What co-composers George Peter Mozert and Lucas Jackson Mozert have done in their classic operetta is not just reinvent the venerable concept of a giant ape attacking a forbidden island in the sky, but they have set it all gloriously to music! The melodies, the harmonies, the lyrics, even the words to the songs are a revelation. The film and its attendant audio are themselves a marvel, of course; that goes without saying. But now, thanks to the Mozert Twins and Jackson Whole Productions, we are able to see it both in its original theatrical-release form and in the filmmakers' own Unrated Special Edition Audio Commentary Director's Cut (UR/SE/AC/DC). The deluxe, twenty-four-disc package surely offers a surplus of riches. And will just as surely make the Mozerts rich.
The story, based on the classic Anglican novel Great Expectorations by Mark Spitz, is almost too familiar to describe, but I'll recap the highlights for the uninitiated. A poor, down-on-his-luck choirboy, Hansel Solow (alternately performed by Harry Ray Hausen and Harry's son, Ford), finds refuge on a tramp steamer steaming to the steamy, uncharted island of Loonitoonie. Or a tramp steamer is tramping to.... I forget, but the steamer doesn't get halfway there before Hansel is accosted by a Wicki named Wacko. Or a Wacko named Wicki, I forget. In any case, Hansel is rescued by the heroine, Princess Pardonme Madear (Jack Hack), Queen of Medullah, and they instantly fall in love, not realizing that they are actually man and wife.
Then they spot the forbidden planet, Mobius, where everyone has to strip and the situation becomes intense. This is OK, though, because most of the crew are in tents, anyway, what with cabin space being at a premium. They land the ship on a nearby mooring and immediately set out to take pictures of the planet's inhabitants, the Mobiusan Moors. But the Moors are none too happy to greet outlanders, especially ones so keen on taking their pictures. These are, after all, pictures that have been in their families for generations.
Next, we hear the sound of distant rumblings (rumble, rumble), and we see the natives getting restless. It's well past their dinnertime, and their stomachs are growling something terrible. But, wait, it's something else as well; it's the ancient chant of voodoo drums along an enormous granite cliff. Cautiously, our intrepid band climb the rock, a sort of rising rock band, lead by Hansel and the Princess, and make their way to the base of the precipice, any moment fearing an overhead attack by the dreaded Sith. Fortunately, they have nothing to worry about from the Sith, having remembered to wear their sith helmets. But what they find there is something far more terrifying than even they could have imagined--a gigantic ape bigger than the Palpatine Hills and the Lower Antilles combined.
The natives call him...Sing Song.
|Lt. Sir Cedric Etc., Etc.|
Who can forget those unforgettably unforgettable Mozert tunes, orchestrated and sung by composer James Newton Max Howard Steiner Zimmer-Williams: "Gorilla My Dreams," "I Only Have Ice Planets for You," "Simian in the Rain," "Climb Every Building," "Ape and Circumstance," "Yes, We've Got No Stinkin' Bananas" ("Bananas? We haven't got any bananas. We don't need any bananas. I don't have to show you any stinkin' bananas"), "In the Cage Where You Live," "Get Me to the Perch on Time," "Seventy-Six Skull and Bones," and that perennial favorite, "How To Succeed in Monkey Business Without Really Trying."
"Sing Song" is a monstrous achievement.
The video quality of the theatrical release is excellent, the picture size measuring a screen ratio of approximately 3.437651.34:1, a size closely matching its original 3.437651.43:1 dimensions. Jackson Whole Pictures transferred both the theatrical release and Director's Cut to disc in VHS Super-String Anorexic Blur-Ray UltraVisionSD, at a processing rate of 800K pixels per square centimeter. However, using my own fully calibrated micronometer, I measured an average of between 5-10 psc, a little less than the claimed spec but still ensuring that most of the film's RGB color-matched hues are vividly reflected in the overall picture, so, close enough. A degree of grain washes out several scenes, but there's nothing in them worth seeing, so in all it's a wash.
There is a slight degradation of picture quality in the Directors' Cut. While the theatrical release was filmed in SuperUltra Cinepanormique Kodachrome Technorama VistaScope Todd-AO 70, the Directors' Cut was filmed in Super 8. The difference is, how should I put it...different. Nevertheless, once one gets used to the smaller screen size, .27:1, the black-and-white photography with pea-green overtones, the beclouded image, the montage of moiré effects, and the peripheral snow, everything looks pretty good. There are even several occasions during the forty-eight-hour Directors' Cut that one can almost, if not quite, make out what's happening.
The theatrical release version of the film retains its mono soundtrack, while the Directors' Cut gets a brand-new, newly remastered DDT/Atmost 9.2 remix. Understand, however, that the film was originally recorded in monaural, so the remix puts the same track in all nine-point-two channels. Nevertheless, it places the listener in the dead center of the aural action.
Disc one of this twenty-four disc set contains the complete theatrical version of the film, its entire eighteen minutes; plus English, French, Spanish, and Stallonese spoken languages; Modestian, Orang, Pongadae, and Danish subtitles; seventeen theatrical, TV, and teaser trailers; and one scene selection, with a full-color, black-and-white chapter insert.
In addition, the first disc contains a co-directors' audio commentary, wherein the two Mozerts boys laugh and talk and converse about their childhoods growing up in the far reaches of the galaxy: New Zealand and Modesto. They provide a good deal of verbal description of their lives before and after becoming famous composers, their upbringing, their religious background, their grades in school, their baptisms and bar mitzvahs, their first dates, their college education, their second dates, their courtships and assorted marriages, their mutual acquaintances, their industry buddies, their multitudinous awards, their hardships making the film, and their fishing trips together. Eighteen minutes never went by so fast.
Discs two through twenty-three contain the Unrated Directors' Cut of Sing Song at 2880 minutes (or 48 hours, depending on your math). This version includes several outtakes and deleted scenes. However, it does not contain a Directors' commentary, the two men having completely exhausted their supply of personal anecdotes, jokes, and reminiscences during their comments on the theatrical version.
Disc twenty-four contains the bulk of the extras. First up, there's a guest lecture by school librarian Merriam C. Cooper that lasts about six hours, in which he demonstrates why school librarians should never be allowed to give lectures. Second, there are spy shots of the Great Ape bathing nude with co-star Naomi Watsername, as well as spy shots of SEE-3PO'D bathing nude with co-star Kristian Haywire. They are both worth looking into. Third up, there is a pair of featurettes: "The Making of Harry Pottery and the Giblet of Ire As Told By His Ceramics Teacher" (PG) and "The Making of George Peters and Luc Jackson As Told By Their Parents" (XXX). Fourth, we have the complete text of "The Last of the Mohicans" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, read in its entirety by noted film buff J.D. Salinger (in the buff). Finally, the bonus items are rounded out by a small, circular blotch of unidentifiable material.
Alex & Emma is sweet without being romantic, cute without being funny. Even when Reiner has two different stories to work with, one inside the other, he can't do anything with them. Well, nobody stays down forever, and Reiner has a lot of good years ahead of him. From here on, he certainly has nowhere to go but up.
And then Song finds himself trapped in the botanical gardens atop the Empire State Building, surrounded by jet fighters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Air Force. ("How do they get those big horses inside such tiny cockpits?" asks film critic Marilyn Monroe.) To quote from the source, "He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. The thing is...if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything." Reaching for the ring, Song toppled from the tower.
"Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was booty killed the beast."
To hear an excerpt from the movie soundtrack, click here: