Thursday, January 24, 2008


When I think of Sandy Frank (which thankfully isn't often), I imagine a fat loud bald old man with dyed blonde hair fashioned into a combover, wearing a pair of leopardskin speedos, barking into a obsolete brick cellphone whilst floating on an inflatable pool chair in his swimming pool, out the back of a dilapidated Beverley Hills bungalow that was last renovated in the late 70s, and is thus full of peeling orange formica, eye-popping paisley wallpaper and grubby sky blue shag carpeting.

If you've ever seen one of his dreadful, dreadful movies, you'll understand why I picture him this way.

Sandy Frank's ouvre was made by getting cheap source material from Japan, Russia and Italy then doing awful and unnatural things to it. He's responsible for the dull and annoying 80s cartoon series 'Battle of the Planets', several low-budget and cheaply dubbed Godzilla films, and a handful of movies generated by cobbling together random epsiodes of Japanese TV shows intended for children. One of these compilation movies, 'Time of the Apes', was my MST3K offering last night, and words can barely describe how awful it was, at least in English. To truly express it, we'd need a language entirely based on the cries of torture victims. I think I'd call it Arghish.

Much of the blame lies with Sandy himself, but to be honest, nobody could do a lot with the source material. 'Saru no gundan' ('Army of the Apes') was a shameless 1974 rip-off of 'Planet of the Apes', wherein a stupid adult named Catherine, an annoying girl named Caroline and a magnificently despicable little boy named Johnny are frozen in an accident at a cryogenics lab, and wake up thousands of years later in a world ruled by, you guessed it, canaries. No, wait, I mean apes. Dang, I always get those two mixed up.

Admit it. You hate them already.

Catherine, Caroline and Johnny are as dumb as a bag of hammers and as easily spooked as panicky deer, and frankly wouldn't last five minutes in a shopping mall car park, let alone a month on the run from a bunch of angry monkeys. The only reason they're still alive after more than one encounter with their simian overlords is thanks to ponderous editing and innumerable reaction shots. It's easy to escape peril when you know you have at least fifteen minutes of reaction shots from every single member of the cast, any passing fauna and the odd particularly charismatic tree.

And it's not just interesting things that deserve a reaction shot, like the appearance of an enemy. A door, a rock, a cloud shaped like a bunny... all are interminable grist to the reaction shot mill. They do so much gasping it's a wonder they don't hyperventilate, which frankly would be a lot more interesting and believable than their acting.

I'd like to tell you more about the plot, but there wasn't one. It was 80 minutes of irritating Japanese youths shrieking and running away from tedious actors in unconvincing gorilla suits. Our protogonists did eventually get back to their own time, but although they tried their best none of them could explain how to the audience. In the end I think they just expected us to mark it up to generic Mysterious Forces and let it go. Or perhaps they simply suspected, quite rightly, that everyone would be asleep by then. I know I was so stulified that I nearly fell asleep at the wheel of my car on the way home.

You violated Ape Law; namely, no throwing anyone's feces but your own.

If only someone had tried to kill someone else with a forklift, I could have been a little more engaged.


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