DVD Review: A*P*E

Bringing with it a new breed of awfulness, A*P*E is a classic example of a knock-off film. It doesn't seem to know what it wants to be, and since it's so pathetic it should be straight camp. At times, it acknowledges this, and other points, it's all played straight. It doesn't matter how the audience takes it as A*P*E is unquestionably awful and possibly the most grating giant monkey "epic" we'll ever see.

Instead of leading audiences onto a mysterious island to find the giant beast, the movie starts with the creature pre-loaded onto a boat. After some excruciatingly bad dialogue, it escapes, blows up the ship for no apparent reason, and fights a shark that never moves on its own (since it's quite obviously pre-killed). Through this, you'll be able to catch a few glimpses of the actor inside the ape suit since the armpits are torn.

All of that happens in the first five minutes, and amazingly, it gets worse. Produced jointly between the US and Korea, this film never should have been green-lighted, even if it was only to capitalize on the big-budget Kong remake the same year. As if a giant monster wasn't enough, the movie was shot in 3-D, and as expected, there are countless shots of items flying by on strings at the camera. Utter hilarity ensues as soldiers approach the camera to fire a gun (at an audience that likely stayed home), smiling the entire time. Not exactly the appropriate action for someone fighting a 30+ foot monkey (then again, maybe they could see the suit on set somewhere).

A*P*E's few moments of camp are funny. The classic clip is the one where he gives the finger to a squad of helicopters. The forgotten one is the sequence where the monster plays with a hang glider and then claps as his new toy disappears onto the horizon. It's unimaginable just what the director, writers, or suit actor was thinking. Most of the movie shows the ape walking around aimlessly, flailing arms at the air, and occasionally pounding on a cheaply constructed building.

This is a bad movie that's hard to recommend even to fans of bad movies. It's dull, boring, and stupid. Any intentional comedy is crammed in between monotonous love stories, pathetic dialogue, and stock footage (the army arriving to finish off A*P*E is a six minute sequence with the same footage but shot from different angles). The actual intended comedy isn't any better. (No stars out of *****)

For an obscure, pathetic, and unfortunately-not-forgotten film, it doesn't look too bad on DVD. It's a widescreen transfer with a fuzzy, almost out of focus quality to it. That's the 3-D process at work when shown without actually using it. The print used is rough, and some sequences, especially the opening attack with the shark and subsequent city devastation, is barely even discernable. Compression is hidden well, and any video problems seem to be more with the print than the DVD master. (***)

Audio is standard mono, which is still more than the movie deserved. It tends to drop out in spots, and worse, it doesn't sync with the actors lips. It's not dubbed (though at times the Korean actor's attempts at English should be), so whatever the problem is, it's annoying. The soundtrack is hard to pick out in heavier action scenes, buried inside muffled explosions. (*)

Unsurprisingly, there are no extras. It's not hard to believe that there was no trailer since none of this footage would have worked from a marketing perspective. (No stars)

Is this the worst giant ape movie you'll ever see? There are plenty of contenders out there, from the abysmal Queen Kong, to the American produced King Kong Lives, and the Tarantino-endorsed Mighty Peking Man. Still, A*P*E overtakes them all with its own special breed of inept cinema that's hard to top.

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