This week: It’s a zoo in DVD land


1999: Gorilla Monsoon (a k a Robert Marella) makes his last public appearance at WrestleMania XV.

2001: The British journal Independent calls for banning experiments on higher primates.

2001, and I’m not making this up: A Rutgers Law School professor demands that the president of the Great Ape Project resign after he makes controversial comments supporting bestiality with orangutans.

2006: More gorilla-themed DVDs are released than you can shake a banana at.

To say I’m getting my share of simian fare this week would be an understatement of epic (or is that ape-ic?) proportions. Speaking of epic, you should see the press releases and product products I’ve stared down lately.

To promote its single- and double-disc versions of Peter Jackson’s “King Kong,” Universal sends me a jumbo paper announcement fit for tarping a Ping-Pong table. Or, theoretically, a gorilla’s litter box.

Not to be outdone, Fox heralds a 14-disc set of the original “Planet of the Apes” films, the TV show, the cartoon series and Tim Burton’s 2001 remake – packed in a handy collectible ape bust. I imagine it front and center on my mantle, mantel, right between my souvenir bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill and the photo of my parole officer.

Next comes Warner Home Video announcing its single DVD release of the 1933 “King Kong.” The hoo-hah is chimp change by comparison, and no wonder: A two-disc version just came out on Nov. 22.

Here are the reviews. And as a distant descendant of primates, who better fit to judge than me?

It was the ultimate act of hubris for director Peter “Lord of the Rings” Jackson to release, sans film, a two-disc set of “Kong” production diaries in 2005 – try showing that at your next house party. At least this gives viewers what they’ve long awaited: the three-hour epic in one of two formats. On the double disc, expect three hours more of those post-production diaries (featuring Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody) and featurettes on Skull Island and the New York City of 1933. For the extra buck, it’s a bargain to land the extras, though some retailers will likely give you a $10 break on the single disc this week. So are the extras worth the price of a movie ticket? If you’re a Jackson fan, consider that the original “Kong” inspired him to become a director.

Let’s see: There was “Planet of the Apes,” “Conquest of Planet of the Apes,” “Escape From Planet of the Apes …” I could swear there was a an “Extreme Makeover: Planet of the Apes” and a “Planet of the Apes: Attack of the Clones,” but my memory deceives me.

The folks at Fox are trumpeting the collectibility of this thing, which comes in a “limited edition” numbered set. But if I told you that, say, all of the “Joanie Loves Chachi” episodes were coming out in a grinning, limited-edition Scott Baio bust, would you jump? (Oh boy, here come the letters asking about a release date.)

Today, it’s your shelf (assuming the monkey fits up there) – tomorrow the garage sale, I say. Better off buying the movies in single DVDs, also out this week at about $15 a pop. Or if you must indulge your fix for the original five films (1968-73), there’s a Legacy Edition Box Set, $49.98.

By now you’re familiar with the plot of this classic: A group of movie executives and bean counters, searching for the ultimate monster, decide decides to re-release a film with scant extras to coincide with the launch of a rival studio’s DVD blockbuster. Their hope is fans fork out extra cash and grab both flicks. But in a fit of rage, the angry gorilla who scaled the Empire State Building descends on Hollywood in a frothy fit of rage – a loyal Sean Penn at his side – and picks off the movie moguls and paparazzi one by one.

OK, so it doesn’t end that way. But what’s the point of this offering so soon after November’s two-disc set? It’s to part you with from your hard-earned dough in an impulse buy, that’s what. Granted, it’s not a bad price if all you want is the film and no frills. For those seeking a more substantial experience, though, the double-disc (with its seven-part making-of documentary) is still out there. Snarling. All nasty like.

And finally, for those who need a more vanilla gorilla:

The theatrical release of Jackson’s “Kong” inspired a chest-thumping wave of pointless DVDs last year. But my sentimental favorite in the simian swill category is this 1961 British flick, with little to recommend it save its utter camp factor. You could probably improve on the plot in your first screenwriting class: Michael Gough stars as a mad scientist who, in trying to perfect a plant-animal hybrid, turns a baby chimp into a killing machine to brutalize his enemies. But then – yikes! – Konga turns on his creator and starts a rampage through London. All that’s missing is a soundtrack by Gorillaz.

Louis R. Carlozo: