Thursday, February 18, 2010

THE IVORY APE of my dreams


If I ever submitted myself to a penetrating and thorough psychoanalysis regarding my obsession with gorilla suits and simian pop culture in general, I have a gut instinct that there is one film from my childhood that had a reverberating impact on me.
Uh, not quite....I was referring to THE IVORY APE.

Airing when I was only about 7 years old, I can't remember whether I saw it when the film premiered on the ABC Friday Night Movie or some time after. Regardless of exactly when I saw the made-for-TV production, when I began seeking out gorilla suit information, I rediscovered the film. I have yet to actually see the movie again (it is my gorilla suit "White Whale",as it were) but I have hunted tirelessly for any related photos and a copy of the title. I know it had a VHS release, yet in about a year of item watching, none have surfaced on Ebay.
THE IVORY APE (1980) VHS art

Recently, I was fortunate enough to procure a promotional ABC still that pointedly reminded me that we see the world through very different eyes when we are kids. I recall the wild, white ape as a fearsome beast, innocent but brutal - this fellow looks like a Gund stuffy! Still, the silly bugger holds a special place in my furry heart and I will continue to gather whatever I can from the film.

The film is outlined in the ABC PR attachment that was glued to the still:

Steven Keats and Cindy Pickett have both devoted their lives to the protection of wild animals, but the fabled albino gorilla creates a special problem when a savage mob stalks the innocent animal for both profit and revenge in "The Ivory Ape".

Pretty snappy eh? Well, maybe not, but the film also stars the always interesting Jack Palance as a flinty hunter who captured the Ivory Ape in Africa but must hunt him again when he escapes from the boat transporting him to the USA.
THE IVORY APE (1980) Promotional Photo The movie was an odd live action product of the Rankin Bass studio, best known for all those charming Christmas stop motion programs such as RUDOLPH, THE RED NOSED REINDEER and FROSTY THE SNOWMAN. Shot in Bermuda, the film still has a presence in local history and is often mentioned in travel and historical websites.


1980 - Bermudian film and television producer Arthur Rankin Jr. cast Jack Palance in a 1980 made-for-TV film shot entirely on location in Bermuda. Palance specialized in playing villains during his five-decade Hollywood career which began in the early 1950s with Attila the Hun. He spent several weeks in Bermuda cast against type as the hero in Mr. Rankin's made-for-television movie The Ivory Ape. It was written and produced by Mr. Rankin and aired on prime time on the ABC television network. The film featured such local performers as Grace Rawlins, Charles Jeffers, Marlene B. Landy, Jane Bainbridge, John Lough and George Rushe in supporting roles. Palance starred in the film as Bermuda-based big game hunter Marc Kazarian. The plot focuses on a hunt for a rare albino gorilla, recently captured in Africa, which escapes from a freighter bound for New York that's forced to dock on the island during a storm. In a nod to the classic Empire State Building climax of 1931's King Kong, the albino ape is finally tracked to the steeple of Holy Trinity Church, Harrington Sound. The gorilla is killed by a trigger-happy Bermudian before Palance's Kazarian character - who has turned his back on his former career as a hunter can save the animal, a female which has just given birth.

I am a little confused about Rankin's apparently Bermudian origins, as I have seen him elsewhere described as American and his birthplace given as New York.

THE IVORY APE (1980) Promotional Photo
We all have cinematic guilty pleasures but I can't even categorize this film as one yet! As with many gorilla suit films, this elusive beast is all the more desirable because of it's scarcity. Goodness knows, if I ever track it down, I will be wondering why I wanted to see it so badly once the credits roll.

But until then, if you happen to catch wind of a copy or pic available - WRITE ME!!!!!


Please don't write me! I finally have in my possession, my most avidly persued film of the past decade - let's just say the thrill of the hunt FAR exceeded the thrill of viewing it. It's incredible how our youthful impressions are so drastically different from our adult, mature critique of the same material. I have great satisfaction that this rare gorilla suit film now rests among other classics of the genre but I won't be spinning this disc on a monthly basis. I will upload a whack of screen caps to Flickr sometime soon and perhaps write in greater detail about my thoughts about the film in the future. If you wish to add this gem to your cinematic treasure chest you can purchase it here at SUPER STRANGE VIDEO.


  1. I honestly cannot remember if I ever even saw the movie or if just the trailer made an impression on me at 9 years old. I think I only saw the last 30 minutes or so on my sister's little black and white TV because nobody else in the family wanted to watch it.

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