I had seen 'A*P*E' on VHS years ago, and loved it immediately. Fortunately, it is now available on DVD, and it is still as rancid as ever. Filled with atrocious acting, horrible dialogue, the, without question, lamest ape costume ever, and bizarre time consuming subplots, what more could a lover of Grade Z cinema want?
'A*P*E' (I don't know what the asterisks are for) starts on a boat on which the 36 foot tall monkey is being taken to Disneyland. Contrary to the box art, this boat is not the 'Titanic'. He escapes, and immediately springs into action battling a big rubber shark. During the course of the movie he also does battle with the following: a snake; a student hang glider; a guinea pig (possibly hamster or gerbil) dressed up as a cow; the South Korean army; and some kung fu fighters armed with garden shears. Of course he falls for the only blonde in Korea; a visiting American movie star named 'Marilyn' (Hmmmmmm...), gives her some lustful eye rolls, and pursues her into Seoul. Along the way she talks to him with such amazingly bad lines as "Be gentle, big fella", which makes him positively swoon.
In the opening the producers thank the US Army, but I am thinking that after watching the pathetic "Colonel Davis" attempt to match wits with the monkey, the Army might want to reconsider future support of giant ape films. We do get to see (seemingly) hours of the same stock footage of helicopters, tanks, and soldiers advancing, which yielded an observation about the helicopters. Interspersed with stock footage of real Huey and Cobra helicopters were, of course, the plastic miniatures that A*P*E swatted at. This is probably the worst example of model use ever seen on screen, and I am including Ed Wood's flying saucers from 'Plan 9' here. The strings are clearly visible, and the helicopters apparently do not require their rotors to spin to provide lift during the battle scenes. All of which brings me to my very favorite moment of the film: after downing a helicopter, A*P*E flips the unlucky chopper crew the bird. That is the scene that will stay with me forever from this film, and just by itself makes watching 'A*P*E' worthwhile.
The movie also has lots of other bonuses scattered throughout: nightmare inducing scary Asian puppetry; repetitive Russian dance music playing loudly enough to drown out dialogue during all of Marilyn's acting scenes; revolting make-out scenes between Marilyn and 'Tom Rose' an annoying reporter who is on the spot to cover the A*P*E; and wonderful reaction shots when people stumble into the path of the 36 foot tall monkey without noticing him until they are in his paw (Marilyn specializes in this.) One further cinematic device that the director, Paul Leder, skillfully uses is having the A*P*E dance a free-form, seemingly drug induced dance throughout the entire film, including during the fight scenes. Genius, pure genius.
In summation, this movie is not to be missed by anyone who adores the absolute bottom of the barrel dregs of filmmaking. An anti-masterwork if ever there was one. It would be perfectly suitable for everyone, except for swearing, which earned it a 'PG' rating. And oh, by the way, it is totally unlike that other, better known giant ape movie. That movie was in black and white, this one is in color!
At the conclusion of the film, Tom Rose sums it up (in a very Ed Wood sounding way) thusly: "He was just too big for a small world like ours." Oh, the humanity!