Sunday, September 12, 2021

Is That a Banana in Your Pocket?





Come one, come all! See cardboard buildings demolished with a single swipe! Thrill to a gigantic ape doing an interpretive dance to the soundtrack! Look in awe at cheesy attempts at 3d effects from a film that isn't actually filmed in 3D!  Be astounded by the numbers of fleeing citizens that are able to pack the back end of a pickup or a bus!






A*P*E (1976)

In 1976 one pf the big blockbusters from Hollywood was Dino DeLaurentis' remake of the classic King Kong.  As per usual, there was production of cheesy low-budget knockoffs that attempted to cash in on the blockbuster, and this being no exception, a company in Korea tried to beat DeLaurentis to the punch.  Hence A*P*E.  

A*P*E had all the elements of King Kong (except production values, special effects, good name actors, etc.)  The biggest name on this film was actually Joanna de Verona (who later made her name as Joanna Kerns).  This was her first feature film (and apparently her last).  She must have been so devastated by the film that she transitioned to TV and for most of the rest of her career was only in TV productions.  Her big role was as the mom in the TV series Growing Pains.

A*P*E starts out whiz bang as the title character is already captured and being transported as the show pony (ape) for an attraction in a theme park.  The people on the boat transporting the ape are confident that the drugs used to keep the ape subdued will last for 5 0r 6 days.  (boy are they wrong.)

The ape escapes in the water and does battle with a large shark (a la Jaws) then goes ashore where he begins to demolish every cardboard building in site. The US Army, led by Col. Davis (Alex Nicol) originally doubts the rumors of a giant ape, then dismisses it as being some publicity stunt being done by a local film production company.

The film company is on hand with its current star Marilyn Baker (De Verona/Kerns).  Marilyn's lover, a reporter named Tom Rose (Rod Arrants) is on hand as a romantic interest and the resident hero.  





Eventually both the Americans and the Korean army are convinced that the ape is real and make attempts to try to capture it before it destroys the entire cardboard countryside.



Of course, since this movie is trying to cash in on the blockbuster, the ape eventually finds and falls in love with Marilyn and captures her.  Leaving Tom to try to rescue his enamorata as best he can.

About a third of the movie is watching the guy in the cheap ape suit do some kind of interpretive dance in the wilderness while being attacked by critics in helicopters who think his show ought to be shut down before it makes it through its first run.



Part of the fun in watching the film is looking for the zippers that show up occasionally in the ape suit.  Ed Wood would have been proud of how the production company made use of the films interminable scenes of found footage of Army maneuvers as scenes of the Army trying to move into position to capture/kill the ape.


There seems to be some rumor that the film was originally released in #D, but maybe it was originally intended that way but they ran out of money.  There are several scenes, especially towards the end, where things come at you on screen, Styrofoam  rocks flying at the screen and gun barrels pointed directly at the screen.

The best scene is probably the one many people have seen if they've seen anything from this movie, the ape shoots the finger at the helicopters trying to shut down his one ape dance show.

Well folks that's it for this time.  Drive safely. 


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Joe Bob Briggs and Me

 Been a long time, folks.  This confounded crisis has taken the motivation out of me something fierce.  No, I haven't been sick, not even one day.  That might have given me the inspiration to watch a ton of movies and do reviews.  No, my problem was just an apathy for doing much of anything.  My apologies to those who have been waiting.  I plan to get going again in the next week or so on movies.  But for now I will tantalize you with a book review.

Joe Bob Briggs Goes to the Drive-In (1987) and Joe Bob Briggs Goes Back to the Drive-In (1990):

In 1982, a college friend of mine invited me to move in with him and help deliver The Dallas Times Herald to residents in a small north Texas town.  Delivering a paper a few hours a day was a nice way to earn a living back in those days.  Especially since I was entirely unmotivated to do much of any real strenuous work.

One of the benefits of delivering the paper was there was always an extra copy or two to take home.  I admit I wasn't much interested in the world at that time.  But I did enjoy reading the supplements about culture.  On Fridays the weekend section always had reviews of movies that were currently in release.  And one of the features was a section written by one of the writers, John Bloom.  He adopted a persona named Joe Bob Briggs to write about the drive-in movies of the day.

Drive-ins, in case you are a neophyte to the halcyon days of bygone years, were these monolithic venues that showed movies outdoors.   And the typical fare was not exactly Oscar material.  If you've seen some of my earlier work you know I have addressed some pretty outre movies (such as the one I wrote last year for my 5th anniversary post; Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman  and The Amazing Colossal Man).  

Drive-in movies were pretty much horror, sci-fi, and crime run rampant types of movies.  Joe Bob Briggs would review these movies, giving them a rating of 1 to 4 stars, depending on a number of elements that were present in the movies (naked breasts counts, the amount of blood that flowed, how much kung fu was used, car chases, dead body counts etc.)

The great thing about Joe Bob Briggs' column was also the insight he gave in his own private life.  None of the people were any more real than Joe Bob was (he was all in the mind of his creator, Bloom, after all.)  But the stories were funny in their own way.  You ought to know, however, that Joe Bob Briggs would probably never get in print in today's repressive PC society, however.  He even had his own run-ins with the "high sheriffs" (the editors) even in his own day.  Reading Joe Bob today is still a guilty thrill for those of us who can appreciate his wit, though.

Joe  Bob got into trouble finally with his un-PC attitude when he made some disparaging remarks and got canned at The Dallas Times Herald, but he just went underground.  He continued on as syndicated columnist for several years afterwards and even transitioned to film, hosting a midnight drive-in show on TV where they would air some of those same types of flicks on TNT.  

I used to have a letter that Joe Bob sent to me.  I wrote to him once back in 1983, and he responded with a personal letter. (For all I know it may have been a form letter he sent out to all his correspondents.  I can't remember, and I no longer have the letter; it got lost in all the moves I made over the years.)

Anyway, the two books listed above are a collection of his newspaper columns over the years that he wrote it.  You get some insight into various hangers-on in his world, including his women (Vida Stegall, Cherry Findlay, ) and his buddies (like Chubb Fricke and Rhett ).  Plus a review of a current movie in release that week that was of such quality that it could only been shown at drive-ins.  (Joe Bob called the normal fare "indoor bullstuff", ie your current Oscar eligible movies.)  Nothing at the drive-in would qualify for even being considered Oscar material.  That, of course, didn't deter Joe Bob.  He even created his own award, the Hubbies (a hubcap with the award engraved upon it) for such accomplishments as Best Breasts, Best Kung-Fu etc.

Both of these books are, sadly, out-of-print.  Amazon has copies going for hundreds of dollars each.  They are obviously collectors items.  I happen to have bought both when they were still within my budget (the list price for the first run).  And, no, before you ask, you can't borrow mine.  Although if you happen to be visiting I'm not so anal that I won't let you browse them... 

I appreciate the kinds of movies that were the steak and potatoes of Joe Bob and his regular readers. And when I finally get back to writing this blog I plan on getting back to the drive-in fare for which this blog was originally created.  In the meantime, haunt your local bookstores or more freedom minded libraries to see if you can find these gems.