Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Time Of The Apes (1974/1987)

Time Of The Apes

Japan 1974/1987 colour

Fullscreen, dubbed into English

Directors Kiyo Sumi Fukazawa, Atsuo Okunaka Writers Sakyo Komatsu, Kouji Tonaka

Cast Reiko Tokunaga (Catherine), Hiroko Saito (Caroline), Masaaki Kaji (Johnny), Hitoshi Omae (Cabinet Minister Bippu)

Time Of The Apes was originally a kid’s TV serial from 1974 that ran for 24 episodes before American distributor Sandy Frank took the shears to it and carved up a ninety minute feature that miraculously seems as long as every one of those 24 episodes.

It opens with two little wholesome tykes, Johnny and Caroline, on their way to visit their kindly Uncle Charlie, a friendly and disturbingly benign scientist, at his laboratory, where his experiments in “cold sleep” involve the freezing and thawing of monkeys, and ultimately human beings. Uncle Charlie’s cute monkeys in cages and on the surgical tables take on a more sinister edge when a volcano erupts, and the children and their chaperone Miss Catherine are forced into freezer pods – only to be thawed out God knows how many hundreds of years later. And the figures doing the unfreezing are not scientists in monkey suits – they’re monkeys in human suits!

The human intruders are considered a threat by the angry Police Chief Gaybar (do you think he might be angry about his name? Hmm….). And so begins an endless chase to Green Mountain and beyond – Gaybar’s police goons versus the humans, with the help of the last human rebel Godo (cue love interest for the teen Miss Catherine) and an overly trusting spider monkey-child in a striped shirt named Pepe. There’s a flying saucer, a talking computer, and a whole planet load of question marks – how? For whom? And ultimately – why, oh Monkey God, why?

Yes, it’s a retarded riff on the entire Planet Of The Apes film series, but with jokestore masks so cheap the mouths barely move, so that the actors have to shake their heads or fists during their dialogue. And what exquisite dialogue! Redubbed in the same hamfisted and blatantly offensive way Sandy Frank Americanized his Gamera the Flying Turtle acquisitions, and with the same obnoxious voices, thus rendereding the child actors even more unbearable. “I don’t want to killed by a monkey!” screams little Johnny – not if I get to you first. It’s like that film Idiocracy, with an emphasis on “idiot” – the 1987 reworking of the 1974 Time Of The Apes. (Andrew Leavold)

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