“Time of the Apes” is a 1987… wait, really? That can’t be right, one sec… *checks notes* hmm, let’s see here… initial release date 1987… alright, there has to be more to it than that! *Checks Wikipedia* Ahh! Here it is! It’s an edited together version of a 1974 Japanize television show called “Army of the Apes”, which explains what I just watched. It’s a Sandy Frank production, who is an American producer who has done things like the “Battle of the Planets” series, which is a redubbing of the Gatchaman series from Japan. He’s done this a lot, taking a foreign series, and just making it something completely different. There’s a lot of Sandy Frank productions on MST3K, and this is one of them.
“Time of the Apes,” is as one is to expect, a “Planet of the Apes” rip-off. It’s still based of the same book, but this time Japan gets a crack at is, and it’s not good! For being an edited down version of a series, it’s really slow and boring. To the point where I feel the actual tv series must be agonizing, because there is nothing substantial here.
We have three characters, a child brother and sister, who are visiting their uncle’s science laboratory and the uncle’s assistant. In the middle of the visit, an earthquake breaks out, and forces these three to hide in cryogenic chambers. When they wake up, they are in a time… of the apes (heh heh). It is at this point where the movie truly dies, because the rest of the movie is a slog! It’s a series of these characters being chased by apes, hiding, meeting someone new, and repeat a couple times. We meet a character, another human, named Godo, who seems like a survivalist in this movie, who sets up booby-traps. We meet a child ape, Pepe, who is too pure for this world, because while every other ape seems to want to kill these humans (until the end, when we find out that there are government officials who don’t want to kill more humans), Pepe was saved by Godo, and therefore doesn’t want to kill all humans.
While the plot is slow, and the story doesn’t keep you engaged, the technical aspect is… not good either. Starting with the dubbing, which is bad. They seem to keep putting the wrong emotion to every sentence, and it ends up sounding silly, and awkward. The ape masks, which are bad. While the eyes blend in well with the makes, everything else is bad. It looks like a Halloween store costume, which actually wouldn’t be so bad if the mouths moved ever. I’ve never seen such stoned faced emotions! Finally, the editing, and camera work, which is bad. The number of zooms, and quick cuts, and lack of geographical awareness in the film is just dizzying.
This is just a bad film, but it not really its fault. It’s a concoction of several bad ideas rolled into one. Maybe the show was good! Maybe “Army of the Apes” is a masterpiece, but “Time of the Apes” just isn’t.
The riffing is top notch here. It helps that there’s a lot of fodder to choose from, whether it be the bad costumes, bad looping, bad editing, bad… everything. No stone gets left un-turned with this movie, and it’s funny! I especially like the Sandy Frank song that keeps popping up here, which have appeared in the other Sandy Frank episodes. There’s even a Twin Peaks reference, which earns points for me! Really good stuff here.
Here’s some of my favorite lines.
Scientist: When they’re frozen in there, it’s like they’re really dead. But they’re not.
Crow: But their souls are!
Servo: (During an earthquake) Did the earth move for you too?
Crow: No, but the model did!
Servo: Must you scream every observation?
Crow: Come on, run. Try to move faster than the plot!
Crow: Oh great, it’s a planet full of owls!
Joel: And they are not what they seem.
The Host Segments
The host segments start with the crew playing baseball and use Servo as a tee. They accidently breech the hull of the Satellite of Love and must get Gypsy to take it. After she does, they then try again.
We next get the inventions exchange, Joel has “The Cellulite phone”, which is an inflatable phone, made to help people diet by expanding whenever you order out. I especially love the bit where Joel is ordering a pizza, a large pizza, for “a group of people,” which hit home hard for me. The Mads invention is a formula which grows a baby into an adult instantly.
In the film, Johnny, one of the kids, is told by his parents to not go out for fear of something terrible (i.e. earthquake) would happen, and Johnny says, “I don’t care.” The crew then take out some time to really discover why Johnny doesn’t care. Basically, it boils down to Johnny being a secret sociopath, and how his mind is an endless void of nothing, and Johnny doesn’t care. Would you?
Next, of all things, we get an interesting, high school style, and deadpan recreation of the Scopes Monkey Trial. Now for those who don’t know what it is, John Thomas Scopes was a substitute teacher who tried to teach evolution in a time where it was illegal to teach such a thing. The recreation is super funny in its execution, and actually very interesting to hear about, and follow up on! I recommend you read up on it, it’s interesting stuff.
The crew then pretend to be a news crew, and pass it on to fashion editor, Crow T. Robot, where he critiques the fashion of “Time of the Apes” in a walkway, or red-carpet kind of way. Crow’s descriptions of all the clothes are colorful and fun! It’s not even that this bit is funny, it’s just a good satire of the fashion industry in general.
We then get a musical number of “Sandy Frank,” which is not the cleverest song unfortunately, but they’re having fun, and sometimes that’s all that matter. They move onto a wonderful letter, about how a 15 year man who lives in Tijuana, Mexico, is a devoted fan of the show, and wishes that it would go longer. He also drew a pretty great picture of the crew, ship, and the Mad’s which warms my heart.
Overall, it’s a pretty great episode! While I do wish the movie was more fun bad, than bad bad, the riffing kept everything rolling at a nice pace!