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Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/28/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/1/2017
As A*P*E opens, a 36-foot gorilla bursts from a cargo ship, fights a dead shark, and then heads for mainland Korea, where it totally wreaks havoc on an industrial area. Meanwhile, actress Marilyn Baker (Joanna DeVarona) arrives in Korea to start shooting a movie. She is met by Tom Rose (Rod Arrants), a reporter and former suitor. The two tour Seoul, as Marilyn prepare for her film. While this is happening, reports of the giant ape begin to reach United States Army Colonel Davis (Alex Nicol), who like to smoke and bark orders. Soon, the military is confronting the beast, who has snuck onto the movie set and kidnapped Marilyn. Will anyone be able to stop the creature and save the girl?
I have reviewed literally thousands (maybe tens of thousands) in my career, but this may be the most difficult review that I've ever had to write. Why? Because I'm so incredibly torn about what to say about this movie. This movie which shouldn't exist, but somehow does and is now demanding our attention.
On the one hand, no one should watch this movie. Released just two months before Dino De Laurentiis' big budget King Kong remake, A*P*E was clearly meant to capitalize on that film's publicity and steal some of its business. (King Kong cost about 10x more than A*P*E.) This U.S.-Korea co-production simply oozes cheap from beginning to end, as we are treated to a movie which fails on every front. The ape suit looks like something which was rented from a costume shop. The special effects aren't very special. There are some shots of the military in the third act which are repeated a few times. The story is non-existent and the plot with Marilyn Baker (Really? Marilyn Baker?) is just an excuse for the monkey to pick her up. This movie scores an F in every category.
And yet, the movie must be seen to be believed. We've all seen movies which are rip-offs of more popular films, but few are like A*P*E. The movie seems to assume that the viewer is familiar with King Kong, so it basically dispenses with any introductory story. As the film opens, the gorilla has already been captured and is aboard the toy boat, and within seconds, he has burst from the ship, which bursts into flames, and the ape is wading through water which is only waist deep. Clearly attempting to also cash in on the popularity of Jaws, the gorilla immediately (and I mean immediately) begins to fight a shark, which appears to be a real shark which is either anesthetized or dead. These two very quick scenes set the tone for what is a truly bizarre movie. The ape then destroys a plant of some sort. From this point on, A*P*E becomes a jumbled mix of scenes with the ape, scenes with Marilyn, and scenes in which Colonel Davis stands behind a desk, alternating between smoking and yelling. Every time that we think that the movie has reached a low point, it goes even further down. When the ape kidnaps Marilyn, it is clearly a baby doll. The Korean actors are obviously speaking phonetic English and most likely have no idea what they are saying. The ape assaults a snake for no apparent reason, damaging the camera in the process. (Why leave this shot in the film? Is this supposed to be a giant snake? Why are there giant snakes?) The second half of the film is just a lot of shots of the ape swatting at helicopters and planes which aren't in the frame, so it looks as if he's doing a weird dance. The finale features some mild gore which feels very out of place here. Along with all of these things, the movie is riddled with technical issues, such as scenes where there suddenly isn't sound or, when there is sound, sound effects which feels inaccurate. (I'm pretty sure that when building are crushed, it doesn't sound like someone breaking crackers.)
A*P*E transcends the typical "so bad it's good" sub-genre and moves into a new place. This is a "you've got to watch it with other people because they won't believe you otherwise" movie. You probably won't even joke MST3K style during the movie, as you'll sit there fascinated by the fact that someone went out and made this on purpose. A*P*E is a fascinating throwback to a time when drive-ins were filled with low-budget knock-offs of more famous movies, but it sets a new standard for a poor substitute.
A*P*E also has a completely pointless marionette show on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Kino Lorber. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the movie is presented in 3D, featuring a 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 23/11 Mbps. The image is fairly sharp and clear, but it does show notable defects from the source materials throughout, such as scratches and we can also see hairs in the gate in multiple shots. Despite all of the other problems with the movie, the 3D effects are actually pretty good. This is old-school 3D where the depth is undeniable and the actors in the foreground are clearly separate from the background. There is some doubling of the image at times, and the "comin' at ya'" effects rarely work, but some shots had that "View Master" 3D look which is still charming after all these years. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. When the audio is working correctly, things sound fine here, but the track actually draws more attention to the audio drop-outs and the awkward dialogue.
The lone extra found on the A*P*E Blu-ray Disc is a trailer for the film. (Which is not in 3D.)
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long