Ape Week: Eva, the Savage Venus (1968): Italy’s “Planet of the Apes”

Hey, wait a minute . . . Jess Franco didn’t make this, R.D. Roberto Mauri made it!

Yeah, yeah . . . slow down ye streamer. Hold off on the emails and comments, we got this. Yes, the above poster is, in fact, a Franco joint: one that aka’d in the drive-in and home video realms as Eve, Eva en la Selva (Eve in the Jungle; that English title was also used), The Face of Eve, and Diana, Daughter of the Wilderness. Need to know more? We’ve since reviewed it as part of our February 2024 “Jess Franco Month” blow out.

“No thanks. Not another Franco patch job. I’m burnt out this month,” you say. Ah, but what about when the chick with that damn apple is played by Celeste Yarnall, she The Velvet Vampire? Uh, huh. Set the rocket in the pocket for launch!

Anyway, back to the actual movie of this review. . . .

Obviously made to rip-off Planet of the Apes, this Italian-Spanish jungle adventure film with science-fiction overtones was directed by Roberto Mauri. Widely known for his knockoffs of proven genres, you’ve seen Mauri’s work on public-domain DVD sets, such as 1962’s Slaughter of the Vampire and 1964’s Curse of the Blood Ghouls (Hammer horrors), 1964’s Three Swords for Rome (Ben-Hur and Spartacus), and Vengeance Is My Forgiveness (Clint Eastwood-spaghetti westerns). Sadly, by 1980, as did most of the older Euro-directors, Mauri’s career degraded into X-rated tripe (and ended his career) with the adult-hardcore action romp, 1980’s The Porno Killers.

Watch the trailer.

Be sure not to confuse this POTA rip off with the Quentin Tarantino-touted The Mighty Peking Man from 1977 (released as part of  his Rolling Thunder Pictures shingle) that, in turn, should not be confused with 1987’s Time of the Apes (a film edit of the 1974 Japanese POTA rip off TV series, Saru no Gundan, aka Army of the Apes), none of which have any connection to Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes or Radio Pictures’ King Kong . . .  or Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan.

Known as Eva, the Wild Woman and Kong Island in other English-speaking parts of the world during its initial release, then as King of Kong Island in 1977 to cash in on the 1976 King Kong remake (and lost 8-minutes of “racier” scenes along the way), there’s no “island” and there’s no “Kong.” There’s not even a planet, a spaceship, or an ancient landmark to berate in frustration.

Instead of galactic time travel, we get an Island of Dr. Moreau-styled mad scientist in Kenya experimenting with radio transmitter brain implants to control a tribe of island-dwelling gorillas, so as to turn them into a take-over-the-world army. As with The Mighty Peking Man—which lends to the plot confusion—the “Eva” of the title helping in the adventure is a loin-clothed, Tarzan-like jungle girl with a pet chimpanzee who can talk with the animals. Of course, all mad scientists are horny, so those dreams of world conquest unravel when he instructs the radio-controlled apes to kidnap his dream girl, the daughter of the owner of a local Nairobi gin-joint (yes, the classic Casablanca is pinched as well). And with that, Rick Blaine, I mean, Burt Dawson (American expatriate actor Brad Harris), an Indian Jones-styled adventurer, comes to the rescue.

The Idaho-born Harris, who worked as a leading man and stunt man in over 110 European films, gained his first taste of American recognition as result of his recurring roles in the ‘80s TV series Dallas and Falcon Crest. War movie aficionados will remember his work alongside Max von Sydow and John Cassavetes in the fondly remembered Brass Target (1978).

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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