Ape Week: Saru no Gundan (1974): Japan’s “Planet of the Apes”

There’s nothing in the unhinged plotting of the POTA rip offs reviewed during Ape Week that compares to the 16mm-shot, LSD-induced insanity of this 1974 Japanese TV series, Saru no Gundan (Army of the Apes), produced as result of the massive success of the Apes franchise in the Lands of the Rising Sun. And if it all looks Ultraman familiar, that’s because both series were produced by Tsuburaya Productions—and there’s lots of prop and costume recycling afoot.

Retaining the plotting of the 20th Century Fox films, Army of the Apes follows the adventures of a female scientist with two annoying kids who end up cryogenically frozen (Genesis II, anyone?) and awake in a future where apes rule and they spend the rest of the one season, 26-episode run trying to return home. The only difference from the Fox films is that these apes drive jeeps and wear modern-day military-styled uniforms.

It wasn’t until 1987 that English-speaking audiences got to experience Japan’s POTA contribution—mostly through a 1991-Season 3 spoofing on Mystery Science Theater 3000. That 1987 print came courtesy of prolific U.S television producer Sandy Frank (Lassie, The Lone Ranger, the Japanese anime series Battle of the Planets) who edited the series into a 94-minute feature film known as Time of the Apes, which ran on broadcast and cable outlets (TNT’s Monster Vision shingle) in 1987 and as a VHS issue in 1988.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

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