Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Monday 28 September 2020

Burl reviews Morgan - A Suitable Case For Treatment! (1966)

Hello friends and sweet draculas, it’s Burl, here to review a picture from the Great Swingin’ 60s in Old London Town! Ha ha, I took a course once in postwar British film, and we saw some Ealing works and pictures like The Fallen Idol, but then we moved into the Dishpan Hands Era, which is to say Britain’s own New Wave, and were treated to gritty slices of life like Room at the Top, Billy Liar, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and so forth! But we never got to this movie, Morgan - A Suitable Case For Treatment, which was made by Karel Reisz, the same director who brought us Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and, later, the oddball Everybody Wins!

Morgan is the tale of Morgan, a painter who hasn’t painted anything in a long time, and has instead been going crazy! David Warner from Nightwing, The Island, The Man With Two Brains, and many others, plays the part, and does it with at least some of the sensitivity a movie about mental illness would seem to demand; but remember, ha ha, this is 1966, so at some moments Morgan’s crazy behavior is simply there for us to laugh at! His frequent daydreams of stock animal images sit somewhere in between!

This was Warner’s big break, and he delivers a roller-coaster performance that renders Morgan a fully dimensional human while still extremely annoying! Vanessa Redgrave from Mission: Impossible, The Devils, and Blow-Up, plays his exasperated ex-wife Leonie, who at times displays what I can only describe as a superhuman tolerance for Morgan’s antics! Robert Stephens from The Asphyx and The Shout plays Leonie’s new boyfriend, Charles Napier, who was also Morgan’s gallerist and friend, once upon a time! But now Morgan is always busting into his office and threatening to kill him, or simply scrawling “Charles Napier Go Home” on the back of a painting!

Ha ha, that delighted me when I saw it, because I at first assumed he was referring to Charles Napier the actor, who hadn’t even entered the Russ Meyer stage of his career at the time of this movie, and was still a long way off from Jonathan Demme and Rambo! Irene Handl from Two-Way Stretch and The Wrong Box plays Morgan’s ardently Marxist mother - ha ha, a character type I frankly adore! You’ll no doubt recall the similar Aunt Sonya character in The Big Fix! She has Morgan take her to Marx’s grave on his birthday, and despairs of his union with Leonie and her very bourgeois family! Morgan, too, is a Communist, and really, that‘s one of his most admirable traits! He’s got emotional problems and is frequently in distress, but he’s also extremely selfish!

The film follows Morgan’s efforts to win his ex back, and though he comes close to it at least once, Leoni ultimately marries Charles Napier (ha ha!) instead, and this is what puts Morgan farther ‘round the bend than he’s ever been before and lands him, in fact, in the bughouse! But you still come away convinced that you’ve seen a happy ending!

Ha ha, it’s a pretty enjoyable picture, with nice black and white imagery, jumpy New Wave-y editing, solid performances, and some laffs! Morgan himself never became an appealing presence, but I could hardly doubt the sincerity of his pain! That he kept it together long enough to get married is astonishing, and the gorilla suit finale feels inevitable! Ha ha, I give Morgan - A Suitable Case For Treatment three big knit jumpers!

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Burl reviews Silver Streak! (1976)

Choo choo! Hello gumchewers, it’s Burl, here with a mile-long review of a 1970s train picture! I’m not talking about The Cassandra Crossing - ha ha, I have yet to see that one, but one day perhaps I will - nor The Great Train Robbery, nor Murder on the Orient Express! This one does feature murder, and there is also some robbery involved, and the picture in question is of course Silver Streak!

This is the kind of movie they did well in the 70s, and by that I mean movies with some sort of hook to attract the Evel Knevel-and-Superdome-besotted young people of the day! Here we have the train itself, called the Silver Streak though there’s nothing special about its speed or appearance, and the climax in which the engine crashes spectacularly through its Chicago terminus! Leading up to this great moment is a plot I won’t get into, because when bad guy Patrick McGoohan explains his nefarious scheme near the end of the picture, I didn’t understand a word of it! Ha ha!

Our main character is George, a mild-mannered editor of gardening books played by Gene Wilder, who’s taking the train to get some rest and relaxation! He first meets an obnoxious vitamin salesman (or so we think!) played by the excellent Ned Beatty from Rolling Vengeance, and then hooks up with prettylady Jill Clayburgh, known from It’s My Turn and several similar movies, here essaying the role of - well, to be honest, I was never sure exactly what her character was meant to be! Soon George witnesses an apparent murder, then is repeatedly thrown off the train by a pair of goons, Ray Walston from Galaxy of Terror and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Richard Kiel, playing the same spangle-toothed killer giant he does in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker!

Eventually, more than an hour in to the picture, none other than Richard Pryor shows up! Ha ha, we certainly recall him from his adventures in Brewster’s Millions! He gives the proceedings a shot of energy they badly need and, by this point, barely deserve! Don’t get me wrong: the movie is generally entertaining even without Pryor, but Pauline Kael’s observation that Pryor briefly makes the movie into the comedy its makers had hoped it would be is well taken! However a scene in which Pryor tries to help his little white frizzy-haired buddy evade capture by smearing him with shoe polish and teaching him how to “act Black” nearly destroys the whole endeavor: only the movie’s profound, essential, guileless unhipness helps it survive this ill-considered passage! Ha ha!

Of course it’s all a big tribute to Hitch, and especially to North By Northwest; but the Wrong Man scenario is not played up as much as I was expecting it to be, which was something of a relief! The director, Arthur Hiller, who would use the success of this and his subsequent picture, The In-Laws, to launch a brave stab at eco-horror with Nightwing, keeps it all moving with the stolid momentum of a freight train, though if he’d pushed the throttle up to bullet train speeds, who knows what we might have had!

As you can see, the cast is generally great, with a properly cold-eyed performance from McGoohan, whom we recall from Scanners and Escape From Alcatraz! Ha ha, his demise is certainly a tent-capper! Clifton James from Juggernaut shows up, playing an only slightly less cartoony cracker sheriff than the one he essays in Bond pictures like Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun! We also get Stefan Gierasch from Blood Beach, Fred Willard from Moving Violations, and the great Scatman Crothers from The King of Marvin Gardens and The Shining, playing a porter of course! And there is a trio of obnoxious conventioneers played by Canadian acting staples Henry Beckman from The Brood, Steve Weston from Sudden Fury, and Harvey Atkin from Funeral Home! (Obnoxious conventioneers are themselves a convention in movies like this - ha ha, just look at Airport ’75, where the analogous triumvirate is played by Norman Fell, Conrad Janis and Jerry Stiller!)

There are some laffs here and there, for example in George’s repeated cries of “Son of a bitch!” whenever he’s thrown off the train, which is frequently! But there are tone-deaf scenes too, like the aforementioned blackface debacle; and another in which Wilder, in an effort either on his part or on the part of Colin Higgins’ script to make him seem unexpectedly virile and manly and domineering and bristling with alpha confidence, instructs Clayburgh on every pre-coital step as though he’s a director blocking her in a scene! Maybe it was a gay man’s imagining of straight foreplay, or maybe it was meant to show a hint of steel in George’s spine, or maybe Wilder demanded extra toughness in his character, but whatever the case it didn’t work for me!

But the big climax did! Tons of gunfire, helicopters buzzing around, a racing train smashing through the station, ha ha, it’s all pretty good! George personally kills two people dead in the picture, one of them with a harpoon, and this is not behavior we expect from Gene Wilder! So it gets points for that too, ha ha! As middlebrow comedy-suspense-action pictures go, it’s one of them and no mistake! I give Silver Streak two Rembrandt Letters!

Monday 21 September 2020

Burl reviews The Ghost and Mr. Chicken! (1966)


Ha ha and buck-buck-buck, it’s Burl, here to review the latest in chicken terror! No, I’m not reviewing Poultrygeist, but instead an early entry in the unofficial series of Don Knotts pictures featuring his legendary Nervous Man creation! Yes, the picture under the Burloscope today is none other than The Ghost and Mr. Chicken!

It comes from the director of Ski Party, Alan Rafkin, and tells the tale of a small-town typesetter named Luther Heggs and his adventures in a haunted house! Luther wants nothing more than to become a real newspaper reporter, but repeatedly queers his chances thanks to a propensity for hysterical overreaction! Yes, like so many Knotts characters, who usually differ only in name and occupation, Luther suffers from an acute case of novocentrosis, and how can he ever report on, say, a murder case, or especially on a ghost case, whilst in the grip of such a condition?

Ha ha, he can’t! He has enough trouble joining the local prettygirl for lunch, and he’s forever getting bamboozled by Ollie, a reporter who lives in the same rooming house as Luther and is always making fun of him! But the old janitor who works at the paper prods Luther to take on the story of the old Simmons place, a house assumed to be haunted because of a garden shears murder and attendant defenestration, which took place there lo these twenty years past! The sound of disembodied hands playing a terrific Vic Mizzy tune wafts out from the organ loft - organ lofts being a feature rarely included in new homes built these days, ha ha! - on the reg, and the whole town assumes this uncanny serenade to be the work of old, dead, Mr. Simmons!

