A*P*E (1976)



Notes: Jack H. Harris Presents, Worldwide Entertainment Corp., 86 minutes.

Tom Rose: Rod Arrants
Marilyn Baker: Joanna de Varona (Joanna Kerns)
Captain Kim: Nak-hun Lee
Colonel Davis: Alex Nicol
Mrs. Kim: Yoin Jang Woo
Dino: Paul Leder

Directed: Paul Leder
Screenplay & Story: Paul Leder and Reuben Leder
Produced: K.M. Yeung and Paul Leder

Summary: Two sailors discuss a 36′-tall ape caught and now being transported below on ship. To one, it seems “almost a shame” to place a “beast in captivity” and “on display for everybody to gawk at.” A giant ape hand busts through the deck. A sailor exclaims, “Oh, shit” (and he won’t be the last to utter this mantra). The ship explodes. The giant ape battles a disproportionally large shark, in the end tearing open its jaws. The ape destroys a coastal town in South Korea, creating more fires and forcing Koreans to flee.

Tom Rose, leisure-suited ace reporter, meets at the airport the most famous actress in the world, Marilyn Baker. She is slightly standoffish despite his protestations of true love. She’s also not impressed with his transportation: a taxi. “I’m a reporter, not Charleton Heston.” He drops her off at the Koreana Hotel until dinner.

A Korean farmer spots gigantic tracks. Disbelief and destruction alternate, including another “Oh, shit” from the military. At Familyland, a bunch of kids break in and, instead of trying to get some of the cooler rides to work, they storm the cheesy playground. One kid happens to notice the 36-foot ape standing right there, and a panic drives the brats away screaming.

Back at military headquarters, Colonel Davis asks on the phone, “Have any of our people seen anything?” “Ask him if his name is King Kong.” “I’ve seen these people’s parades. They’re great with masks and costumes.” The ape fights a disproportionally large snake, and seems enchanted by a hang glider.

Marilyn’s debut Korean filming features a supposed rape scene which begins with a fellow diagnosing her as a slut, bitch, and whore. During a break she gets kissy with Tom.

“How many dead? Jesus Christ!” The military declares an evacuation of the villages and countryside. Everyone should gather in one ape-vulnerable spot where there’s lots of buildings to crush onto their heads: Seoul. The ape catches a glimpse of the filming — a terror scene, directed by “Dino” — and during the second take Marilyn runs into the mouldy hand of the ape accidentally. She screams a lot as the ape takes her into the mountains. Orders to Colonel Davis are to take the ape alive. Marilyn asks, “My God, what’s happening. Be gentle, big fella.” She escapes into a cave, and while the ape must swat at helicopters, Tom runs in (seeming shouting for “Ellen”) and rescues Marilyn. The ape destroys a second helicopter and flips it (or the camera) off.

The wind ruins attempts to gas the creature, and it follows the others to Seoul. Marilyn whimpers, “When he held me” there was “something oddly appealing.” Word from on high to the Colonel is that they “still want to take him alive”; and Colonel Davis thinks that considering the ape as a “scientific phenomenon” is “Bullshit!” Tom frets insincerely about “putting him on display like some sort of — ” “Like some sort of freak,” supplies Marilyn. They talk obliquely of marriage.

The ape observes a masher and a girl in a hotel room. Loudspeaker warnings insist: “Do not bring valuables; they will only slow you down.” The ape smashes some buildings slowly, totally wrecking a pool game going on at mid-morning on the fourth floor of a building. Mrs. Kim keeps her two brats in hysterics with her limited marionette skills. As noise suggests the ape getting closer, Marilyn lends a hand with the puppetry. Eventually, they all flee to other rooms, and the ape’s arm smashes through the roof. He takes Marilyn. Fires have broken out, and firemen ride along in their trucks. The Colonel finally receives “oders to kill that hairy son of a bitch.”

The ape heads for the mountains again, this time with tanks in pursuit. Korean and American military units fire at the ape despite Marilyn being in his hand. When he puts her down, the intense shooting creates a fog. Marilyn and Tom run away again, while the ape throws boulders at the soldiers and tanks. He creates an avalanche. But eventually blood pours out of the ape’s mouth. “Let’s see him dance for his organ-grinder now,” remarks the Colonel. Tom repeats, “It’s over. It’s over.” The ape dies slowly. “Oh Tom, why, why?” bleats Marilyn. “He’s just too big for a small world like ours.”

Commentary: Awareness of another “Dino” director and the bigger remake of King Kong in the mid-’70s, plus the asterisks in the title signalling nothing in particular about M*A*S*H except the Korean setting, strangle the campy potential of this film with attempts at snarkiness and irony.

Ape Films