The film opens with Zantor (Steve Diasparra) strapped to a pillar and adorned in prison garb. His narration tells us he's moments away from being executed. As his voiceover continues, we adopt flashback mode to see how he got into this predicament.

So, in retrospect, we see Zantor as captain of a spaceship transporting a cargo three comely women - Theel (Elizabeth V Constanzo), Dane (Danielle Donahue) and Jada (Marie DeLorenzo) - to a planet inhabited by horny alien creatures known as the Daganoids. We're told they "use women for pleasure". Insert misogynistic joke here...

In the cargo bay, the trio of prisoners are already plotting their escape. The girls instigate a hilarious catfight for the benefit of the two masked men guarding them, and manage to overpower them while distracted and make their way to an escape pod at the back of the ship. Zantor determines to pursue them in a separate shuttle.

When the girls land on the nearest planet, in the middle of a very sunny and overgrown forest, their escape pod sets alight thus making it obligatory that they stay where they are. They hike through the greenery, trying to put aside the feeling that they're being watched as they search for a safe place to rest.

Of course, they are being watched ... and, following a night of rest in the woods, they come to face-to-face with their stalkers: a group of apelike beings who inhabit this planet. The women are dragged to ape leader Korg (Ken Van Sant), who dictates that they should be put to use as breeding stock to keep his race thriving.

While the women are placed under guard in a wooden hut, Korg rules with an iron fist as his underlings bicker among themselves about whether his plans for space travel and ruling the universe are mental.

Can the female prisoners use this state of arrest to make their escape? Or will they have to endure the crazed Korg's plans to bring back 'The Great Ape Games' and win the women as prizes for engaging in hand-to-hand combat with his (pri)mates? And, what will happen once Zantor crash-lands on said planet?

The Polonia Brothers, twins Mark and John, began making their zero budget genre films in the late 80s. Their first commercial release was SPLATTER FARM, a movie they later revisited and which is reviewed elsewhere on this site. Since then, they spent the next two decades making a name for themselves as purveyors of low budget trash that sold itself on a "so bad it's funny" principle. When I first started reviewing for SGM I used to quake when I saw their name attached to a title. Over time, I began to find their cheap abandon and amateurish zest increasingly endearing.

And then, in 2008, John tragically died at age 39. An enormous blow to all, obviously. To me, rather selfishly, by that time I was hooked enough to find sadness in the fact that his untimely passing could very well mean the end of the Polonia film legacy.

But, no. Little did I realise but Mark bounced back and has made a handful of films since then. EMPIRE OF THE APES is the first I've had the privilege of seeing.

All the hallmarks are here. Terrible dialogue, ham-fisted performances, special effects that really don't deserve that title, hysterical CGI moments - burning spaceships; sub-Red Dwarf toy starship travel - you know the score, I'm sure.

But there's also an unexpected advancement in terms of photographic polish and slickness of editing: Polonia has become quite slick on a technical level. The film looks good, has interesting camera angles and moves along speedily. I quite liked Ghost's ambient electronic score too.

The film is, however, tosh of the highest order. Entertaining, yes. Enjoyable, undeniably. But you have to have a certain sensibility (perhaps expectancy) to get away with the fact that the apes are men in convenience store monkey masks, the space scenes look like deleted footage from 'Button Moon' and the best line in the entire film is possibly "This way, you merry mothergrabbers!" (Korg to his cohorts while chasing the girls through the woods).

Obviously an homage or rip-off of PLANET OF THE APES (you choose), EMPIRE is a lot of fun to those who know what to expect. Despite the subject matter, there's no nudity and precious little violence - the Polonia style is much more in line with classic B-movies of yore. And I like that.

The 16x9 picture here is excellent: pin-sharp, beautifully colourful and blessed with strong black schemes. Looking to have been shot on HD, it's a great presentation which somehow makes the cheap props and costumes all the more gaudy and amusing.

English audio comes in its original 2.0 mix and is a stirring, evenly balanced prospect from beginning to end.

MVD Visual's region free DVD opens to a static main menu page. From there, an animated scene selection menu allows access to the film via 10 chapters.

There are no bonus features.

God bless Mark Polonia. I'm glad he's still out there making films. The uninitiated may vomit upon seeing this, but those prepared to immerse themselves in the charms of no-budget incompetence and truly endearing commitment to the cause will happily be beaten into agreeable submission by this film and the body of work he made prior to it with his brother John.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by MVD Visual
Region All
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review