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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

DVD Review: The Monster and the Ape

The Monster And The Ape

USA 1945
Director: Howard Bretherton
Writers: Royal K. Cole, Sherman L. Lowe
Starring: Robert Lowery, George Macready, Ralph Morgan, Carole Mathews, Willie Best, Jack Ingram, Anthony Warde, Ted Mapes, Eddie Parker, Stanley Price, Bud Osborne, Ray Corrigan, Charles King, Kenneth MacDonald DVD Released: July 27th 2010
Cert: NR
Running Time: 450 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: N/A
Distributor: Cheezy Flicks Entertainment
Region: 0 NTSC

The Film:

An elderly but bright-eyed, white-haired boffin; Professor Franklin Arnold has created The Metalogen Man - a remote-controlled robot with incredible strength. Ultimately the prof intends to mass produce his creation and thus put an end to manual labour and eventually those pesky pinko commie bastards but before he can even get the ball rolling his colleagues are murdered by an ape. Yes, an ape. A huge gorilla named Thor to be more accurate, trained by evil genius Ernst, who wants the robot for his own nefarious purposes and so promptly steals it. It's up to the prof with the help of Ken Morgan (a bloke that represents the company that helped make the robot) and the prof's daughter Babs to get The Metalogen Man back and save the USA from megalomaniacal Ernst!

When I popped this one in my DVD player I thought; 'great, a nice little short 40's b-movie sci-fi'. Turns out it's actually a 15 chapter, seven and a half hour, 40's movie serial, d'oh! If you're a fan of 40's serials then you'll know what to expect here - it's a Flash Gordon, Superman, [insert random hero] in peril, cliffhanging series of stories. Each chapter lasts about 20-30 minutes and they were shown in movie theatres each week in conjunction with a feature film. For pedants this one happens to be the 26th serial released by Columbia Pictures, so they were pretty much in their groove by this point. Each episode features at least one high-octane fist fight, plus a random action scene, kidnapping or the like. In place of a superhero we have to make do with hard-boiled sales rep (er...yeah I think that's what he is basically) Ken Morgan as he faces off week after week against Ernst's 'evil empire' and his army of three thugs and a trained gorilla named Thor.

Let's face it this is the kind of thing Mystery Science Theater 3000 used to take the piss out of, and indeed I kept expecting Mike Nelson and Tom Servo to pop up in the corner and fire snide remarks at the screen. That's not to say it doesn't have a certain charm, it is fun to watch in small doses. Especially entertaining is the dodgy acting, shoddy sets and the obvious rushed takes where everyone flubs their lines and no-one quite seems to know what the fuck they're doing. Also the quaint outdated science and casual racism makes for interesting viewing; with an African/American janitor named Flash (played by genre stalwart Willie Best) that makes Jar Jar Binks look like a spokesman for the NAACP - "them cops done grillt me like a poke chop" is the kind of guff he's likely to spout plus he has a tendency to call the robot a rabbit, mind you everyone else in the movie calls it a robit so what the hell. And it's always a good laugh waiting to see how they will attempt to dispatch Ken in the final moments of each chapter; he's electrocuted, goes over a cliff in his car, rolled into a furnace, blown up, squashed by a boulder, thrown into a fiery pit, squished between moving walls, blown up again, drowned, electrocuted again, involved in a fatal car crash, involved in a fatal plane crash and my personal favourite; shot by a gorilla with a handgun. So given the relatively tight time frame of the whole series it's basically like a 1940's version of 24 only with a slightly more believable plot line.

Oh and the robit's crap, it's got a face like a constipated Grace Jones impersonator.

The Disc:

The transfer actually looks pretty good given it's age. It's somewhat soft and suffers most during the night scenes. Print damage and the like varies from episode to episode with only a couple being noticeably poor quality. The audio suffers from occasional hiss/crackle but not distractingly bad.

Extras are limited to a few trailers for other Cheezy Flicks DVD releases such as similar 1940's movie serials; G-Men Vs The Black Dragon, King Of The Rocketmen and Zombies Of The Stratosphere - please have mercy and don't send them to me to review, thanks! ;^)

Review by Giuseppe Rijitano

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