Mind/Body Dualism

Rather brilliant trailer for movie serial THE MONSTER AND THE APE. There’s no monster, only a robot, remote-controlled and without a will of his own. Calling him a monster for that seems a bit harsh. Oh, there’s also George MacReady as a mad scientist, so it might be a reference to him. Hell, it might even be a reference to George’s unsightly mustache. It’s a work rich in ambiguity.

Everything the gorilla does in the trailer is hilarious, and this did seem to be true of the serial itself — I’ve watched three episodes. There’s a bit where the gorilla is taken along on a burglary by the criminal gang (it’s never explained how they came to have a pet gorilla — in the world of dumb-ass serials, that kind of thing is a given). After helpfully smashing in the front door, the gorilla is basically just a nuisance, yanking his chain and trying to wander off in the wrong direction, then gleefully bashing the object of their mission, a piece of delicate scientific apparatus, against a work surface in a bit of gratuitous simian joie de vivre.

Screenwriting manuals speak of “the obligatory scene”, in which, for instance, Sheriff Brody faces down the Great White Shark, or Rocky fights his opponent, or Shelley Winters perishes face-down in a large body of water. Obviously, to any child, the obligatory scene in THE MONSTER AND THE APE would be a spectacular square-off between the gorilla, who I’m going to call Alistair, because it’s a nice name, and the robot, who I think we should call Peter. The makers of this serial appear not to have realized this, so that the ape actually dies in a hail of bullets in the penultimate episode (shot by the Wizard of Oz’s brother!) whereas the robot spends most of his time in a crate being stolen.

My favourite thing, apart from the gorilla continually turning up in unlikely places, is the demonstration of the robot, in which to prove that it is a boon to mankind, the workman of the future, and unsuited for any purposes of dastardliness, they have it rip the door of a bank vault type structure. No possible evil applications there!

4 Responses to “Mind/Body Dualism”

  1. Looks quite like the robot in Albert Zugsmith’s Sex Kittens Go to College

  2. Yes, similar chiseled Easter Island sort of dignity.

  3. Appreciate that SPECTACLE is represented by somebody being pushed off an implied cliff, and FANTASY is a kitschy lighthouse painting with a light bulb in it.

    Among my all-time favorites is the original BATMAN serial, full of wartime racism and general lunacy. Villain’s lair is behind a ghost train style ride through scenes of War Atrocities — which, besides being a peculiar form of entertainment, is located not in an amusement park but in what we’re told is a largely abandoned Japanese-American district (we’re assured our Wise Government has put the residents into camps). But that’s not the best of it.

    The best of is that at regular intervals, gangsters in fedoras report to their boss by going to this grim kiddie ride in the middle of nowhere and soberly sitting side by side in little carts. Nothing suspicious here, officer.

  4. I *love* the glowing lighthouse and I feel sure Feuillade would too.

    That Batman serial, in which the batcave is basically a garage with “cave” wallpaper and Batman sitting AT A DESK, is borderline sublime.

    The Monster and the Ape also features a trope favoured by cartoonist Michael Kupperman: the killer who phones his victim up to say “You have one minute to live” or “You will die at the stroke of midnight!” for no reason other than (melo)dramatic effect.

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