Tuesday, January 20, 2009


In movie terminology a cutaway is “a brief shot that interrupts the main action of a film, often to depict related matter or supposedly concurrent action.” In B-Movie Catechism terminology, Cutaways is our brand spanking new companion piece to Outtakes where we’ll be presenting and discussing brief video clips from some of our more… outlandish weekly viewings. (Note: The B-Movie Catechism cannot be held responsible if watching these clips tempts you to rent or buy these movies. Endanger your sanity at your own risk.) Our inaugural clip comes from the nearly impossible to describe 1976 opus, APE.

Obviously, what you have here is a blatant attempt by the South Koreans to cash in on Dino De Laurentiis’ remake of King Kong using a monkey costume they picked up for a few wons at Party City. But APE goes far beyond being a mere rip-off. This is one of those films bad movie lovers hope for every time they press play, a movie where, scene after scene, you sit in gaped mouthed disbelief at what you’re eyes are seeing. Did APE really just wrestle a quite real, but also obviously quite dead, great white shark? Yes. Did APE really just stomp on some doll houses while giving the middle finger to a news helicopter? Yes. And did APE (in the above clip) really stumble across the filming of a chop socky flick for no good reason whatsoever? Heck yes! Now if you guessed from this scene that APE was originally filmed in 3-D, well, give yourself a cookie. But if you somehow guessed what those guys plan on doing with that battering ram, then please tell me, because they never show you in the movie and I’d like to know.

APE jumps around a lot like that, often introducing random plot points and characters who appear for one scene only to never show up again. But then again, who am I to complain as the same thing happens in Scripture all of the time. The book Bible Legends by Lillian S. Freehof & Howard Schwartz reminds of us of Serah bat Asher, a woman who left Egypt with the rest of the Jews (Gen 46:17) and is still around three hundred years later when Moses takes the census (Num 26:46). As far as Canon is concerned, Serah is just another one of those gazillion names which pop up amongst the various genealogies scattered throughout the Bible. But that doesn’t stop people from wondering about her and her unusually long life, especially in the Midrash where the Jewish Rabbis seemed to have thought about her a lot. Over the years, according to Bible Legends, Midrashic stories about Serah have placed her at the feet of Jacob singing to him, giving Moses directions to the tomb of Joseph, and even living well into the 1100s where she either died in a synagogue fire or was assumed bodily into Heaven. Not bad for just two mentions in the Bible, huh?

Neither Christians nor Jews are obligated to believe in these extra-Biblical musings, of course. Which is a relief because, The Catholic Church having formally recognized approximately 11,000 saints (and counting), there are a fair number of questionable tales out there. As noted in the 1939 Catholic Encyclopedia, by the Middle Ages, “it had unfortunately happened that the stories of the saints were supplemented and embellished by the people according to their primitive theological conceptions and inclinations, the legend became to a large extent fiction. The age of the Reformation received the legend in this form... [however] on account of the importance which the saints possessed even among Protestants, especially as the instruments of Divine grace, the legends have remained in use to this day, particularly in sermons.” But why, especially when we know some of the details are, shall we say, exaggerated? Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. believes it’s because “Saints remind us of the communion of saints, the belief that we are all called to holiness, to share life with God. Saints and angels used their freedom wisely and inspire us to do the same. They are holy because they cooperated with the grace of God, wherever that led. Saints help us by encouraging us to respond as generously as they did.”

So, for the parts of stories which hold truth and inspire us, we should give thanks and pay heed. As for those parts which sometimes make us shake our heads in exasperation (I’m looking at just about every part of you APE), well, we can always blog about them can’t we.


Anonymous said...

Now THAT'S an inauguration to celebrate!

Now, I'm a medievalist by training, so I'm hardly impartial about medieval hagiography. But it seems to me that we should bear in mind, when reading "exaggerated" Lives, that some of them we have little or now reason to doubt to be true are equally "exaggerated" to the secular eye. I mean, Symeon Stylites really seems to have spent all those years on a pillar, as did many others. The blood of St. Januarius really liquifies. Things like that make me dubious of all those who would discount the fabulous as mere fables in the accounts of the saints. I mean, Fr. Pat is probably a nice guy, but I think saints who levitate or otherwise do "useless" things are showing something profound about the range of holiness rather than reiterating the universal call to holiness.

Xena Catolica

PaperSmyth said...

Only you could get good doctrine out of a bad giant monster/kung fu movie! Way to go!

EegahInc said...

Mea Maxima Culpa if I implied that the miraculous should be dismissed wholesale. I only meant to point out that the Church is quite aware that a small number of the stories have questionable embellishments, but where since instances are noted, there is still value in learning about those particular saints.