Release Date: 1987 (US)
Directed by: Kiyo Sumi Fukazawa, Atsuo Okunaka
Written by: Sakyo Komatsu, Kouji Tonaka, Aritsune Toyota, Keiichi Abe
Music by: Toshiaki Tsushima
Cast: Reiko Tokunaga, Hiroko Saito, Masaaki Kaji
King Features Entertainment, Celebrity Home Video, Tsuburaya Productions, King Features Entertainment, 95 Minutes
Like some of the other strange Japanese films that made it onto Mystery Science Theater 3000, in its early days, Time of the Apes is actually a feature length version of a few episodes of a Japanese tokusatsu television program. It was also created by Tsuburaya Productions like other Japanese MST3K fare. In this film’s case, it is comprised of a few episodes of the 1974 show Saru no Gundan (Army of the Apes).
Also like most of the other American released feature length versions of Japanese tokusatsu properties, the finished product that we got, pales in comparison to the quality of the original content.
What kills these types of releases in the States is atrocious dubbing and clunky editing. The original series, albeit a ripoff of Planet of the Apes, was pretty interesting and engaging. This version, not so much.
It isn’t completely horrible and it is still watchable and enjoyable but compared to episodes I’ve seen with actual Japanese dialogue, the whole tone is ruined. Granted, without releases like this in the 1980s, I might not have developed a love for Japanese tokusatsu outside of Godzilla pictures.
Time of the Apes showcases the first few episodes of Saru no Gundan and also the last few. The show ran for 26 episodes, so the narrative in this version is choppy and disorienting. It features the setup and the conclusion but lacks the true meat of the series.
For its time, its place and the limitations of its production, the effects are still better than decent. It isn’t as captivating as Tsuburaya’s Ultraman franchise but it fits well within their other one-off series, such as Mighty Jack and Star Wolf (a.k.a. Fugitive Alien).