A*P*E* (1976)

I’ve always seen the 1976 Dino De Laurentiis produced King Kong as a big budget rip-off of the original instead of a remake. Therefore, that makes South Korea’s The Great Counterattack of King Kong an inferior copy of a poor copy. Released in the United States as A*P*E*Attack of the Giant Horny Gorilla and Hideous Mutant, this is one schlocky piece of business.

An American/South Korean co-production, this film was intended for a 3D release, as is quite evident when you see the flaming arrows shot at the camera that the big ape cannily dodges against a blue screen. It was released just before the much buzzed about and aforementioned Kong, complete with a poster that trumpeted that this Kong would fight a great white shark, going blockbuster to blockbuster against Jaws. This battle would be foreshadowed (and was probably ripped off from) a 1976 Famous Monsters of Filmland cover.

Honestly, what does Christopher Lee have to say about Star Wars? That seems pretty interesting.

They even teased this movie as being called The New King Kong, which is — to be incredibly colloquial — a true balls move. It’s also legally inadvisable, as RKO sued them into the ground, forcing a name change to Super Ape and finally A*P*E* Attacking Primate MonstEr. Why the acronym? As they were shooting in Korea and M*A*S*H* took place there (and was such a big deal at the time), it just seemed like a funny pun. Yes, a funny pun whose punchline is lost in the mist of time, but a pun nonetheless.

In fact, the lawsuit also forced the producers of this film to state that this movie “was not to be confused with King Kong.” That’s right, please don’t confuse this movie about a giant monkey kidnapping an actress and fighting planes with any other film.

Starring Joanna Kerns, who you may know as Maggie Seaver — mom to the Growing Pains TV family — as Marilyn Baker, A*P*E* wastes no time getting started. An overdubbed ship crew discusses Kong’s attack in Harlem, making it seem that this film is a sequel to either the original or the upcoming remake (legally we must inform you again that this film is not to be confused with King Kong), which makes sense in the former and none at all in the latter. But what do you expect for a film that took two weeks to shoot and had a budget of $23,000?

Here are ten facts that — when essayed in full — point to the ineptitude of this production:

1.Kong changes size and shape throughout the film and never break the illusion that he is but a man in a suit. Where in a great kaiju film you can get past the rubber suit effect, here, they nearly push it into your face like a James Cagney held Public Enemy grapefruit. And seeing as how only $1,200 of the budget was used on the miniature sets, you’ve seen more realistic cityscapes in your average child’s toy room.

2. Kong — almost exclusively — appears in front of a blue screen, often gesturing wildly to the camera. Any time this happened, I would start to yell, “GO GO GO GO GO” like some mid 1980s KLF loving dance troupe. This pro tip — along with a generous amount of the mind altering substance of your choice — will greatly increase your enjoyment of this film.

3. Large numbers of Korean folks are used for the crowd scenes. These big crowds were never instructed as to how they should be feeling, so instead of being frightened, they run with wild abandon, faces full of pure joy.

4. At about an hour into the film, there came a moment where this reviewer lost his mind, laughing until tears came to his eyes. The American leads enjoy what can only be described as a kissing barrage — not even a montage — that challenges all rules of editing, including the 180-degree rules, the axis, when to use a reverse cut and when to use a jump cut. In another film, we could see this as challenging the viewer. Here, let’s call it what it is: an editor with simply no idea what he or she was doing, randomly lying cuts over top of one another, leading to a jarring sense of repetition. It’s as if cut and paste technique master William S. Burroughs was playing his William Tell routine with a pair of scissors here. This is followed with a rotund man luring a nubile Korean lass into his room and rushing here to get naked. She takes off layer after layer of clothing, up until Kong appears in the window, leering as she screams. The effect is not terrifying, particularly if one screams, “WHAT’S UP?” every time Kong appears. Or, “OH, HELLO” ala  Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland.

5. The music consists of one 16 bar section repeated ad nauseum throughout the film. There is no changing in tone or intensity. Just the same music notes, Manos: The Hands of Fate-style, intercut with DA-NA noises and the screams of children. If a hipster anointed artiste made this music, we’d praise it for it’s sparseness and ability to incite ennui. Luckily, we can recognize it here and now for what it is — pure pain. The audio is also so poorly cut that music changes with each visual cut, leading to a jarring back and forth of music cues and dialogue that mysteriously cuts into silence and a mystifying lack of music where they should surely be tones.

6. Do you like watching two men in a fake military office (replete with wood paneling) swear and yell on the telephone? Then you’re gonna love this! “The Korean government gave the order…TO KILL THAT HAIRY SON OF A BITCH!” leads to a new patriotic theme being played over and over and yes, over while we see B roll footage of tanks rolling out from every angle and era of tankery. If you start to feel like they’ve repeated shots here, let me reassure you: several of these shots repeat themselves several times. We cut back to the swearing military man and his way too polite manservant, as they decide to go watch not to be confused with King Kong get killed. Which, of course, leads to another two-minute long montage of tanks and the same shot of a helicopter being shown more than three times.

7. As the military attack continues, the big ape faces the scream and flips them off. But honestly, that just has to be the contempt this entire movie has for you, the audience.

8. This is followed by what can only be described as a metric fuckton of bullets being fired off, each of them loudly played over the same patriotic theme we’ve heard on repeat for the last few minutes. Slowly, proudly, South Korean army men walk to the center of frame, fire their rifle, then are followed by another soldier, then another, as we intercut Ape (yes, that’s his name) swatting away bullets. The same bullet sound effect repeats and repeats and repeats, which had to have been the music inside Charlton Heston’s senile brain by the end of his life.

9. Ape tosses a rock 3D style at the camera not once, not twice, but four times. If you think the filmmakers won’t repeat the exact same shot — as soldiers again slowly make their way toward center frame — you haven’t been paying attention.

10. It all ends with the fakest tank in the history of cinema shooting Ape in the heart, leading to him spitting a comical geister of blood, as if he were a cowhand in a Peckinpah flick, as the swearing General screams, “Let’s see him dance for his organ grinder now!” Ape slowly falls, slowly dying, quite slowly, as the music slows and life slowly leaves his body. Slowly.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch this movie. I am saying that if you do make that life choice, you should do it alone, you should do it in the middle of the night and you should in no way be sober. You know how in a cowboy movie they take a swig of booze before a painful surgery? You would do well to take several swigs before indulging in the cinematic morass that is A*P*E*.

This originally appeared at That’s Not Current. See the original article at http://www.thatsnotcurrent.com/monkey-madness-look-back-ape/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s