Try this plot on for size: Gordo, an ape owned by carnival sideshow barker the Great Lampini (Paul Richichi), gets loose and rampages about Long Island, raping and killing and stealing cars (!). Meanwhile, the moronic detective in charge of the murder case dismisses the idea that an ape is the culprit, and casts his racist eye on the unfortunate Duane Jones (Christopher Hoskins, whose character is named after Night of the Living Dead‘s lead).
Though made in 1997, this shot-on-super-8 effort does its level best to come across as the Lost 70s Grindhouse Flick, and it has to be said that it does a pretty credible job in capturing that trash aesthetic. There is also wit on display, most prominently in Lampini’s deliberately overwrought and baroque dialogue. The film does, though, take its time getting to the rampage: nearly half its 77-minute running time has elapsed before the attacks begin. That first thirty minutes consists largely of people arguing, which has varying entertainment value. The gore scenes have a charming DIY feel, but there is a nastiness to the attacks on women that, as with Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69 (director/co-writer Keith Crocker’s other recently released effort), is in some ways more off-putting than those of its inspirations, given how much of the rest of the film works as a goofy comedy.
I have often wrestled with how to give a star rating to an image that cannot be compared, with any sense of fairness, to the usual sort of release. Rarely has that been as big a problem as confronts me here. Yes, the picture is just barely watchable: the colours are washed out, the image is fuzzy and the grain is severe. But the print is Super 8! It couldn’t possibly look any better than it does! So consider this rating little more than a place-marker.
And ditto ditto for the sound. My DVD player interpreted it as stereo, though there is no surround, though I would be utterly astonished if the contrary were the case. Basically, the dialogue is clear enough (just) to be followed, and that’s all the best one can say. But it is also the best one could sanely hope for.
Commentary Track: Crocker reunites with Richichi and co-writer and star George Reis (who played the ape) to reminisce. Entertaining and informative stuff, and it’s impossible not to be charmed by the trio’s enthusiasm.
Making-of Documentary: (23:00) As thorough a look into the making of such a little film as one could possibly want. Talk about keeping the independent spirit of the 70s alive.
One Grave Too Many: (6:07) An early short by Crocker, which, interestingly, actually has a full surround track.
Exploitation Journal Cover Gallery: A slide show of Crocker’s zine.
Pressbook: Which is just as authentically retro as the film itself.
Original VHS Cover.
Trailers for The Bloody Ape and Blitzkrieg.
I have some reservations, but at the same time, this is a pretty impressive labour of seriously warped (and therefore to be applauded) love.