Now, I fully admit shame and lots of it for having actually seen A*P*E in theaters in October 1976 but in my defense it was free (my Dad worked for a movie distributor) and I was only 7 years old. Plus, it was in 3D! And, it had a big gorilla destroying things. So, I wanted to see it.
The cinematic trailer couldn’t be any worse. The editing looks like it was done by an actual ape and the voiceover is beyond embarrassing. Yet, when I saw the commercial I had to be there. A*P*E beckoned. But even at 7 years old and seeing this now, I can’t believe I wanted to see this piece of crap!
A*P*E has to be one of the most shameful ripoffs of all-time in cinematic history. The film was a South Korean/American co-production made for approximately 16 cents. The director was some clown named Paul Leder who co-wrote it with Richard Leder. God, the pride the Leder family must have to this day. Maybe the Leders could explain why A*P*E is supposed to be 36 feet tall yet most of the time he looks like a guy 6 feet tall in a gorilla costume that had seen better days with lots of holes in it and a stained t-shirt clearly visible underneath. Was this a joke? Was it supposed to be funny? Nah-don’t give the Leders too much credit because they deserve absolutely none.
This cinematic disgrace was quickly slapped together to capitalize on Paramount Pictures releasing a new version of King Kong later that year which cost $25 million, a huge sum at the time and just a tad more than the budget for A*P*E which was equal to the price of a Whopper. The morons behind A*P*E initially thought it was clever to call the film The New King Kong and even did so in the first posters that came out for the movie. Paramount would subsequently file a $1.5 million lawsuit and sure enough A*P*E was born! Adding to the humiliation the producers now were forced to use the tagline “Not to be confused with King Kong”, although how anyone not on crack could confuse A*P*E with King Kong remains a mystery.
Oh, I guess you may be wondering what the acronym for A*P*E stands for? Of course it means Attacking Primate MonstEr! Couldn’t find an actual use for the letter E guys? Supposedly, this was also some sort of spoof on the legendary TV show M*A*S*H, but I guess I missed the joke.
We begin when the ship A*P*E is being carried on in the ocean (we do not know how he got there, but does it even matter?) blows up for absolutely no reason although the incomprehensible dialogue spoken by two crew members (we do get to hear one say, “Oh shit!” before the explosion) was reason enough for their death. The “ship” by the way, looks like a toy in a bathtub, and I’m pretty damn sure that’s what it was. A*P*E decides to go for an ocean bath once he is free (and it’s actually the guy in the shitty costume-not a rubber one thus it is falling apart already) and we begin the terror. Oh yeah-believe it or not, A*P*E was headed for Disneyland from Harlem which certainly explains why the ship was in…South Korea!
A*P*E then fights a great white shark, which is as idiotic as it sounds but somehow looks worse when you actually view it. The scene is so cheap, so poorly done and so fake looking it’s actually more insulting than hilarious. The shark is clearly dead but the guy in the gorilla suit throws it around for a few stupifyingly dull minutes and has a drunken good time anyway. You can actually see the costume starting to fall apart in the water.
It’s not just sharks (dead ones at that) that draw the wrath of A*P*E. We see A*P*E throw a snake off a tree for no reason and stare at a cow in an especially riveting scene where the fake cow clearly out-acted our hairy friend.
It’s not all anger with A*P*E. In one mind-boggling scene he plays with a hang glider and claps as the toy disappears into the sky. Were we supposed to cry or laugh? Seriously, you just shake your head and wonder how high anyone involved with this movie was. Nothing makes a damn bit of sense and the ineptitude is mystifying. Yes, it is hilarious and unintentionally so, but damn, it’s soooooo awful it defies logic! And yet, this played in THEATERS! We can also ignore the fact that A*P*E’s size changes randomly throughout as he looks 6 feet tall one scene and then 36 feet tall a few scenes later. His legs in one scene where he is supposed to be giant are actually tree trunks painted. Wow.
