Escape from the Planet of the Apes


image: Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

We spent Christmas quality family time with the 5 original Planet of the Apes movies. (Seven months later, I found this post in my drafts folder).

You’d think we’d have these movies memorized by now, but when you’re dealing with such a sprawling franchise things get a bit hazy, even for Highly Trained Professionals such as ourselves.

After all, we’re not dealing with a mere trilogy. The first film, Planet of the Apes (1968), was adapted from a French novel, Pierre Boulle’s La Planete des Singes (1963) and was followed by 4 sequels in 4 years: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).

Plus, there were 2 TV series (1 live-action and 1 animated), 1 execrable reboot (2001), 2 prequels – (Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – and a whole bunch of comic books.

Plus, there’s time travel. Time travel that contradicts the time line established in the narrative – a narrative that’s already a bit nonsensical to begin with, to boot.

The 3rd film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, may be a terrible movie, but it’s also terribly entertaining. And it’s got Ricardo Montalban and Eric Braeden giving the scenery a pretty thorough chew, so there’s that.

There’s a delightfully nutty scene in which Presidential Science Advisor Dr. Otto Hasslein (Braeden) goes on the nightly news and explains time travel. I couldn’t find the full scene on youtube, but I did find a remix called “A Lesson in Regression” that does it justice:

You really should watch Escape from the Planet of the Apes, if only to be thankful that the new prequels forego time travel in favor of something slightly more science-y and slightly less what-the-fuck-y.

Still the old films have something the new ones never will: 70s fashion. And, of course, Ricardo Montalban.


Lots of you seem to be wandering around in my blog looking for info on Tim Tate’s story, Pepe the Mail Order Monkey. I have some of Tim’s art and I supported the Fringe Festival musical Pepe the Mail Order Monkey, but I think this is what you’re looking for:

NPR’s Snap Judgement aired a recording of Tim Tate telling the tale of Pepe the Mail Order Monkey. Here’s the direct link to the segment Monkey Madness, which was part of Sunday’s episode, Fool’s Gold.

It’s great & you should go listen, but be warned – that’s a soundcloud link so it’s going to start playing as soon as the page loads.

Hey, look, you can actually watch the musical online in its entirety!

Pepe! The Mail Order Monkey Musical from Jon Gann on Vimeo.

On the flight home from a recent Florida excursion, I was storyboarding the post that became Dad and I Found a Monkey in a Wendys.

Topazstoryboard

I use an extra-large moleskine notebook for this kind of note-taking so it’s not exactly discrete. This, plus some unrelated notes on the facing page, were providing our flight attendant with a great deal of entertainment. So much so that while everyone else was eating tiny bags of biscotti, I got this:

cookies & coffee

The perks of finding a lesser ape in a Wendys last a lifetime.

As a child, I ran a bit hot and cold on the whole Curious George issue. I loved him when I was 5 and devoured all the books in short order (I was a precocious reader). In the first grade, much to the chagrin of our school librarian, I found the situation of a monkey in an urban environment problematic. Which was odd considering I lived in a weird place that – in addition to the wide-range of eccentrics, roadside attractions, and sanctuaries, was the winter home of the circus – and didn’t give much thought to the variety of exotic animals all over town.

In the present, discussions erupt now and again in the MeanLouise Lair about whether George is a monkey or an ape. Sometimes other people are involved in these debates, other times I’m just talking to myself.

I think we can retire the subject once and for all because bioanthropology blogging heart-throb Kristina Killgrove has written a truly fab post on her blog, Powered by Osteons, that explores the question, “Is Curious George a Monkey or an Ape?” in fascinating detail.

I bet the Fabulous Miss P. and Heather will both find the post interesting, if not for the science than for the cultural context of those books.

precious. precocious. one of those. my proofreader failed me today ;-)

When I was a kid, I found a monkey.

Siamang at the Naples Zoo, photo courtesy of Pete Corradino.


A Siamang, photo courtesy of JunglePete Corradino.

Technically, it wasn’t a monkey, it was an ape called a Siamang, but I wouldn’t learn that detail for many years. 30 years, to be precise(ish).

Back on that day in the late 1970s, dad and I stopped at Wendy’s.

I guess we were there for lunch. We definitely weren’t there for primates.

We chose a table and I sat down. Dad was about to go to the counter to order when I noticed there was a bag behind my chair, presumably left by the recently departed occupants of the next table.

(This isn’t the weird part of the story).

In my memory it was one of those canvas totes like they sell at LL Bean, but I honestly can’t recall much about the bag.

Other than the fact that the bag was moving.

The bag was moving because there was a monkey inside.

Long hairy arms reached up out of the bag and grabbed the back of my chair. A small furry head followed and the two of us had what seemed to me to be pretty meaningful moment.

The events that followed probably unfolded quickly, but in my memory they happened in slow-mo:

My dad matter-of-factly instructed me not to talk to strangers or feed the monkey, since it might have a special diet.

My dad was very practical.

My dad went to call a deputy to come and pick up the monkey, since dad figured mom would kill us both if we took it home. Plus, it’d be wrong to take a lost-and-found monkey home.

While dad was at the counter asking for the manager and I was chatting with my new simian friend, a Wendy’s employee began to wipe down the table, saw the monkey, and freaked the fuck out.

The memory may be slightly murky, but I’m pretty confident in the sequence of events because I thought the employee was screaming because she saw me.

Which was more than a little upsetting. I was wearing my favorite dress! I loved that dress! Why was the woman screaming at me? Didn’t I look adorable in my favorite dress?

A girl came running in from the parking lot, panicked because she’d left her sister in a bag.

I swear that’s what she said.

“I forgot my sister. She was in the bag.”

She grabbed the diaper-clad creature and the bag, and then she ran back out.

I immediately stopped caring about the Wendy’s employee who was still staring in my direction and screaming, for I had just had an epiphany.

Wow! My parents can trade my baby brother in for a monkey! I knew this had to be possible!

My parents didn’t trade in my brother, but I guess in the long run that worked out okay.

(Still not the weird part).

Now that I think about it, this incident probably precipitated both my lifelong love of primates and my lifelong wariness around fast food.

Fast-forward a few years.

I was at a new school and one of my classmates lived on a monkey sanctuary. I was at his birthday party or something. We’ll call him JunglePete, because that’s his name.

(Calling a kid JunglePete would be weird, but at the time he was still just plain “Pete,” so in the final analysis this isn’t the weird part, either).

I was talking to one of his sisters. This, I shit you not, is a pretty accurate approximation of the conversation she and I had:

Her: “My sister left a monkey in a Wendy’s one time!”
Me: “We found a monkey in a Wendy’s one time!”
Her: “No way!”
Me: “For real. A monkey!”
Her: “That’s crazy! I wonder if it happens a lot?”

For smart kids, we weren’t always very smart.

Fast-forward a whole lot more years, to last Saturday, June 15, 2013.

Husband and I were at the Central Florida Zoo with JunglePete, his wife and son, and his father and his father’s wife.

jpsiamang

Our first stop was the Siamangs.

When we made plans to meet at the zoo, I didn’t understand there was a personal nature to our mission. I thought we were just too cheap to go to Sea World during the peak season and had chosen a more off-the-beaten track Father’s Day outing destination.

It turns out that in the 70s, the sanctuary had a rescued Siamang named Bridget. Eventually, Bridget went to live at the Central Florida Zoo, which had better facilities for apes and a mate for Bridget. Bridget had some babies over the years, but she rejected one of them. JunglePete’s parents took in the baby, who they named Topaz.

We were at the Central Park Zoo to visit with relatives of their old friends, Bridget and Topaz.

(We haven’t gotten to the moment of weirdness in the story yet, but we’re getting closer).

After we visited with the Siamangs, we wandered around the zoo for a few more hours.


JunglePete & I at the Central Florida Zoo, photo courtesy of Eric “Husband” Gordon.

(Whatever is happening in this photo may or may not be a little weird, but is otherwise unrelated to this post).

At some point, JunglePete and I ended up back at the Siamangs and I casually mentioned to Pete that my dad and I found a monkey one time in a Wendy’s in Venice, Florida.

JunglePete replied that his family once almost left someone behind in a Wendy’s in Venice, Florida. But they didn’t leave a monkey – they left Topaz! Fortunately, they remembered as soon as they got back to their van and JunglePete’s older sister dashed back into the restaurant to reclaim her.

Being older and a little bit wiser, we understood that we were remembering the same event.

Okay, to be honest, we didn’t realize it immediately.

We didn’t realize it until Husband started laughing at us for being idiots.

Then we realized it was the same incident. What. Ever.

The fact that our childhoods had intersected years before we met was, even to us, pretty weird.

Then I made JunglePete talk to the Siamang. (While I made a video so he couldn’t deny it later).


[embedded video: me forcing JunglePete to speak Siamang]

Then 6 full-grown adults crammed themselves into a 1951 1/5 size replica train operated by a dude in a conductor’s hat who probably didn’t even think it was weird to be wedging himself into a tiny car and driving grownass people around all day in a miniature steam train.

I bet you think I’m making that part up.

IMG_2269

I’m not.

This post is full of hazy memories from the late 1970s and early 80s. JunglePete’s mom and my dad are both deceased, so you’re at the mercy of mine and JunglePete’s memories on some of the details (and may god have mercy on your souls) but we do have witnesses who can corroborate the important points.

While writing this post I realized that I still have a habit of automatically checking behind my chair whenever I sit down in a restaurant, hoping to find another monkey.

I haven’t ever found another one. It’s probably a rare occurrence, but if you ever find one, please let me know!

On Saturday, standing there watching the relatives of the gibbon I met at Wendy’s several decades ago (and a hundred miles away), with the people who left the ape – that was weird. I think the word surreal is overused and often abused, but I’d go so far as to label the moment surreal.

Back in the 70s none of this was newsworthy. Or if it was, it didn’t occur to anyone involved to contact the press. Very few things in Florida are particularly odd to native floridians (except the weird & crazy crap that snowbirds and transplants do, but that’s a subject for another day). While writing this post I did, however, do a bit of googling and turned up a picture of Pete’s mom and Topaz from an unrelated news article about the sanctuary:

janietopaz
JunglePete’s mom, Janie Corradino, with Topaz, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, December 15, 1978.

As for that day way back when? After lunch, dad and I went about our usual errands. We probably went to Lido Beach so I could play on the swings or up to Jungle Gardens to visit with dad’s friends. They’d shoot the breeze while I watched them milk the cobras to make anti-venom.

You know, the usual father-daughter stuff.

—–

editor’s note: I just changed some of the dates because JunglePete informed me I was off by a year or two here and there.

Also:

Full disclosure: obviously, it wasn’t a monkey. It was a lesser ape, but monkeys make better headlines. Plus, from 1978 to 2013 I thought it was a monkey so I use the word monkey a lot in this post even though I am well aware of the difference. Get over it.

As I hurtle towards the inevitable end of the semester, it’s a good time to polish up some of the drafts that have been piling up. Instant content, just add coffee.

Yes. Well.

In my Anthropological Research Design seminar this semester we’ve been, um, designing research. Specifically, ethnographic research. (As a biological anthropologist, this is not something I do often).

I knew I wanted to do something involving Floridians and alligators. I’d read Laura Ogden’s Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades and her scholarly articles on the cultural and political constructions of nature and the concept of ecosystems but I wasn’t quite sure where to go from there. (Here’s an interview on the Anthropology and Environment Society blog with Ogden about the book – it’s fascinating).

I was flailing about on a Friday night in late February, knee-deep in a literature review, when I decided to take a brief twitter-break. That’s when I saw that uber-scienceblogger Brian Switek had tweeted this::

My fear of a world where apes evolved from men kicked into high gear and I quickly responded.

Later I discovered my Tivo, Overlord II, had been trying to give me nudges in the right direction all week:

planetapes

Amidst all this chatter, and the inevitable branching twitter conversations, I realized I was thinking too narrowly. Reading Ajay Gandhi’s ethnography, “Catch Me if You Can: Monkey capture in Delhi” was a turning point. My ideas were sound, but my theoretical model was all wrong. I don’t think that multispecies ethnography (see references at the end of the post) is really going to be The Next Big Thing, but the possible applications are intriguing.

So the moral of the story: Twitter is not always a waste of time and Tivo is your friend and it just wants to help. Also, beware the Ricardo Montalban Effect, which I still haven’t fully explained but intend to in the very near future. I thought I had an old post explaining it, but I was mistaken. I’ll fix that, but probably not until the semester is over.

