One of the things I love about cinema is the potential for surprise. We live, like it or not, in a culture that is all about black or white. The big fallacy with this is that you end up missing the gray area, which is the richest field of all. Before you start thinking I’m crazy and going all film wanker on you, let me use an example. Scare Their Pants Off. Yes it’s a fun if silly title to a mid 60’s sexploitation film from NYC. Naturally, there are a lot of people who would write if off right then and there as nothing but a silly exploitation film. But if you actually sit down and watch it with an open mind, you will see something that is more weird student art film then anything else.The Bloody Ape is another one of these great films. One paper, you have what is a loose retelling of Poe’s classic story, “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Except instead of an orangutan in Paris, you have the titular gorilla raping and killing gorgeous Long Island beauties, with further bad taste ensuing. However, in reality, what you have is a film that is simultaneously a tribute to low budget horror cinema, ala Andy Milligan, and a statement on the dangers of human ignorance. How many films that center around a sex crazed killer ape are gonna have nuance of any stripe?
All the while, Duane (Christopher Hoskins), a really nice, young man black man ends up on the receiving end of some ugly racism via one auto mechanic mook, Vic (Larry Koster.) But his day soon goes from bad to worse, when he ends up being accused of murder via the amazingly mentally regressive Lieutenant LoBianco (George Reis). And now the race is on. Will the police wise up to the real killer? Will Lampini have a change of heart? Will the ape stop sexually assaulting voluptuous Northern vixens?
One of the best things about The Bloody Ape is that it is completely unique. While there are definite influences from other horror films, ranging from Romero’s groundbreaker Night of the Living Dead to the infamous Bigfoot flick, Night of the Demon, it is still very much its own creature.
You have some great, schocky gore, including a penis being ripped off from an acid fried hippie. Since turnabout is fair play, a woman’s breasts also get torn off for good measure. There’s amazing carnival footage, complete with colored lights, spinning rides, and shady gentlemen offering crappy stuffed animals and bikini girl photos for prizes. The only thing missing is the half sauced guy running the Ferris Wheel in the Rossington Collins tee shirt, giving soul dirt to every 17-year-old girl within a 2-mile radius.
Don't you miss this?
Of course, there’s plenty of nudity and bad taste shenanigans to make any sleaze horror enthusiast happy. But there is meat underneath the blood and the racism subplot works very well, never veering off into a “very special after school special” episode territory. Part of the reason for that is that it is never ham fisted but instead more an accurate depiction of people using their bigotry as a crutch against having to evolve. Evolution is a mighty scary thing to the small minded and open communication, which is one of the best combatants against ignorance, is not to be tolerated. In fact, even when stereotypes are used in the film, it is more of a form of cheeky subversiveness. Which in the age of political correctness, is needed more than ever. Remember kids, if something makes you think, even if you don’t like it, then it had done its job.
The actors are a lot of fun and appropriately cast. Hoskins is likable and understated as poor Duane. He’s a great contrast to say the almost cartoonishly broad Reis as the Cracked magazine reading, infantile-like thinking Lobianco. Outfitted with a comic book style goatee and a baby face, Reis was the perfect choice for such a buffoonish character. Then there’s Paul Richichi as Lampini, who is fantastic. Director Crocker has referred to Richichi as his “Joe Dallesandro,” which is fitting since he has such an unusual and organic screen presence. Not to mention the absolute relish he has with his role is so entertaining. If anyone deserves a documentary, it is Richichi. Especially after hearing the commentary. (More on that in a minute.)
LoBianco (George Reis) smirks in the face of logic
The rest of the cast are equally fun, including Larry Koster as the most offensive car mechanic in film history who is straight outta Mooksville, Arlene Hansen as the beautiful and ballsy Ginger, and the mysterious Salvatore Finkel as the Rabbi Rabinowetz. Never has the combo of a strap on beard and boxer shorts been more beautifully used. Just like peanut butter and chocolate!
Like any film worth its salt, The Bloody Ape is probably not for everyone. Then again if you are either easily offended or don’t care for low budget horror in general, why would you pick up a film about a horny killer ape?
Wild Eye Releasing has done a beautiful job with this DVD, especially with the extras. In addition to an entertaining little documentary, there’s a fantastic and funny commentary track featuring director Crocker, cast members Paul Richichi, George Reis, and writer/movie guru Rob Hauschild. This track should be a textbook example of how to do an informative track that is nice to listen to. Plus you get one of Crocker’s early shorts, One Grave Too Many, which is a great little gothic appetizer.
The Bloody Ape is the type of horror film I’m a sucker for. There’s enough grue, nudity, and luridness to appeal to my inner Beavis (and yes, my inner child is Beavis) but there is enough layer and substance to reach my serious, cineaste side. It’s a rough-hewn gem that is very much worth checking out.