Wednesday, May 13, 2009

27th September 2008: An "International Film Theivery" double!

Time Of The Apes

Japan 1974/1987 colour

Directors Kiyo Sumi Fukazawa, Atsuo Okunaka Writers Sakyo Komatsu, Kouji Tonaka

Cast Reiko Tokunaga (Catherine), Hiroko Saito (Caroline), Masaaki Kaji (Johnny), Hitoshi Omae (Cabinet Minister Bippu)

Tonight on our final Schlock Treatment are two of the most blatant film thefts of the Twentieth Century – the Japanese Planet Of The Apes, and the Filipino Rambo: First Blood Part 2. Our first crime is Time Of The Apes, originally a kid’s TV serial from 1974 that ran for 24 episodes before American distributor Sandy Frank took the shears to it and carved up a ninety minute feature that miraculously seems as long as every one of those 24 episodes.

It opens with two little wholesome tykes, Johnny and Caroline, on their way to visit their kindly Uncle Charlie, a friendly and disturbingly benign scientist, at his laboratory, where his experiments in “cold sleep” involve the freezing and thawing of monkeys, and ultimately human beings. Uncle Charlie’s cute monkeys in cages and on the surgical tables take on a more sinister edge when a volcano erupts, and the children and their chaperone Miss Catherine are forced into freezer pods – only to be thawed out God knows how many hundreds of years later. And the figures doing the unfreezing are not scientists in monkey suits – they’re monkeys in human suits!

The human intruders are considered a threat by the angry Police Chief Gaybar (do you think he might be angry about his name? Hmm….). And so begins an endless chase to Green Mountain and beyond – Gaybar’s police goons versus the humans, with the help of the last human rebel Godo (cue love interest for the teen Miss Catherine) and an overly trusting spider monkey-child in a striped shirt named Pepe. There’s a flying saucer, a talking computer, and a whole planet load of question marks – how? For whom? And ultimately – why, oh Monkey God, why?

Yes, it’s a retarded riff on the entire Planet Of The Apes film series, but with jokestore masks so cheap the mouths barely move, so that the actors have to shake their heads or fists during their dialogue. And what exquisite dialogue! Redubbed in the same hamfisted and blatantly offensive way Sandy Frank Americanized his Gamera the Flying Turtle acquisitions, and with the same obnoxious voices, thus rendereding the child actors even more unbearable. “I don’t want to killed by a monkey!” screams little Johnny – not if I get to you first. It’s like that film Idiocracy, with an emphasis on “idiot” – the 1987 reworking of the 1974 Time Of The Apes.

No Blood No Surrender

Philippines 1986 colour

Director Rudy Dominguez Writer Ernie Ortega

Cast Palito (Samson), Panchito, Max Alvarado (Mayor Mercado), Ernie Ortega (Police Chief), Ruben Ramos, [uncredited] Fernando Poe Jr

Our final ever film for Schlock Treatment is also one of the greatest crimes we’ve ever committed on you, our loyal viewers. As our swansong we head to back the Philippines one last time for an anorexic Rambo rip-off called No Blood No Surrender.

Third-tier comedian Palito (that’s Tagalog for “matchstick”) was just one of many familiar faces from Filipino films of the Seventies and Eighties, a former vaudeville performer usually in bit roles in Fernando Poe Jr and Tito, Vic and Joey movies. In a country renowned for its far-from-subtle humour, his schtick was simple – like a taller and much, much thinner Weng Weng, his anorexic frame cast him as a human dishrag or walking corpse, usually with a bandage around his head. Not surprisingly, the walking corpse routine never got old – or in two words, “Comedy Mould”.

In the mid Eighties, when Palito was well into his fifties, he finally made it to star billing in a series of parodies of Hollywood hits. Following a stint supporting Redford White in the First Blood riff Johnny Rambo Tango (1985), Palito would become the Philippines next stick-thin Sylvester Stallone in not one but TWO Rambo clones, in which Palito would run around the Filipino jungle, arms like twigs, clutching an enormous hunting knife, and a rocket launcher that’s twice his width!

In No Blood No Surrender, Palito plays Samson, a mysterious Vietnam vet wandering into a small town looking for the daughter of his dead army buddy Hercules (Samson? Hercules?). Immediately he raises the ire of Mayor Mercado (played by Filipino supervillain Max Alvarado) who, with his private army of goons, wants to take the daughter’s house away from her. He’s driven out of town several times, only to return madder than ever. Samson’s former commander (popular comedian Dolphy’s sidekick Panchito, playing the Richard Crenna role) comes looking for him, and explains away Samson’s insane rampage (“I trained him…ex Vietnam”). ‘Nam may have been hell, but the Philippines is worse – much worse – with an angry stick insect on the loose.

Imagine the horror of an action fan settling down to watch Palito’s apocalyptic redux of First Blood. No Blood… is an apt name, and not just because of its corpse-like connotations; it can’t make up its mind if it’s a spoof or the real deal, and although the film has its fair share of gun battles and explosions, and an unbilled cameo by Fernando Poe Jr as “famous actor Sylvester Stallone” (!!), it fails as both. It does however work on a much higher, more surreal level, whereby the innate weirdness of Filipino goon comedies such as this and Weng Weng’s movies leave you floored, slack-jawed and wanting more.

Like hundreds of Filipino-made films of the Eighties, including Johnny Rambo Tango, the film was dubbed into English and successfully sold overseas to the ever-hungry, ever-mewing VHS market.

Another enterprising local producer attempted to go to the well a third time and cast Palito as Ram-Buto or “Ram-Bone” – unfortunately for all concerned, the well was dry, and Palito stayed on the local film industry’s hamster wheel. Jonrox Films gave him a shot at filming another of his popular characters the following year, James Bone: Agent 001 (1987), this time directed by No Blood…’s Ruben Ramos. I heard a rumour James Bone and Weng Weng appeared in a film together for Weng Weng’s producer Peter Caballes, but when I finally tracked down Palito in Manila to ask him, he couldn’t recall for sure (no doubt due to the Philippines' collective amnesia when it comes to their own cinema). He does remember doing numerous vaudeville stage shows with Weng Weng throughout the Eighties, where the sight of an anorexic beating on a midget would have been regarded as "champagne comedy". Palito is to this day STILL starring in Filipino movies, still on the hamster wheel, and still beating the same “walking corpse” schtick.

And so ends the tale of No Blood No Surrender AND Schlock Treatment. We thank you for two years of loyal viewing, and look forward to presenting more films in our next incarnation. Until then, its Adios from myself, Scott Black the man behind the mask, and Palito as all we put the “oh” into Rambo with No Blood No Surrender.

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