You have to have a real love affair with bad films to intentionally set out to make one. I think almost every person that gets behind the lens of a camera genuinely wants to make something of a respectable quality that’s worthwhile and has some sort of merit. But of course, there are always the eccentrics out there that go against the grain, and I’m pretty confident that Keith J. Crocker is among that group. There is absolutely no indication tucked away anywhere in the 77 minute runtime of The Bloody Ape that it was ever intended to be anything but a piece of shit, and in that respect, it’s a complete success!
Lampini is a successful carnival barker who makes most of his money through shows with his 400 pound gorilla Gorto. His personal life however isn’t moving along as swimmingly, as a local mechanic screws his car up worse than it was when he brought it in and still charges him an outrageous price, a greedy Rabbi tries to sell him cheap knock-off jewelry, and when he finally does get a decent engagement ring, his girlfriend Ginger shoots the idea of marriage down and walks out on him.
Now full of despair, Lampini turns his anger towards Gorto, taunting him with food and starving him. When he sees the rage Gorto flies into when he smells bananas after being deprived of them, he cooks up a grand scheme to get back at those that have done him wrong. He sends them bushels of bananas and banana-scented soap and sets Gorto loose on the streets of Long Island. With an angry 400 pound Gorilla running the streets though, things get way out of hand real quick.
I really should get one thing out of the way first if you didn't grasp it from my opening paragraph: The Bloody Ape sucks. It looks like shit, sounds like shit, and is overall one of the most unpolished turds I’ve seen in a very long time. But just because something is pure garbage doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining. Regardless of how inept you may think the film is, Crocker and all those involved have recreated nearly every shoddy element I’ve ever seen in underground cinema so flawlessly that there has to be some demented, twisted genius at work somewhere. Unlike a lot of filmmakers out there these days that preach from the mountain-tops to anyone that will listen about their love for grindhouse cinema yet put out films that show they don’t fully understand the sources they’re using for plunder, it’s pretty apparent that everyone that had their hands in The Bloody Ape certainly do “get it”. They don’t just pluck out the good elements and build something around it; no, they take the warts and all, and it makes for an experience that is just about as authentic as you can ask for.
The film is full of unintentional (or intentional, since I’m fairly certain all of this stuff is premeditated) laughs throughout. One of my favorite would be the wonky timeline the flick seems to have. Early on, one of the characters mentions that things are taking place in the 70’s. Surprisingly, things are pulled off pretty precisely for the most part, as many of the cars you see in the background and such look the part. But then there’s the finale, which takes place in a video store. I’m not 100% certain, but I don’t think mom-and-pop rental stores like the one here were around before the 80’s, but I could be wrong. If I am wrong, it doesn’t matter: the Mortal Kombat arcade cabinet tucked into the corner of the shop throws all illusions of the 70’s right out the window. There are a handful of other inconsistencies like this throughout the flick, and if you’ve seen this style of film before, you can vouch that hilarious occurrences like this are commonplace, so again, the film has a firm grip on recreating the ineptitude of early STV cinema.
Now, if you do enjoy bad cinema and all of this sounds appealing to you, there’s one more hurdle you’ll have to jump before you jump head-first into this dumpster. If you’re sensitive about racial stereotypes, avoid The Bloody Ape at all costs; this flick is unabashedly racist, and it’s utterly unapologetic about it too. To be fair though, none of it is done mean-spiritedly, and like everything else contained within, it’s all really tongue-in-cheek. But I’m not oblivious to the fact that some may be highly offended by some of the content. For me though, the politically incorrect portions of the film garnered the biggest laughs. Sure it’s below the belt and catering to the lowest common denominator, but seeing the police chief surmise that the killer must be a black dude after everyone is sending in descriptions of the assailant being “large, dark, and fast” is just plain fucking funny. Some of the racially-oriented gags are tired (like playing the “good cop” by offering a black suspect watermelon), but overall I found much of it to be playfully harmless. If anything, it makes the cops look like the jackasses.
Keeping things as authentic as possible does have its pitfalls though. Until the ape gets loose at around the 30 minute mark, the film is painfully dull and boring. The lack of good editing, a trademark of trash cinema, is in full force here, but there really should be a limit to how deep you want to go in recreating these types of experiences. Is it really that wise to bore your audience, even if everyone else is doing it? The sound design is also atrocious, with more than a handful of dialogue being nearly inaudible, and there are almost no sound effects to speak of. While the hapless victims are being raped or mauled onscreen by the beast, we just get some lame music played over top of it with no growls, screams, or anything of the sort. It reminds me of shit porno’s where music is played over top of the sex and there’s no naturalistic sound. The acting is of a quality that should definitely be expected (i.e., terrible), the girls look trashy and not very hot (keepin’ it real again!), the make-up and fake beard department appears to have been made up of 5 year olds, and the ape suit is less convincing than those found in the 30’s Tarzan flicks. Hell, the guy hardly ever attempts to even mimic the walk of a gorilla and just prances around like a dude wearing a costume. But with all of the other slapdash facets of the film, why even try to make this aspect any different?
I wouldn’t recommend The Bloody Ape to just anyone; hell, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone whom I wouldn’t want thinking I was a classless maniac. But if you get a kick out of truly bad films, odds are you’ll enjoy The Bloody Ape. It’s handled with a care that’s hard to deny if you’ve experienced bottom-of-the-barrel movies from the early-to-mid 80’s that had awesome covers but were then shocked when you got them home and stuck them in the VCR only to find out they looked like they had been shot for $10 in someone’s backyard. Everyone involved in this clearly has a penchant for that sort of Z-grade cinema, and it’s all put together with an obviously loving eye. But it still sucks.
The Bloody Ape sees release on DVD courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing, and as stunning as it may sound, gets an all-star treatment. The film is presented in its original full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and looks like crap (intentionally). It’s shot on Super-8, and is full of burns, hairs, scratches, grain, and every other thing you can think of to mire the look of the film and make it look as grimy as possible. Amidst all of this, I really didn’t notice any artifacting, which is a pleasant surprise. The mono audio does its job, and the portions of dialogue that are hard to make out is more thanks to the way the film was done than the Dolby track itself.
The main extra is a 23-minute making of documentary entitled “Grindhouse Gorilla”, which includes interviews with the cast and crew of the film. Crocker touches on the controversy of people feeling the film is racist, which I can certainly understand, but he pretty much confirms the feelings I got while watching the flick: the main intent was to show how absurd some racists really are and to make the cops come off as idiots. He also goes into some bizarre anecdote about the film really being about a breakdown in communication…yeah, whatever. The gorilla gets some interview time too, which is pretty damn amusing. Also included is a short film directed by Crocker called “One Grave Too Many”, which runs just over 6 minutes, and is a fun little take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Body Snatcher. Rounding out the release is feature commentary from the cast & crew, a trailer for the film, and a ton of various stills and artwork from the flick.
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