Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century/Yeti – Il gigante del 20° secolo (1977)

Yeti Giant of the 20th Century (1977)‘They’re having lunch with that Yeti.’

A rich industrialist bankrolls an expedition to the frozen wilds of Canada, where they discover a giant yeti frozen in the pack ice. Thawing it out, they put it in a glass box hanging from a helicopter, and bring it back to life. It forms a bond with the tycoon’s grandchildren, but goes on the rampage when they are threatened by rival business interests…

Dino Di Laurentiis’ remake of ‘King Kong’ (1976) was always going to sell tickets, irrespective of the quality of the finished film. The visionary producer was one of the first to realise the potential of the ‘summer blockbuster’ after Steven Spielberg had cleaned up with ‘Jaws’ (1975) a year earlier. To that end, he mounted a publicity and merchandising campaign that was unparalleled for its time, and the hype ensured box office success. Obviously, this did not go unnoticed in other parts of the world, and several filmmakers were quick to ‘pay tribute’ with such similarly themed projects as ‘The Mighty Peking Man’ (1977) from Hong Kong, ‘A*P*E*’ (1976) from South Korea and the ‘comic’ antics of ‘Queen Kong’ (1976) from the UK.

Veteran Italian director Gianfranco Parolini was also quick to rise to the challenge, delivering this effort tied in with the legend of the Abominable Snowman, and persuading old mate Tony Kendall from their ‘Kommissar X’ series to take part. Parolini (under his usual Frank Kramer alias) opens his tale with disgruntled Professor John Stacy being approached by friend and filthy rich capitalist pig Edoardo Faieta with a proposition to mount an expedition to the frozen wastes. The script, which is cheerfully vague throughout, never mentions why or what they might be looking for, but it doesn’t matter as Stacy refuses outright. Only in the next scene he is supervising a gang of flame throwing goons who are toasting a pair of giant hairy feet sticking out of a block of ice. Nice cut, Mr Editor.

This is the giant yeti, of course, who was apparently discovered by Faieta’s young nephew Herbie (Jim Sullivan) in a scene that we don’t get to see. Looking on are his teenage sister (Antonella lnterlenghi) and mysterious, suave and ruggedly handsome company executive Kendall. When old hairy wakes up, he’s naturally a bit unimpressed, what with hanging in a big box from the bottom of a strange, noisy flying machine. The poor guy doesn’t have a lot of cultural reference points, having been frozen millions of years ago in the Himalayas before floating to Canada, thanks to the disintegrating ice floes, which we saw as stock footage beneath the opening credits in a different aspect ratio from the rest of the film.

Yeti Giant of the 20th Century (1977)

Yowsah!

Anyhow, Old Hairy gets all ‘touchy-feely’ once he meets the kids and their dog Lassie. It’s good news for the audience too as he finally stops screaming like a bargain basement Godzilla. Stacy reasons this sudden friendship is because they’re all wearing furry coats (including Lassie). Bravo, Professor! Pick up a Nobel Prize on your way out.

Unfortunately, Faieta exploits the creature’s fame via his new clothing line and various other bits of tat, including ‘Yeti Petrol’. This doesn’t go down well with his business competitors, especially as he rapidly corners the market in tacky t-shirts and monster-themed motor fuel products. So various goons attempt to sabotage the Yeti’s visit to Toronto; framing him for murder and being rather unpleasant to the kids once they tumble to what’s going down. Old Hairy takes exception to this, of course, and much mayhem follows…

Not surprisingly, this is a pretty wretched project. The Yeti is realised by dressing bearded actor Mimmo Crao in an all over furry body suit, and getting him to clamber over a few unconvincing model skyscrapers. Most of the time, though, he’s simply badly superimposed onto other footage, usually not colour corrected. Interactions with other members of the cast are limited to his big, furry hand, and lots of the crowd footage looks sourced from a film library. It’s nice to see Kendall in a different kind of role, but he seems to be just phoning it in, along with the rest of the cast. The only exceptions are Crao and lnterlenghi, who at least seem to be trying (although a little too hard in Crao’s case).

Yeti Giant of the 20th Century (1977)

‘What? The Yeti’s fallen down the well again?’

The film wasn’t a career boost for anyone. Crao never acted again, and it was a decade before Parolini made another movie. Kendall and Stacy never recaptured their 1960s glory days, when Stacy had a role in ‘The Agony and The Ecstasy’ (1965) with Charlton Heston, and Kendall ran around glamorous European capitals with Parolini and a bevy of gorgeous girls, pretending to be James Bond.

Sixteen year old lnterlenghi was making her debut here, and hers was a brief career, remarkable only for a major supporting role in Lucio Fulci’s notorious splatterfest ‘City of the Living Dead’ (1980).

Of course, if you love bad movies, this is well a worth a watch, but it’s one of those films where the laugh-out loud moments decline rapidly due to the endless repetition of the same faults. On the bright side, at least the young Herbie does get a slow-motion ‘lovers’ reunion with a blood-splattered Lassie at the climax.

And ‘The Yeti Song’ is performed by ‘The Yetians’. So there is that.

Time of the Apes (1987)

Time_of_The_Apes_(1987)‘I don’t care!’

A research institute is completely buried when a massive earthquake strikes. A laboratory assistant and two children escape death when they accidentally freeze themselves in cryogenic chambers. They are revived in a world populated by intelligent apes; a world from which the human race seems to have entirely vanished.

This film doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. For a start, our protagonists don’t really seem all that bothered about where they’ve woken up. Are they actually in the future? Or perhaps an alternate reality? Or maybe even on another planet? Who cares? Certainly not little brat Johnny who’s too busy telling us that he doesn’t, and generally being very annoying. They probably do talk it over at some point; only we’re not privy to those discussions. Why not? Because this film is actually cut down from a 13 year old Japanese TV serial called ’Saru No Gududan’ (1974), which roughly translates as ‘Army of the Apes’. That show ran for 26 episodes of half an hour each; a total of over 13 hours. So, a high level of incoherence in a 97 minute version is fairly inevitable.

This is the work of US distributor Sandy Frank, who specialised in taking Japanese product and knocking it into shape for the U.S. market. The original show was probably aimed at children and a fairly shameless rip-off of the TV series ‘Planet of the Apes’ with Roddy McDowall, which would have been running at the same time. In fact, ape politics don’t seem to have moved on at all since the days of Charlton Heston as the intellectual simians behave decently and the military lot are a decidedly dodgy bunch. Chief villain is General Geber (pronounced ’Gaybar’ in the U.S. dub!) who believes humans responsible for the death of his son, until a passing UFO informs him that it was his own fault, after all. Eventually, we discover that the whole mess is down to SkyNet – sorry, UECOM — a malicious super computer built by stupid scientists who ’meddled in things that man must leave alone.’

Time_of_The_Apes_(1987)

Getting the band back together had proved to be a bit of a disappointment…

This is pretty ropey stuf all told. Yes, we’ve lost about 11 and a half hours of the story, but you can’t help but feel that it was probably for the best; even though we’ve sacrificed a lot of logic and sense along the way. The ape makeups aren’t the worst, but certainly not the best, and the plot revolves around the usual captures, escapes, random rescues by UFO, laughable fisticuffs and half-hearted messages about tolerance and brotherhood. Apes in the distant future seem to dress suspiciously like Japanese people from the 1970s as well.

Unusual and disparate story elements combined with such poor execution could have made for a slice of enjoyably hokey entertainment, but the final product is simply rather tedious. There are some laughs to be had along the way, of course, but when the (tiresome) climax eventually arrives it’s quite a relief.

The Mighty Peking Man/Xing xing wang (1977)

Mighty_Peking_Man_(1977)‘Don’t worry, my wife’s a gorilla too!’

Local villagers in a remote region near the Himalayas report sightings of a huge gorilla after it destroys their village. An expedition from Hong Kong sets out to capture the beast but, after one mishap after another, only their leader remains. It looks like he is doomed too until a female Tarzan swings into view…

Absurd and dreadful ‘King Kong’ (1933) rip-off from Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers, who were happier producing Kung Fu movies than monster flicks. Here they are all at sea; attempting a giant ape movie on a wing and a prayer with a handful of small change for a budget. The early scenes set the tone; someone in a joke shop gorilla costume stomping through some badly made models. Villagers flee here and there whilst some of the gorilla footage plays on a big screen behind them in some of the worst process shots I have ever seen.

Our hero Johnnie Feng is played by Danny Lee, who was once touted as a successor to his namesake Bruce. He’s leading the expedition to find the ape because he found his girl in bed with his brother and he’s got a habit of passing out over the bar. Along for the ride is a slimy entrepreneur who sees the ape as his meal ticket and turns out to be a coward when they are attacked by a herd of elephants. This is happening in some other movie of course and the process shots are just as atrocious as they were earlier in the picture.

Skipping swiftly to the romance; Johnnie meets Samantha, the jungle girl and his troubles are forgotten. This blonde Tarzan is played by Evelyne Kraft, a Swiss actress who was born in Russia. She’s fabulous to look at but gives a truly eccentric performance. This could have been because of language barriers or simply because she believed she was playing in a comedy. It is hard to tell but her impression of a crashing aeroplane is truly priceless.

None of his friends had the heart to tell him about his bad breath...

None of his friends had the heart to tell him about his bad breath…

Once the soppy stuff is over, Johnnie re-teams with the entrepreneur (he left you in the jungle to die, Johnnie but forgive and forget, right?) and together they take the big hairy to civilisation where they can exhibit him a cage. Samantha isn’t too keen on the whole idea but goes along with it. It is strange how this happens in just about giant ape movie ever made. And guess what happens next? He gets loose and wreaks havoc. What a shock.

It has to be said that this is both seriously bad and seriously entertaining. Samantha has lippy and mascara in the remote jungle but when they get to civilisation, Johnnie thinks she needs real clothes so buys her a crop top and a short leather skirt (the sexist pig!) The guy in the gorilla suit sits on a model ship in front of a big screen showing library footage of Hong Kong Harbour and later on is chained to toy bulldozers in a football stadium.

Perhaps this is all supposed to be a comedy, perhaps not. One thing’s for sure; it’s impossible to take seriously in any whatsoever and scores points over other ‘Kong’ knock-offs because of it.

So move aside ‘A*P*E*’ (1975) and take a taxi ‘Queen Kong’ (1976); ‘The Mighty Peking Man’ (1977) is coming on through!

Buy ‘The Mighty Peking Man’ here

Queen Kong (1976)

Queen Kong 1976

‘Time flies when you’re having fun, don’t it?’

After her leading man runs away into the jungle, a film director kidnaps a young bloke from London to be her new star. When filming in a remote island paradise, the man becomes the target of the local inhabitants, who think he would be the perfect human sacrifice to their mysterious god…

Writer-Director Frank Agrama, the man behind dire gorefest ‘Dawn of the Mummy’ (1981)) created this supposedly satirical ‘feminist’ version of ‘King Kong’ in response to Italian uber-producer Dino Di Laurentiis’ big budget American remake. Headlining Agrama’s vision are ‘Confessions’ movie series sophisticate Robin Askwith as ‘Ray Fay’ (geddit?) and redhead Rula Lenska, two years before she found stardom in TV’s ‘Rock Follies’.

Fortunately, Di Laurentiis didn’t see the joke (he wasn’t the only one!) and brought a successful court case to ensure that the ‘Queen’ never made it to your local flea pit, and went unseen for many years. This was much appreciated by both Askwith and Lenska, at least according to his memoirs. Apparently, neither of the film’s stars could believe how bad it had turned out.

And bad it is. Very bad. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting a sharp, witty satire on gender politics but this is so infantile it makes ‘Carry On Up The Khyber’ (1965) look like it was scripted by Oscar Wilde. It’s the kind of take on feminism common to blokes in the 1970s who’d grown up watching the Benny Hill Show and thought women’s liberation was a good excuse to see birds taking off their bras. Fwoooarrr!

Queen Kong!

We also get primary school SFX (all papier-mâché and cardboard), dumb spoofs of ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Jaws’ (featuring ‘Lady Jaws’) and a couple of the lamest song and dance numbers in history. It’s a seriously painful experience.

‘God in heaven will these terrors never leave?’ one of the hapless adventurers asks. Only after 76 minutes, dear. Then you can go and have a lie down and just pretend that the whole thing just never happened.

A*P*E (1976)

A*P*E* (1976)‘He was just too big for a small world like ours…’

It’s easy to imagine how this one got sold to the money men. ‘Hey, man, you know Dino Di Laurentiis is doing that big budget remake of ‘King Kong’ over at Paramount? Well, we can do it first. We can film in Korea, use local talent to keep costs down and we can do it in 3-D!’ Huzzah! And so A*P*E (1976) was unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Director Paul Leder was actually a veteran producer and it was his daughter Mimi who was to go on to success in the director’s chair, helming ‘Deep Impact’ (1998) among others. Heroine Joanna Kerns (here making her acting debut as Joanna DeVarona) later went on to be a respected TV director and turned up as Katherine Heigl’s mum in ‘Knocked Up’ (2007).

We open on a toy boat somewhere in a bathtub. Two sailors provide some sketchy exposition before Ape (sorry, A*P*E*) breaks out of the hold and fights a rubber shark. The boat blows up. For some reason. An American movie star arrives to make a film but spends more time enthusiastically tongue wrestling with a reporter. A*P*E* fancies her rotten and stumbles around some model villages. People run away. Random blokes do kung fu so they can thrust pointed implements at the audience (it’s in 3-D remember!) Alex Nicol stands in a room and shouts a lot into a telephone. We see a couple of real cows grazing and then cut to A*P*E* stepping over a couple of tiny model ones. This is called the ‘money shot’ I believe.

Ape Gives the Finger

Please go away, there’s a good chap!

A*P*E* chucks a snake at the screen and it hits the camera. A*P*E* carries our heroine around as if she were a doll (which she does resemble in the long shots surprisingly enough). A*P*E* swats a toy helicopter and gives it the finger. A*P*E* is attacked by the army and retaliates by throwing magic rocks at the audience.

One of these magic rocks gets thrown 3 times over, twice blowing up a toy tank. But the tank is back a few moments later. Under fire, A*P*E* does some kind of strange waving dance. It’s hard to say whether he dies at the end, or if he just kind of falls over and out of the shot.

The SFX are very bad. The music is very annoying. The End.