That which is not timeless is Time of the Apes, an American re-edit of a Japanese TV show based on an American series of films based on a French novel. While, I'll admit, that sounds like the kind of sentence I'd make up, there is no such malicious mislead in my intent. That's the Truth, True believers. Back in 1968 the long planned film version of Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel PlanŔte des Singes finally made it to the screen as Planet of the Apes. It was followed by four sequels between 1970 and 1973, two Television Shows between 1974 and 1975 and a "reimagining" in 2001. But way out across the Pacific, 1974 also saw the making of a Japanese Television series known as Saru no Gundan, or "Army of the Apes". This "SF Drama" ran for 26 episodes, twice as many as either Planet of the Apes TV show and it sucked.
Then, years later came the year of 1987 in which Sandy Frank, the man responsible for bringing Gammera and Star Force: Fugitive Alien II to the USA, had the twenty-six low quality 30 minute episodes whittled and condensed into a disjointed and inane 97 minute feature that sucks.
But hey, it's for kids, right? Yeah... I know, I used to watch Shazam! Still... this show is pretty boilin' bad. It's almost as well dubbed as a bad Italian horror movie, it's got makeup that looks less like the award-winning work of Planet of the Apes and a bit more like the boredom-inspiring joke of Nightmare City, it's packed with things that have been done to death, warmed over, then done again and it sucks.
The Plot plops and plods from it's opening in which two obnoxious kids Caroline (originally named Yurika Sakaki and played by Hiroko Saito) and Johnny (originally named Jir˘ Sakaki and played by Masaaki Kaji) are given the two cent tour of their obnoxious uncle's sterile science lab by the overacting Kazuko "Catherine" Izumi (Reiko Tokunaga, not particularly obnoxious).
Suddenly, like a midnight phone call from a drunk Ex-Girlfriend, a freak Earthquake starts everybody doing the twist. Naturally Catherine does what any sane person would do... she hides herself and the kids in cryogenic freezing chambers. That sucks. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the future, Rudy, the Obnoxinator and the Dark Lord of the Cath pop out into a crappy new era where Apes have evolved from Men. Things now suck even worse.
Luckily the new trio comes across first a sympathetic girl ape named (in both versions) Pepe (Kazue Takita) and then a mountain man so hairy that Catherine has to ask him if he's human. He is human, all right. He's G˘do, he's played by Tetsuya Ushio and he's been alone for a long, long time. He doesn't have quite the reaction I expect I would when seeing a woman for the first time.
Time of the Apes actually does capture many of Boulle's novel concepts, although the writing credit goes to Keiiche Abe and the story credit to Sakyo Komatsu, Kouji Tonaka and Aritsume Toyoda. For example, as in Boulle's novel, the apes here are more technologically advanced than their stateside counterparts, now driving General Motors vehicles and firing M-16s and hunting rifles. It is also suggested that they evolved by imitation, much as the novel suggests. There's even a Forbidden Zone like in the original film, though this one is known as "Green Mountain". Uh-huh... so the Monkey Planet is Vermont, then? Wow, who would've guessed?
It's hard to say whether this show would truly remain interesting over twenty-six half hour episodes, but then, maybe it could have. Seeing only 97 minutes out of 780, I can't tell what was cut. However, assuming that Franky Sand and the boys excised the best bits for their version, I can't imagine it was that great to begin with. Admittedly, kids would probably love it, perhaps even now. The cat & mouse chase week by week (mirroring the Planet TV Show's with Baku Hatakeyama's Police Chief Gebar or GebÔ replacing ol Sarek's General Urko) might have been a sort of Kid's Show version of The Fugitive. I admit, it was interesting occasionally.
But then the flying saucer would swoop by again. And again. Just what we needed, a film freak flying saucer dropping in to mess with the realistic continuity of our Simian-Dominated dystopia. Let's not even talk about the irritating super computer or the lame equality and civil rights debate repeatedly held between Catherine and Commander (or Cabinet Minister) Bippu (Hitoshi Omae).
While it's easy to make fun of the make-up (I just did), it's not that bad for the budget and the time of 1974 (though it must have looked real silly in 1987). The dubbing makes every mouth flap look unmatched, so this actually helps. There are actually some pretty trippy moments toward the end, making me wonder what they were passing around the studio toward the end of the season. Oh, it's not THX-1138 and it's not The Prisoner, but for what this is, there are good moments.
It's just too bad it had to be quite this infantile. There was the potential for quality, but this comes off as somewhere between a lesser Godzilla entry and an episode of Power Rangers. Repetitive dialogue, idiotic decisions, arguments that redefine unnecessary and more plot contrivances than season two of Soap stand out like a bum at a debutante ball. But it's great for a laugh. My advice... watch the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 version and take a swig every time somebody whines out "I don't care!"
Two Stars out of Five (which is really quite generous, damn it!) for Time of the Apes, or Time of the Army of the Ape Corps Planet or something. Man, I'm dying here. Why Apes so often? Why Dinosaurs? Why can't we ever see a movie where someone falls asleep for a few thousand years and wake up in the Time of the Naked Women or on the Planet of Beautiful Girls? There's an idea... PlanŔte des Lesbiennes! Yeah! "J.C. Mašek III presents Planet of the Lesbians"! Or better yet, "J.C. Mašek III on the Planet of the Lesbians", and like all the men are gone and I sort of pop up and "Hey, baby, you wanna hear some Golf Jokes?", they'd say no, we'd all laugh and become fast friends and then we'd party and write songs and drink and dance by the light of the moon. Don't get me wrong, as a liberated male, I know that "gay means gay", but I figure they'd keep the futuristic, poor hetero scum me around for my comic values, ability to mix a margarita that can't possibly be beat with a frozen lime and my Sapphic poetry (which would have no dearth of inspiration then... not that it does now). Hey, folks, we hear too much about these dystopic futures... I'm just trying to have a positive outlook on the eras to come. I mean... seriously... what would your perfect future look like? I can't imagine it'd be too far off.
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Time of the Apes... reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
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