In related news, Brian Switek’s new book, My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs, is waiting for you to buy it. It’s pretty great.

_______________
References

Fuentes, Agustin
2010 Naturalcultural encounters in Bali: monkeys, temples, tourists, and ethnoprimatology. Cultural Anthropology 25(4):600 – 624.

Gandhi, Ajay
2012 Catch me if you can: Monkey capture in Delhi. Ethnography (13): 43-56.

Kirksey, S. Eben and Stefan Helmreich
2010 The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography. Cultural Anthropology 25(4):545-576.

Ogden, Laura
2008 The Everglades Ecosystem and the Politics of Nature. American Anthropologist 110(1):21-32.

BloodMonkey

Speaking of apes, which we weren’t, it’s Friday night, which means it’s finally time to watch BloodMonkey. I know we promised to watch it as a double feature with Flying Monkeys, but we lied.

This movie is so Not Good we hadn’t even gotten through the title sequence before a cocktail party broke out here in the living room.

So, BloodMonkey. A bunch of sociocultural anthropology graduate students go into the jungles of Thailand. Little do they know, BloodMonkeys live in the jungles of Southeast Asia. The students traipse into the jungle to work with megalomaniacal anthropologist Conrad Hamilton, played by Fidel Castro as played by F. Murray Abraham.

Sociocultural anthropologists who cavort about in the jungle collecting new species of wildlife?

Hint: this is not what sociocultural anthropologists do.

Technically, primatologists do something sort of vaguely not really kind of like what these people might possibly be doing, if gigantic bloodsucking gorillas actually existed and biological anthropologists or primatologists or biologists or zoologists were still chasing the idea of a missing link and those researchers got enough funding to randomly fly dozens of inexperienced grad students halfway across the world just so…well, it’s not really clear why they were chosen to fly to Southeast Asia.

Wait…I know…

This large group of inexperienced grad students were flown half-way around the world to die, bloody.

Yes, it all makes more sense to me now.

Clearly, I’m sober and it’s impairing my SyFy craptacular film judgment.

Hey! While I wasn’t paying attention the grad students developed some knowledge of anatomy and physiology, sort ot, but I think that’s just so when BloodMonkey shows up they’ll know what’s killing them.

Real primatologists would be able to tell that this thing that’s killing them all isn’t a BloodMonkey at all. It’s a BloodApe. BloodApe doesn’t have the same zing, does it?

What I really want to do here is move the “tags” from the footer of each post up into the byline, just below the “categories” list, but I can’t do that while BloodMonkey leeches away my IQ, so instead I’m just cleaning up the header and some of the navigation elements over there in the far-right column. This place is a mess. I’m a terrible blogger.

We’re also eating frozen custard. Banana pudding, in honor of BloodMonkey. Not really. We’re eating banana pudding frozen custard because that was the flavor of the day at the Dairy Godmother so I got some this afternoon and stashed it in the freezer for later because it’s awesome.

BloodyMonkey? Not awesome.

Wait, what just happened? Um, I guess that’s the end of the movie. I think it’s best to just let it rest in peace. BloodMonkey was bad, but it’s wasn’t Bad. And that’s too bad, because that means it was just boring when it wasn’t annoying us with it’s representations of anthropology, primatology, and with the way it besmirched the good name of BloodApes.

We should have made this a double feature with Congo but I think Husband is smart enough not to let that happen. Watching Congo late on a Friday night runs the risk we’ll be running around the house chanting, “Amy Good Gorilla” all weekend.

That’s a terrible quality clip, but it’s midnight and my brain has just been broken by BloodMonkey and the custard is wearing off and it’s the best I could do after almost 20 seconds of youtube searching.

SyFy: Flying Monkeys

SyFy Channel: Flying Monkeys

Flying Monkeys is one of those movies that compels the viewer to ask the eternal question, “Sure, why not?”

It makes a fine double-feature with BloodMonkey, especially on the weekend that Oz The Great and Powerful hits theaters.

BloodMonkey is a 2007 classic in the “anthropology done (horribly and nonsensically wrong) on film” genre. It stars F. Murray Abraham as the anthropology professor. That dude was Amadeus!

That’s some quality programming!

Here’s a summary/viewing guide for Flying Monkeys that contains details that might be spoilers for people who a) care and b) have never seen a made for tv movie before, especially a SyFy movie.

In the opening scene, hilarity and bloodshed occur on an “airplane.”

Then, it’s a sunny day in Gale, Kansas, where a high school graduation is happening.

(Gale, Kansas. Flying monkeys. Go on, go make yourself a strong drink – I’ll wait)

It’s a sunny day in Gale, Kansas, which looks and sounds suspiciously like Louisiana. Sure, why not?

A guy who looks like Dr. Oz would look if he’d been punched in the face is late to his smart and responsible daughter Joan’s graduation. She expects him to be late because he’s been irresponsible ever since Mom died, which is totally clever and unique and in no way the relationship of every other father and daughter on television.

Face-punched Dr. Oz feels bad for being a terrible failure, so he goes to a pet store and buys Joan, who works as a vet tech, a monkey. A killer flying blood monkey disguised as a cute capuchin monkey! The capuchin who killed a smuggler in an airplane in the beginning of the movie!

What could go wrong?

We find out what could go wrong as the first act ends and the second act begins, after Joan and Face-Punched Dr Oz let the monkey live in their house. Loose. Without a diaper. For almost an hour of running-time which seems to be weeks of story-time.

That means you now have about 45 minutes to go forage for some dinner and make yourself another drink before the third act. You won’t miss much. At the sound of the screaming, there will be some badly rendered CG flying monkey action, so you might want to take a peak at those scenes because they’re pretty awesome. Or pretty awful. It will depend on how many drinks you’ve had, I suspect.

Monkeys. Possessed by demons. Sure, why not?

So a bunch of stuff happens but none of it really matters. I don’t think. I may have missed some stuff. (Those drinks don’t mix themselves).

Husband says you didn’t miss much if you weren’t paying attention. There was some gibberish exposition from some random secondary characters in the jungles of Louisiana/Hong Kong about how you need sacred weapons to kill the Flying Monkeys because if you just shoot them with a regular gun they multiply spontaneously and you suddenly have not one, but two, full-grown rubbery-looking hairless flying monkeys. More shooting, more monkeys. Like gremlins, only sillier.

Sure, why not?

This explains why there was only one winged demon-monkey left on Earth when I went into the kitchen and an army of them when I returned only moments later.

Robert Rodriguez’s niece-in-law, Electra Avellan gets top billing, presumably because she has a shower scene. She’s an otherwise infrequently-seen supporting character named Sonya who is Joan’s best friend. That seems to be the start of the third act, her shower scene. It’s normally wildly obvious when one act ends and the next begins in this movies, but to be honest I haven’t been paying a lot of attention.

(Niece-in-law? That sounds ridiculous. Just call her his niece).

I can only hope that monkey diaper authority Jungle Pete doesn’t see this movie (without me). All that un-diapered monkey action in that house would make him twitchy, despite the movie’s overall anti-exotic pets/animal smuggling “message.” And the demons.

Dr. Birdcage passed this along – “The List: 5 Reasons Why We Should Worry About an Ape Revolution.” It’s from Smithsonian Magazine’s Around the Mall blog.

With the impending release this Friday of the documentary summer blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I thought we should all be prepared in case we ever face chemically enhanced apes that attempt to take over our world. In the past on our site we’ve investigated zombies and kept a running record on robot technology, but the threat of ape rebellion had yet to be cataloged. The National Zoo’s Amanda Bania, a keeper who works with the great apes, told me that gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and the other ape species can best us in many ways, even without being injected with mysterious serums by James Franco. This week’s list deals with 5 ways that apes outdo humans:

[read the whole post]

I mostly posted this to fuel JunglePete’s clearly rational and justified fears about the impending ape-based apocalypse.


[embedded: Rise of the Planet of the Apes trailer]

I’m still aggravated by the mess Tim Burton made with his PotA remake, but I have high hopes for Rise of the Plant of the Apes because the trailer looks cool.

I think a lot of movies come out in 3D that don’t need to be in 3D. But this one? This one is not in 3D? This movie that has an ape jumping off of a skyscraper and into a helicopter in mid-air is not in 3D?

Why? Why is this movie not in 3D?

I repeat: Ape. Helicopter.