CULT OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
" A business man is attacked by a man in an ape mask and killed. The masked man runs off. Roddy is taunted by his two housemates, Doug and Pete, over his obsession with Planet Of The Apes films. Later, Doug hears a strange noise from Roddy's room and goes to investigate. He is attacked by someone in an ape mask. Pete returns from a football match with Roddy's brother, Zak. They find Doug sitting in front of POTA film on the TV. He is dead. They are attacked by the ape man, Zak having his neck broken. Pete pulls the mask off to reveal Roddy, who runs off. Pete vows vengeance and pursues with an axe. Whilst on the run Roddy attacks a girl in a subway. After an all night chase they meet on a footbridge.. "All humans must die!" Says the insane ape mask wearing Roddy. They fight. Pete beheads Roddy with the axe. He stands contemplating what he has done whilst he is being watched by someone else with the same ape mask that Roddy had. Roddy was not alone..."
Directed, Written and Edited by Jan Manthey
Roddy - Mark Duqueno, Pete - Jed Leicester, Doug - Ben Oates, Zak - Jan Manthey, Businessman - Theodore Ignatz, Girl In Subway - Farah.
As you can see I am a big fan of ambiguous endings. This was the first film since ROBOT GORILLA RAMPAGE that I wrote a proper script for. It was hand written and I gave my customary 'one draft un proof read' treatment. After all, why change a perfect script? It was filmed almost exactly as written, with a few minor changes, which I will discuss later. The cast was, as usual, picked from friends who happened to be around at the time. I once again persuaded Mark Duqueno to don the mask of gorilladom ( the same as used in ROBOT GORILLA RAMPAGE, but we now had a spare one in case of accidents). It was the last time he was to play an ape or monster, refusing to do it again, complaining he had been typecast. There was also a very small role for a girl I was seeing at the time playing "Girl Attacked In Subway'. It was a rare occurrence to get a girl in my films and even rarer for me to have a lady friend. Suffice to say, we soon broke up after this film.
The idea for the film came from my liking of the Planet Of The Apes (POTA) series of films, and my obsession with ape masks in general. The film had all my usual trademarks of bad acting and dubious dialogue. But there was something different about this one. I knew when it was finished that my film making skills had improved no end. When viewed today a lot of it has to be laughed at, but there is something disturbing about the grainy images and the sometimes jumpy editing ( a result of poor shot planning and shoddy equipment). The film is also surprisingly violent at times, a theme that would continue in TEENAGE ECSTASY. This is one of those films that once you've seen, you could honestly say you've not seen a lot like it. It's better than the remake of POTA (Tim Burton) anyway.
The film begins in an alleyway. Walking down the alleyway is myself with a ridiculous beard and hat on, it made me look like Trotsky. I am duly mauled by a man in an ape mask and left for dead. As the ape attacks, some rather vicious sounding dogs began barking adding a great ambiance to the scene. As the ape runs away the music begins and we cut to some rather cheap looking titles that I made with one of those plastic templates that has letters of the alphabet on.
Music. This was the first of my narrative pieces to have incidental music. It wasn't original music, but it fit the film perfectly. It was the music from the original POTA film that I had recently bought on cassettetape. For some strange reason all the pieces of music used fit the action perfectly. Not only that but the bits of music were exactly the right length for the scenes they were used for. This was uncanny, almost as the soundtrack had been designed for my unofficial sixth film in the POTA series.
Mark puts in an excellent performance as Roddy. In the first scene he sits staring at the screen, which is showing 'Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes'. Doug and Pete enter and start to mock the fact he has no social life. I will be the first to admit that this scene has possibly the worst dialogue I have ever written. It ends with them singing the theme to 'The Banana Splits' after some unamusing stuff about apes down at the job centre. It is not helped by the acting of my good friend Mr Ben Oates. He never claimed to be an actor I suppose. In a later scene his character, Doug, goes to Roddy's room. He opens the door and sees that someone has ransacked the room. In exasperation he says
just before he is attacked by Roddy as the ape. A simple enough line you may think. Think again. Over 20 odd takes later and the line was still not right. He just could not do it. I should have left it out at this stage, but I was determined that every line of dialogue that I had written must be up there on screen. It didn't work in the end, but I left the line in anyway.
