Return of the Monkey Cam

Zippy the Chimp, operator of the

Back in the mid-eighties, David Letterman was playing around with cameras. He’d have them mounted directly above him, behind his desk, even worn by guests (The “Late Night Guest Cam”). He would have one mounted on a track that came down on him like a roller coaster he dubbed the “Late-Night Thrill Cam”. Then he decided to push the enveloppe further with the idea of monting a camera on the back of a monkey that would be let loose in the studio. The “Monkey Cam” was a disaster as the tiny camera still managed to be too much for the poor primate given that it still had to have a rather heavy battery pack to function. Not one to be defeated so easily, another attempt was made, this time affixing the camera onto a chimpanzee. Thus, in march 1986 “Monkey Cam II” was born and television history was made.

As Zippy the chimp ran wild on the set, it became obvious the images from the camera itself would prove disastrously un-telegenic. The lens would just flay randomly as Zippy swung on a rope or climbed on chairs- never actually managing to keep anything worthwhile in frame.

The concept was pushed a step further when Zippy was fitted with roller skates and dubbed the “Late Night Monkey Cam Mobile Unit”.

As is typical with Letterman, failure became part of the comedy derived from the attempt but the concept of the monkey cam was quietly mothballed.

Until, that is, the makers of Battle:Los Angeles resurrected the technology earlier this year.

Never mind the “making of” extras on the DVD, I can recognize old Zippy’s camera work when I see it! The entire credits for the “camera crew” of Battle: Los Angeles is a scam designed to keep the party poopers at PETA off their backs.

Want a synopsis? Meteors land. L.A. go boom!

Battle: Los Angeles, Hollywood’s latest entry in the “Alien Invasion” genre, is so enamoured with the barf-o-cam style that they use it in scenes that have no use for it: like the “visit to a cemetery” scene or the “saying goodbye to the girlfriend scene”.

Medic! We have a cameraman in serious need of Gravol here!

Oddly enough, there are shots where the camera is rock steady. For some reason, these are the shots where aliens get hit with rockets and explode. I’d venture to say that that’s because the pyrotechnics were so loud, they decided to give the camera crew a banana break and use tripods instead.

Also, puzzling is the odd interpretation of the 180 degree rule of cinema meaning “do the exact opposite of what should be done here”. Camera angles abound for no other reason than to show the action from a zillion angles. Soldiers would be tripping over cameramen constantly had this been really shot documentary style.

Could this be an attempt at realizing the old “infinite number of monkeys with typewriters” philosophical puzzle? The logic being that movies are a more attainable goal than literature?

Perhaps the whole point is to communicate that Los Angeles has been hit so bad, this is the only motion picture crew left. If that’s the case, then Battle: Los Angeles suddenly transforms itself into the scariest thing ever to come out of Tinseltown.

I owe Michael Bay an apology.

The world’s greatest cities have fallen, we are told through CNN reports that pepper the film. It seems Atlanta is immune to worldwide devastation and that, later tonight, Larry King will be taking to Carol Channing about what she hopes from our new alien overlords.

I owe Roland Emerich an apology.

For all it’s millions spent of post-production work and special effects (rumours and accusations abound that the reason why the Strause Brothers were able to deliver the dreadful Skyline for a mere $8 Million was because they worked on their effects while under contract for this film), BLA is a giant reverse evolutionary step in the history of the moving image. This film is more than a waste of time and money- It’s a waste of light!

The makers of this POS should grab a shovel, dig up the corpse of Thomas Edison and give him an apology.

Pain Level: 9/10

Quality of Pain: Awful. It’s the sort of pain that’s no fun- not even for masochists.

Note: Battle: Los Angeles is now on home video. So here’s a handy step-by-step guide to fully get the best possible experience from playing it on your DVD or Blu-Ray player:

1- Turn DVD/Blue-Ray player ON
2- Insert disk
3- Press PLAY
4- Set all speakers and monitor to OFF position.
5- Leave room and go attend to whatever unpleasant task you’ve been putting off (like cleaning behind the fridge for example).

If you have downloaded the film, either legally via iTunes or illegally (via ShameOnYou), the best enjoyment will be derived from deleting the file after viewing.


About The Cinémasochist

Artefacts from a former life where I gave a shit about cinema. As far as I’m concerned, cinema is a 20th Century art form. I no longer care and will be pulling the plug on this blog soon. View all posts by The Cinémasochist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: