The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: A*P*E (1976)

Paul Leder

Joanna Kerns - Marilyn Baker
Rod Arrants - Tom Rose
Alex Nicol - Col. Davis
Nak-hun Lee - Capt. Kim
Yeon-jeong Woo - Mrs. Kim
Jerry Harke - Lt. Smith
Paul Leder - Dino

Genre - Horror/B-Movie/Science Fiction/Monster Movie/Bad Animals

Running Time - 87 Minutes

On a trip to Disneyland, a 36-foot ape breaks out of a shipping boat, causing it to explode. After a fight with a shark, the giant ape decides to head into South Korea, destroying stuff in sight. When he falls for an American actress named Marilyn (Joanna Kerns), who is filming a film there, he kidnaps her. This, plus the city damage, has the army going after the ape, hoping to stop it before it causes any more chaos.

I swear I've seen something like this before...

I have three words for A*P*E:


Thanks to a friend on Facebook who had talked about this film, I would have never known the existence of A*P*E - a South Korean and American production that was made and released around the same time Dino De Laurentiis had produced and released his remake of KING KONG in 1976. It's pretty much the same film as KING KONG. It has a giant ape. It has the ape destroying a city. It has the ape kidnapping a blonde beauty. And it has the ape being attacked by the local military. The only thing A*P*E doesn't have is any class, any dignity, or any substance that KING KONG has. But I can't say that I didn't have a ball with this stupid movie, even if it is a large piece of monkey crap.

Screenplay - I don't even know why I'm bothering with this aspect of the story. A*P*E is nothing but a cheap rip-off of the KING KONG story, just with a poorer narrative, direction, and acting.

You'll care nothing about the characters in the story, as they're all bland and one-dimensional. Marilyn is an actress who seems to love enjoying dramatizing attempted rape in grungy set locations. She's in some sort of relationship with some journalist named Tom, who left America for an assignment in South Korea just to be near her, even though she told him she needed space. Tom constantly tries to grope Marilyn, taking kisses every chance he gets while subtly implying he wants to bang her. Marilyn quietly pushes him away, saying she needs time to figure things out as she can't balance her career with her feelings for Tom. I've seen things like this on the Investigation Discovery channel, so hopefully this will have a better ending.

The Colonel character was pretty funny though, as he was a skeptic for the beginning of the film, making light of the entire situation. Then when he realized it was really happening, he had some great one-liners and facial expressions. Too bad he wasn't in the film more.

As for the ape himself, what can I say? He loves to smash things. He loves to play with things. He loves to kidnap future TV moms. And he enjoys flipping the bird at the military. Talk about character development!

The dialogue is pretty atrocious, and the journey from start to finish is very by-the-numbers. Also, the film starts with the giant ape already captured and headed to Disneyland [really??], so you have no idea what the backstory to this ape is or how they even captured him. It all just feels really random, with nothing really clicking seriously. It's amusing for an unintentional laugh, but only when the ape is onscreen really. Say what you want about that 1976 KING KONG remake. At least that film is competent. A*P*E is anything but.

Direction - Paul Leder, father of DEEP IMPACT director Mimi Leder, doesn't do much visually as a director. It's pretty much a point and shoot affair, with the use of mini set pieces in order to make the ape larger than he actually is. We get a fake giant ape hand from time to time. We obviously see objects fly towards screen being pulled on a string. Did I mention this film was made for 3D? Even in 2D, I could tell this film would have been an ultimate fail in another dimension. The sound editing is also pretty odd, with dubbing being awkward and noises not sounding consistent from one scene to the next within the same area. There's nothing really special about the look of A*P*E at all. No style, no great picture quality, and nothing visually worth talking about.

Acting - The actors are decent in their roles, I guess. Joanna Kerns, best known as the mom on Growing Pains, plays the actress Marilyn. She's a good screamer and is a pretty woman. But other than that, it's not hard to see why she went to TV acting rather than stay in film. Rod Arrants lets his 70s Lothario look do most of the talking for him, but he was okay as the "hero" Tom. Alex Nicol is kind of charming as Col. Davis, pretty much providing more life than all the other human actors combined. And the dude who played the title character seemed to be having fun acting stupid in costume. It's unfortunate he wasn't at all convincing as an actual gorilla.

VIOLENCE - A*P*E has moments of violence in it. The ape destroys cities. There's a fake gorilla vs. a dead shark battle in the water, which won't make ZOMBI 2 shake in its boots anytime soon. The ape throws rocks and other things at the military. Flaming arrows and bullets are sent towards the ape. Plus, there's that fake rape scene on a movie shoot. Even though there's some blood, I've seen more violent films than this.

SEX - Besides some implications, A*P*E is fairly tame. No nudity. No sex. Unless you count a hand glider bouncing on an ape's hand sexually stimulating, you're better off sticking to your porn.

CHEESE FACTOR - I'm not sure whether A*P*E is intentionally, or unintentionally, cheesy. But regardless, it manages to make me laugh at how ridiculous the premise is. A director is named "Dino" - making fun of producer Dino De Laurentiis. There are nods to the original PLANET OF THE APES. The acting is so wooden, it's laughable. Where else will you see "King Kong" fight "Jaws"? Foam rocks and arrows traveling on strings? Why not? Joanna Kerns seductively pleading with the ape to be gentle with her probably gave Alan Thicke a chubby. And an ape who gives the middle finger to the camera in probably the most famous moment of this film raises the cheese factor quite a bit. It's definitely a cheesy film for majority of the film, due to how awful it is.


- The giant ape fought a dead shark in the water. It must've wanted to take the primate home and eat its pussy.

- "I'm a reporter, not Charlton Heston!" Judging at how Tom is striking out with Marilyn by not being able to part her Red Sea to shoot his gun inside, I can't help but agree.

- A bunch of children break into a closed amusement park called Family Land. That's messed up. It's definitely no Neverland Ranch, which I heard was open morning, noon, and night - especially for young kids. Jesus Juice, anyone?

- Marilyn had to film a "gentle" rape scene on a sleazy movie set. Man, this original version of THE ACCUSED didn't have much going for it, huh? No Oscar for you, Marilyn. I guess that's them Growing Pains...

- Marilyn wanted the big ape to be gentle with her. Surprising, since she TV married a dude who's last name is Thicke...

A*P*E is something else. It's so ridiculously bad, you'd think a film studio accidentally greenlit a Saturday Night Live skit to be feature length. Bland and/or wooden acting. Boring direction. A title character who's obviously a man in a broken down gorilla suit [which is quite hilarious for all the wrong reasons]. But it does have moments that will make you laugh for how ridiculous it all is. And I was never really bored, so it has that going for it. I would recommend this film just so people can see how stupid and awful it is. But if really bad trash isn't your thing, then A*P*E is not a film worth going bananas over.

0.5 Howls Outta 4

Moronic Mark's "Satan Screener" for A*P*E


  1. Wonderful review about an adorably bad wtf-flick. There's a guy in the beginning saying "You gotta be bullshitting me" - basically my reaction to almost everything in trashfest :-D

    Highly recommended: "Queen Kong". Even more bonkers than A*P*E

    1. Oh man, those two guys in the beginning were TERRIBLE. I couldn't help but laugh at their stiff, monotone delivery. This film was just on its own plane of existence.

      QUEEN KONG, huh? I guess I'll put that on my radar now. If it's more bonkers than this film, my head will probably explode.

      Thanks for the comment, bud! :)


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