later, to further the plot along.
We're stuck in the plots of the humans for a bit, as Tom heads to the film studio to remind us that there's a blonde woman in this monkey movie too. And oh, the movie she's filming is being directed by someone named "Dino". Guess who directed the '76 King Kong movie? Dino DeLaurentis. This movie's tongue is planted so far in its cheek, it is licking its own ear.
I'm not going to get bogged down TOO much in the movie within a movie scenes, but there is a moment with her costar, his character tries to assault her, and the director tries to tell him to 'rape her gently' and sweet Christmas, that is such a horrifying phrase. And I am sure some director has actually used it.
Finally, things have gone on long enough, and Davis orders an evacuation of everywhere north of Seoul. Loudspeakers command people to move in an orderly fashion...over scenes of panicked running. As always happens.
Kim and Rose arrive on the scene of the latest sighting, but the monkey is long gone. Still, they're getting close, and thank gods. There's only so much random destruction and running I can take.
So the monkey finally arrives near the location Marilyn is shooting at, and notices her. Because what's a King Kong knock off without stealing an actress from her movie?
I wonder, does the monkey fixate on her just because "Oooh pretty" with a side of shiny red robe catching his attention? Or is there something more to him not understanding acting, and A*P*E sees a screaming, helpless woman on the run, so tries to protect her?
Either way, the giant monkey is probably gonna treat her nicer than her co-star is.
She somehow runs right into his waiting palm withOUT noticing the 30 foot tall monkey attached to it. He scoops her up easily and walks off with the star of the movie.
Kim and Tom arrive just as A*P*E is apesconding with the girl, and they are ordered to follow and keep an eye on him, and the armed forces of both armies are on their way. Finally. But oh, the wrinkle is the higher ups want the monkey alive. You don't argue with the almighty Disney Dollar.
If the running scenes weren't bad enough, now we get a good long series of army vehicles and soldiers marshaling their forces.
As she's carried to the Korean branch of Bronson Cavern, Marilyn figures out he's not hurting her, and finally stops screaming for a moment. And the monkey STARTS TO PURR. He sets her down, and she immediately runs into a cave. Because every damned giant creature movie needs a scene of someone stuck in a crevasse as a giant fake hand gropes for them.
The soldiers finally arrive, and the monkey flails at things that are not there. He does pause long enough from making the original finger guns at the sky when the director reminds the monkey this is a 3D movie, so he can make grabby hands at the camera.
Kim and Tom concoct a plan to get Marilyn to safety when soldiers draw off the monkey, and drop her off at Captain Kim's house, where she'll be safe. Cue up not being safe in 20 minutes...
This is such a long scene of him standing there and flailing. A*P*E's entire plan is to stand there and windmill his arms wildly until he hits something. And it works, sometimes, and is amazing. Like when he swats a helicopter right out of there air. Easily a highlight of the entire movie, and pretty awesome.
In fact, this is really the entirety of the back half, back third of the movie. The monkey stands there and flails around as the army sends endless waves of zerg at him to try and stop him.
Meanwhile, Tom gets Marilyn out of the cave and to temporarily safety, but this is just gonna divert the movie down a plot cul-de-sac that circles us around to the city, where A*P*E finds her, retrieves her, and returns to the countryside where he gets further shot at.
Which isn't to say there aren't good moments as we go around in circles, like when the monkey gets fed up with all the shooting, and Tom stealing Marilyn, so he literally flips off the camera, and another helicopter punch.
Of course, the monkey follows back to the city, so once again we call for an evacuation so surprise! Even more running!
The only upside of A*P*E heading towards Seoul, is that it eventually gives the military the excuse they need to put the monkey down, before he hurts more people.
Also, just to throw in one other really cheap 3D gimmick, the monkey has to smash up a pool game, just so they can have a pool cue moving towards the camera beforehand.
Finally, after a long ten minutes, or at least it feels that long, the monkey finds Marilyn. And she jumps right into his waiting paw. C'mon, lady. The only reason he grabs you again is because you walked into it AGAIN. The limitations of effects, I know...
All of this smashing up of city models is really quite great, but it's just a case of too much of a good thing. We get it, cut this down, cut out the 3D gimmicks, cut out the puppet show (Because now is the time for THAT!) and get on with it!
But finally, the final battle is here, and oh. Oh, SO MUCH MILITARY FOOTAGE. This one scene alone could be a drinking game, not just for every time you see a helicopter, but the SAME helicopter. Or vehicle drive by, or...
Seriously, there's three straight minutes of just vehicles driving by. With a short 30 second in the middle with Colonel Davis declaring we can finally kill the monkey.
But the monkey shows up, the army is ready, and finally all the shooting goes full bore. The monkey realises Marilyn is in danger, so after hiding her up his butt monkey, he sets her down and lets her go.
After all that. Just...you're free! It's the right thing to do, but also makes that circling around to Seoul feel even more pointless.
We spend the next few minutes with an endless stream of more 3D gimmicks as we near the final battle. Guns pointed at the camera and firing, rocks being flung ON WIRES, over and over again, until finally the movie decides to end, and the monkey pukes up blood and dies.
So, after surviving an entire movie of being shot, the monkey dies from...being shot. Really, the movie just decides to end here because it's been going for awhile. It could've ended with a gunshot 40 minutes ago, but it happens hear, because movie
But truly, twas bullets that killed the beast.
And of course, he never hurt anyone until he was being shot at...well, okay, the boat, but he was waking up from being drugged and confused and scared. Poor monkey. Stupid Americans, ruining everything.
Video: It doesn't look half bad, and probably the best it ever will look. I really can't complain.
Audio: Sounds as good as it looks!
Sound Bite: "The Loch Ness monster couldn't make it over the Berlin Wall!"
Body Count: Since this is just a giant monster movie, and not our usual fare, the body count is considerably lower than average.
1 - I suppose the two guys, and the entire crew, on the boat die about three minutes in.
2 - A bunch of people filming a martial arts movie
3 - So so many people must have died in the helicopter crashes
4 - A*P*E finally dies
And finally, many brave cameras gave their lives for this movie.
Best Corpse: When the first camera gets taken out by the snake.
Blood Type - F: The sole blood in this is when monkeyman hurfs some up at the end. And I actually want to take AWAY points for the cheap monkey suit.
Drink Up! every time there's a scene of people running by.
Video Nasties: Enjoy this moment of joy the monkey has as he catches and releases the hang glider man.
Movie Review: It's certainly not a BADLY made movie. It's cheaply made, sure. And the plot drags on. And there are holes big enough for the monkey to walk through. But it's put together well enough, save for messing up the cameras so they didn't film the monkey right, so the scale would look appropriate. But it is pretty corny, clearly trying to cash in, but I'll still give it a three out of five rubber sharks.
Entertainment Value: I love this movie. I LOVE this movie. I have, no lie, watched it no less than six times since getting it earlier this year. Yeah, the acting is hammy, the monkey is fake and silly, but my gods is there ever a lot of heart and charm here. It's that right mix of goofy and genuineness. It shouldn't work, and it probably doesn't but is it ever just a fun, silly treat. There's so many hilarious moments of badness, many that I didn't even mention for a change, and as an alternative to King Kong, I'd almost prefer watching this. It's silly, but fun, and for all my mocking, I really do enjoy this thing. Five out of five dancing monkeys.
Lots of stuff left I didn't talk about, and not just boring human stuff. Lots of 3D gimmicks, monkey action, and fun silliness.
"He was just too big for a small world like ours"