Friday, February 26, 2016

Monkey Talk

It turns out that even I have limits when it comes to exploring the world of schlock movies, as I found last week, there are some things even a seasoned purveyor of cinema's underbelly finds impossible to sit through.  Now, I've watched a surprising number of the films on the so-called 'video nasties' list of films once rejected by the BBFC for home video release, (most of them weren't nasty at all), I've viewed some pretty explicit porn movies, not to mention countless low rent exploitation movies covering a variety of genres.  Yet none of them drove me to abandon my viewing after barely half an hour.  That accolade goes to 1986's King Kong Lives, the unnecessary and barely remembered sequel to Dino di Laurentis' 1976 remake of King Kong.  The 1976 film itself is much maligned - OK, the fact that King is mainly a man in a monkey suit id a huge disappointment, as are some of the miniatures work, plus, the shifts between location shots and obvious studio exteriors are jarring, but it has a great cast, photography and a John Barry musical score.  Best of all, it has a surprisingly good script, which wittily updates the original to satirical effect, incorporating environmental and feminist themes. 

Despite its shortcomings, the 1976 King Kong made a lot of money, so, ten years later di Lauentis decided to make a sequel, with director John Guillerman, but none of the original cast, returning.  The story is ludicrous: Kong survived the fall from the Twin Towers, but his heart was irreparably damaged - but a team of crack scientists in Atlanta (where the giant ape has been kept comatose for ten years - have developed a giant artificial heart for him.  The only problem is that they don't have any giant ape blood for the transfusion he'll need during the operation to replace his heart.  Fortuitously, an explorer in Borneo captures another giant ape, this time a female, and brings her back to the US.  The operation goes ahead, (using giant surgical instruments, obviously) and, well, you can guess the rest: lots of the usual monkey mayhem.  As before, the giant apes are portrayed by men in monkey suits.  But none of this lunacy was what made me abandon my attempts to watch it. 

To backtrack somewhat, the reason I was watching it was that last Friday I had come home from work to find the 1976 King Kong playing on Film Four (well, Film Four Plus One, to be accurate).  Having watched it through to the end, I felt I was in need of a further giant monkey mayhem.  So, what could be more logical than to see if the sequel - which I've (still) never seen in its entirety - had been uploaded to You Tube.  Amazingly, it had.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a Russian language version.  Which, ordinarily, wouldn't have been a problem - I've watched many films in languages I don't speak, with certain types of movie you don't need the details of the dialogue, just getting the jist of it is enough to follow what's going on.  The trouble was that this print of King Kong Lives hadn't been dubbed into Russian.  Oh no, nothing so sophisticated.  Instead, it feature two voice artists, one male, the other female, simply speaking the lines of each character, as appropriate in gender terms, over the top of the English language dialogue.  The result was an appalling cacophony in which you could, frustratingly, hear snatches of the original dialogue before it was drowned out by Russian spoken in a dull monotone.  It was so distracting that I just couldn't focus on the rest of the action and, in frustration, I gave up on it after half an hour.  So, there you have it: extreme sex, violence, gore, poverty row budgets, none of them bother me, but start talking over a giant ape movie in Russian and I just can't take it.    



Blogger gavcrimson said...

Poland seems to be big on dubbing English language films in that manner too. Back in the late 1990s we were able to get a polish TV channel (called I think ‘Polonia’) via satellite and whenever they’d show an English language film they’d have just one, very miserable sounding pole read out all the dialogue over the original soundtrack in a completely emotionless manner and with no consideration paid to whether the onscreen dialogue was being spoken by a man, a woman or a child. It wasn’t a complete write-off though as they’d occasionally show the uncut version of films like Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, which was quite a revelation back then given that that film was still cut to pieces on UK video and yet was being beamed to us uncensored via Poland at about 6pm!

7:49 am  

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