Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Today we've got the 1986 killer monkey movie Link. It's about this cornfed American broad (played by Elizabeth Shue at her most succulent and deflowerable) who takes a job as the assistant to this wacky primatologist, played by General Goddamn Zod himself, Terrance Stamp. He's got an old mansion out in the British countryside, which is apparently so overrun with feral dogs that decent people can't even leave their houses for fear of mauling. Professor Zod is trying to prove that monkeys are as smart as people, but it's not going too well because they're, you know, not. He's got three test subjects: Voodoo, a crazy chimpanzee he keeps in a cage so she won't eat his face off; Imp, an adorable little baby chimp who likes huggins and kissins; and Link, a 45-year-old ex-circus orangutan who thinks he's the butler. The movie makes you think Voodoo is going to be the villain, but she's just a red herring, because once Link gets wind that the doc is going to have him put down, he throws Zod down a well and kills anybody who tries to stop him from smoking cigars in the kitchen and watching Elizabeth Shue take a bath. I think we can all appreciate where he's coming from on that one.

I love monkeys. Monkeys make me happy, and this movie has a hell of a monkey. I don't know how this is possible, but somehow the ape who plays Link has the shabby charm and genial menace of Sid Haig. He just hangs back the whole movie, stealing scenes from his Oscar-nominated co-stars with just a cock of his monkey eyebrows, but when he swings into action and breaks a Rottweiler's neck against a fencepost, you know that this is an ape to be reckoned with. Link even gives Clyde from Every Which Way But Loose a run for his money in the Greatest Monkey Of All Time sweepstakes. True, Link doesn't drink beer or give the finger, but he does wear a suit and light his own cigars. And it's not just that he wears a suit. You can throw a suit on any old ape, but if he doesn't have the panache to pull it off, he looks like some no-class punk showing up for a job interview in his older brother's hand-me-downs. Link, however, is so damn suave, he can even get away with taking off his jacket and rolling up his shirtsleeves like your bachelor uncle at your sister's wedding. Dapper, yet down-and-dirty. Clyde was blue-collar to the core, but Link is more like an ape from the wrong side of the tracks who bettered himself through sheer force of will. If he were a human, he'd be the type of dude who teaches college history but has a faded Black Flag tattoo on his shoulder.

The thing I like about Link is that he's his own man. Unlike Clyde, he's nobody's sidekick. I still get chills when I think about Clint's line in Any Which Way You Can where he's like, "Clyde's not a pet, goddammit. He's a person just like everybody else," but Link doesn't need anyone to stand up for him. He's willing and able to protect his rights by any means necessary, unlike that house monkey Clyde. I still think I'm going to keep Clyde as my Spirit Orangutan, though, because when I meet him in my Happy Place (the horror section of a mom-and-pop video store, circa 1992) he'll just want to kick back and drink some beer, not rip my arm off like Link is prone to do. You have to respect Link more, but you'd rather hang out with Clyde.

A lot of people probably won't be able to get into this movie because they don't see monkeys as scary. And I will agree that they are inherently hilarious. They're almost like people, but they're clumsier and stupider so it's always a good time watching them try to do people things like use a phone or smoke a joint. They're the retards it's still politically correct to laugh at. But, like retards, people don't realize how strong monkeys are. Even a tiny little chimp like Imp who gets carried around like a baby the whole movie has the strength of many men. And a big fucking orangutan like Link? He could tear your head off with one hand and throw your body across the room with the other. We are talking superhero strength here. He's like a fucking bear who knows how to work a doorknob. We should all be thanking our lucky stars that monkeys are better people than us, which is why they put up with our shit when we ask them to be in movies like this.

Anyway, I liked this movie a lot because it treats monkeys like individuals. They have their own personalities and desires, and they're allowed to be flawed and human like anybody else. Even at the end, after Link has killed a whole bunch of dudes and thrown two perfectly good cars off a cliff, you still feel for him because you can understand his motivations. Sure, he can wear a suit, work a computer, and stir up a highball, but everyone still treats him like a second-class citizen. In their eyes, he'll always be just another stupid monkey. A self-respecting primate can only take that shit for so long before he stands up on his own two feet (probably swinging his long ape arms over his head like he's doing the wave) and says, "Look, motherfucker. I'm here. I'm hirsute. Get used to it." Even though Link dies at the end (spoiler), he goes out with a defiant dignity that I found quite moving.

Link is directed by Richard Franklin, the underrated director of the underrated Psycho II. He's one of those Hitchcock acolytes whose movies ape (See what I did there?) the wry aloofness and visual storytelling of the master. I don't know if they make guys like him anymore, who knew the best way to create an exciting sequence of events using as few shots as possible. Most directors nowadays just shoot miles and miles of footage and then figure it out later, but you can tell that Franklin economically designed his sequences like puzzles, so that every individual part both provided crucial visual information and fit seamlessly into the whole. That's what being a director used to mean. He was the guy who figured out the best way to tell the story that was in the script, not the guy high-fiving himself about that awesome shot of the hero's trenchcoat billowing behind him after the Hummer exploded. Nothing against exploding Hummers, but a guy like Franklin could keep you enthralled with just a shot of some feet walking up some stairs. And if those feet belong to a cigar-smoking monkey, even better.

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