The fight scene at the end of the film worked out brilliantly. My stunt co-ordinator wasn't there that day so we had to improvise on set (in another of my favourite alleyways). The fight ends with Pete beheading Roddy with his axe. This was the most important scene in the film and it had to look vaguely realistic (we will ignore the fact that Pete's blunt axe looks like it couldn't cut through a block of half melted ice cream). I had never done any gore stuff before but i had seen enough crappy cheapo horror films to realise it can't be hard to make a half decent job of it. I had a plastic hairdressers head and I added some make up putty and lotsa blood on the neck to make it look severed. Mark (Roddy) then stood on the bridge with his head bowed. The fake head was then balanced on his neck, filmed from behind it looked like his head (it did, honestly!). The head had the gorilla mask and hat on so it was easy to make it look like him. I didn't actually film the axe striking the head, that could have ended in real blood and tears. I filmed a close up of Jed (Pete) swinging the axe to camera, then a shot of the head falling from the body and tumbling down the stairs. I prayed it would cut together in the editing. It did.Simple gore effects for no money.
All that was left was to film one of my famous ambiguous endings. Pete stands over the headless body and the camera pulls back to reveal...yes another ape masked person watching him. What does it mean? Don't ask me I haven't got a clue.
Now at last, I had finished the film. What should I do with it? Read on to hear about the Halloween Society...
THE HALLOWEEN SOCIETY FIASCO
The Halloween Society promised to show 'new film from new filmmakers' above an obscure pub near Carnaby Street called 'The Glachan'. I went one week and nervously approached the organisers with my second generation VHS copy of COTPA (it was originally filmed on Video 8). They took it and said they would be 'in touch'. I wasn't sure what would happen as most of the stuff shown seemed more professional and glossy than my shoddy, schlocky effort. Still, out of the blue, a couple of weeks later I received a flyer with details of the next show. I was so excited, there, listed amongst other dross, was my film! There were big names in some of the other films. Phone by Tim Pope starred Linda Blair and Bill Pullman, another film had something to do with Derek Jarman. I knew I was going to have my work cut out to win the coveted 'Audience Choice' award that takes place at every meeting.
So I set about calling everyone in the world that I knew to come and see my piece of Video 8 tat. I think I somehow managed to get 15 or so people down to The Glachan, quite impressive for a man with no friends. Some people took a lot of persuading.
"What's it about then?'
"How much is it to get in?"
"I dunno...I might miss Eastenders."
You know how it is.
The big day approached. Wednesday 17th August, although the exact year this occurred remains hazy.
Myself and probably Vic Pratt arrived far to early at the venue, enough time to fortify my nerves with a beer or two. All the audience members were issued with voting forms where they had to tick their favourite film to win the award. I noticed that there was an unattended pile of these by the door, so I 'borrowed' them. After a short while the place began to fill up, rather too many media folk for my liking. Then at last, my rag tag army of friends piled in, including all the cast members. I don't think Linda Blair or Bill Pullman showed up to support their film. The evening was compared by an amiable comedian called Eddie Sponge, billed as 'Mike Wattam of Reeves and Mortimer fame'. Time passed and we sat through some of the other films. Due to the shoddy quality of my film, they created a new slot to show it in 'a new slot for lo budget madness called The Guerilla Spot'. Guerilla. Gorilla. Apes. Get it? The lights dimmed and on it came. There was a technical glitch on the tape at some points, but this did not stop the audience enjoying an emotional roller coaster of thrills, chills and laughter. Although I do not know why they laughed. It is a very serious film. I was pleased that my film had been shown, but I knew I had to do everything in my power to make sure it won. A film called 'Brazil 70' was the bookies favourite to win, it seemed inexplicably popular. I handed in far more voting slips than I had friends. The organisers knew something was up, but there was nothing they could do.
The results were announced. In second place...Brazil 70. The guy who made that looked really pissed off. And the winner...Cult Of The Planet Of The Apes. Cheers. Applause. I went over to accept my prize. I felt like I had won an Oscar. In fact I won a copy of the 'Taxi Driver' screenplay autographed by Eddie Sponge (!?!). I felt like I had made it.
Vic and I went to the next Halloween Society meeting. The tradition was that they screened the previous winner. They could not show COTPA, however, for 'time reasons'. It came to the Guerilla Spot which Sponge introduced with a spiel about 'championing spur of the moment camcorder mayhem' and went on to say 'last time Cult Of The Planet Of The Apes had the audience rolling in the aisles and went on to win best film of the night...' He then looked nervously at Vic and I who were sitting right in front of him, and he seemed to stumble over his words. Whilst Sponge was at the bar I lent over and looked at the notes he was reading from. He had missed out a crucial sentence. After saying that COTPA won best film of the night he didn't say '...although we think there was some cheating involved in that.' I wonder what put him off saying that.
The Halloween Society never again showed any of my films.
Cult of the planet of the Apes is now avaialble on Youtube...