Film / Time of the Apes

Johnny: No!...I don't wanna be killed by a monkey!note 

Time of the Apes was cobbled together from bits and pieces of a 1974 Japanese TV series from Ultraman creators Tsuburaya ProductionsSF Drama: Saru no Gundan (SFドラマ 猿の軍団, "Army of Apes: A Sci-Fi Drama). The series ran for 26 episodes and did not meet with much enthusiasm, not even from its "home crowd" in Japan. In 1987, enter Sandy Frank: buyer, producer, and importer of all manner of Japanese crap cinema. Sandy purchases the 26 episodes, gets rid of all but 4 or 5 of them, and splices bits and pieces from these remaining episodes into a film. Kind of like a Sandy Frankenstein monster pieced together from garage sale leftovers. This film capitalized on the Planet of the Apes series. Though obviously (sometimes painfully) Japanese, the dubbed version gives the characters English names.

The children Johnny (Masaaki Kaji) and Caroline (Hiroko Saito) travel to visit the laboratory of Johnny's uncle. There they are given a tour by young female lab assistant Catherine (Reiko Tokunaga) and get to see the lab's cryogenic chambers. Unfortunately a severe earthquake strikes. Catherine, Caroline, and Johnny take shelter in the nearest available cryogenic chambers, which then activate when a rock falls on the on switch. They awaken in another time populated by a militaristic ape society, the outward appearance of which is similar to 20th Century Earth; the apes drive 20th century automobiles such as Buicks and Jeeps, carry M1 Carbine rifles, and wear Civil War era and 1970's clothing.

The plot then turns into a cat-and-mouse game. After escaping the apes, the protagonists are pursued into a booby-trap laden jungle area known as "Green Mountain." A human in hiding, Godo (Tetsuya Ushio), helps them escape from the apes. A hermit, Godo knows little about his own background or other humans in the world, but is well-known to the apes as a fearsome warrior.

As they struggle against the apes in a series of never-ending chases, a flying saucer appears at key moments without explanation. At one point, the beings in the saucer appear to communicate telepathically with Catherine, who reveals that the saucer belongs to another society known as the UCOMM, a group at odds with the ape society. UCOMM also seems to hold the key to their efforts to get back to the 20th Century.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 versions, please go to the episode recap page.

Time of the Apes has examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: We get Catherine, Johnny, and Caroline (changed for the dub) alongside Godo, Pepe, and Gebar (actually the original names).
  • Air-Vent Passageway: The air vent in the movie is only big enough for a small kid.
  • The Alleged Car: The Commander's car which looks a little beat up.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Pepe; her gender wasn't even revealed until the last third of the movie.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Johnny, though he's not actually related to the other two.
  • Catchphrase: Averted with Johnny's "I don't care!" line. He only says it once, but in such an obnoxiously condescending way that the guys at Mystery Science Theater 3000 turned it into a Running Gag. People introduced to this film via MST3K end up thinking Johnny says this far more often than he actually does.
  • Compilation Movie: This was butchered from a 26 episode TV series to make a TV movie. It's bound to be rather confusing at many points.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Gebar's wife and son; he believes that Godo was responsible for killing them, though their deaths were actually an accident.
  • Hong Kong Dub: It's easier to swallow the dubbing for the apes, since the lips don't really move much.
  • The Load: Johnny. As if to unintentionally lampshade it, the dub has him respond to a warning about heading into danger with this line:
    Johnny: "I don't care!"
  • Mind Screw: When you chop up a 26-episode TV show into an hour and a half long movie, you're bound to make things way more confusing than they need to be. Say what you will about the original show, at least it made a bare minimum of sense.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Godo is quite pretty, especially after he shaves.
  • Mysterious Watcher: The flying saucer.
  • Techno Babble: The explanation about the time travel but it sounds like Dr. Lee at the end is pulling this out of his ass.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Johnny, Johnny, Johnny... You're not 6 feet tall and made of muscle...
    Johnny: With this knife, I'm not scared of anyone!
    • He also threatens to kill the apes even though he's tied up and they have big guns.