A*P*E also dances and later on he even throws up and also crushes a lot of buildings that look an awful lot like models the size of one of A*P*E’s toes. You can also see the “actor’s” t-shirt underneath the costume in the armpits since there are holes in the gorilla outfit. Bad stock footage is used, the dubbing is atrocious, the musical “score” abysmal and the effects laughable in each and every scene. A*P*E throws a ton of styrofoam meant to be giant rocks, and any time people are supposed to be fleeing in terror you can actually see them laughing as A*P*E chases after them. I guess the local Koreans who were the extras couldn’t contain their laughter-even on screen.
And what of the 3D effects? Holy crap-they’re an insult even in 1/2 D. Strings can be seen pulling things on screen and when A*P*E interrupts an ineptly made martial arts film being shot for no reason the cast members simply respond by picking up flaming spears to shoot at A*P*E and you can actually see them looking at the real director where to aim at. They clearly got the wrong information as it looks comical at best-but you just know it wasn’t supposed to be funny even in 3-D.
Joanna Kearns of TV’s Growing Pains fame was actually in this mess and somehow got work afterwards. Must not have listed being in A*P*E on the ‘ol resume. Joanna (who was listed as Joanna DeVerona in the film’s credits) became A*P*E’s love interest ripping off King Kong even further. Hey-can’t blame A*P*E for falling in love. And after all, he was just a misunderstood 36 foot gorilla (or 6 foot guy in cheap-ass smelly costume) in a crazy, mixed-up place he never asked to be in (like this movie). Kearns also gets to take part in one of the more icky and awkward on-screen kisses ever with a creepy dude with 70’s sideburns. She’d have been better off smooching with A*P*E trust me.
Of course the military comes in to kick some ass at the end with lots of toy tanks and firecrackers. This really looks like something a kid made in his backyard!
The audience gets treated to a solid 5 minutes of stock footage, and it’s basically the same scenes over and over again from different angles-all of them bad. The evil Colonel overseeing the attack on A*P*E gleefully shouts, “Let’s see
him dance for his organ grinder now!”. That is priceless dialogue my friends.
In the end, A*P*E fights off the tanks and the helicopters swatting away at them (most likely it was a few bees nearby) and you feel bad for only one person-yourself. A*P*E is wounded and his fate becomes inevitable particualrily when he has bleeding A*P*E boobs.
A line towards the end is a real tear-jerker when said of the slain A*P*E, “He was just too big for a small world like ours!” Poetry my friends. It really does make you think.
Having recently watched A*P*E on DVD this summer for the first time in over 30 years (Image Entertainment-thank you for letting me relive this wretched crapfest after all these years) with one of my best friends I felt guilty for making her watch it but then I realized I haven’t shown ENOUGH people this simian cinematic turd. It is now my goal to spread the word of A*P*E to every friend I can. Well, maybe not everyone, but getting hammered and watching it again with a few more people is in the future. Sure, it’s unwatchable and at times so bad it’s more painful than a rectal exam, but the laughs are worth it to a degree. Watching it alone would be much tougher however.
When A*P*E gives the finger to the attacking helicopters-but is actually staring at the viewers-it makes me wonder if A*P*E was actually giving all of us the middle finger for having contributed to society’s decay by watching the movie. It hurts to think A*P*E would treat me in such a demeaning way though. Shame on you A*P*E, shame. I deserved better.
1. A*P*E is supposed to be 36 feet tall. That’s one more foot than than the shark in Great White!
2. I wish I was making this up, but the film is also known in some places as Attack Of The Giant Horny Gorilla.
3. Joann DeVerona indeed went on to star as the Mom on ABC’s hit show Growing Pains by which point she was Joanna Kearns. Call A*P*E her growing pains.
A*P*E (1976) ranking- 4 beagles out of 4 for awfulness
Q: Should you see A*P*E?
A: Hell yes-you will go bananas!