Well, pretty soon Luther’s nervousness, already at such a level that it’s a wonder his eyeballs remain in his head, is jacked up to nuclear levels, because he agrees to spend the night in the murder house! Ha ha, organs play, painting bleed, noises and shapes and shadows terrify poor Luther and roil his very soul, until he can take it no more and flees for his life and his sanity! This for some reason leads to a courtroom scene, which eats up valuable running time that could have been spent in the haunted house! The finale finds Luther helping to solve a crime, sort of, and saving the girl, sort of, and sort of helping to bring down the bad guy, who turns out to have been the murderer from two decades before!

Luther can barely lay a claim on being the hero of the move, and in fact Luther doesn’t do much of anything through its whole running time, ha ha! His fearful passivity is sometimes maddening, even if you’re familiar with Knotts and his Nervous Man and so know what to expect! He was a talented fellow and no mistake, and capable of surprising pathos, but unless you’re in the right mood, a little nervousness can go a long way! In the end, what can you say except "Atta boy, Luther!"

 I’ve heard that kids who saw this movie at the right age were terrified by it, but considering the brightly-lit television look and the marvelously jolly Mizzy score, I’m not sure if I believe it! It’s got lots of smalltown charm, and the same sort gallery of familiar mugs you would see in the live-action Disney movies of the decade that followed (ha ha, even Robert Cornthwaite from The Thing From Another World and Matinee is in here, playing a lawyer), but the Scooby-Doo revelation at the end is a bit of a disappointment! Still, it’s better than the Nervous Man pictures that followed, like The Reluctant Astronaut and The Shakiest Gun in the West! I’m going to give The Ghost and Mr. Chicken two organ lofts!

Sunday 20 September 2020

Burl reviews Backdraft! (1991)


Out of the way, it’s Burl, here with an emergency review! Yes, it’s a movie about firemen today, and certainly the most popular of this subgenre: Ron Howard’s Backdraft! Ha ha, Howard, it’s considered polite to excuse yourself, you know!

Now, this is not the best movie Ron Howard ever made - that would have to be either Apollo 13 or Grand Theft Auto! But it’s almost certainly the most fire-filled! It’s the tale of a Chicago fire-fighting family: the dad, back in ’71, is killed fighting a blaze, and the two sons grow up to be pompiers themselves! The older brother, played by Kurt Russell from The Thing, is known as Bull, perhaps because he’s ready to charge into any conflagration and battle the flames with his bare hands if needs be! The younger sibling, enacted by William Baldwin from Flatliners, phumphered around for a bit before deciding to have a go at the family trade, and much of the movie is made up of tiresome arguments between the brothers!

But there’s other stuff going on too! A criminal is murdering people using surprise backdrafts, which is to say quick, explosive little fires that kill their victims and then blow themselves out! Robert De Niro from Mean Streets is investigating these incidents, and the younger brother helps him out! Donald Sutherland from Heaven Help Us and The Puppet Masters plays the local pyromaniac, Ronald, who helps out Hannibal Lecter-style from his flameproof prison cell! And there’s romance, too: Jennifer Jason Leigh from Eyes of a Stranger and Grandview U.S.A. works for slimy city councilman J.T. Walsh, from Eddie Macon’s Run and Misery, and plays bohankie with young Baldwin, whereas Bull, in his grumpy, stoic way, would like to get back together with his estranged wife, played by Rebecca De Mornay from Risky Business!

Scott Glenn from The Right Stuff and The Keep lurks in the margins of all this, waiting patiently for his paternal fireman character to become narratively relevant! Baldwin, meanwhile, shows off an alarming aptitude for spying on men at just the moment they take their shirts off to reveal telltale scars! Ha ha! And the fire sequences and attendant trick effects are suitably spectacular, if not always crucial to the plot! It’s not The Towering Inferno, wherein the disaster is the thing; the fires here are more window dressing than anything! They're attractively shot, though, by Mikael Salomon; and just before this fire movie Salomon worked on The Abyss, a water picture, and Always, which takes place largely in the air! Ha ha, I wonder if he ever got around to shooting an earth picture, just to get all the elements in!

It’s all very much like an extended episode of Emergency!, which at one time was my favourite TV show! Except the scripts for Emergency!, which were no great shakes, were better than this one! It was written by the same fellow who brought us Highlander, and he apparently was himself a firefighter for a few years, and in the incendiary admixture of clunky dialogue and inside-baseball details, both influences show! It all wraps up with that staple of middlebrow 90s cinema: the god-awful end credit theme song!

In short, it’s bad, but with its overqualified cast and terrific fire action, also entertaining and watchable! It caused my son to think twice about his current ambition to become a forensic fire investigator, and I’m not sure what to make of that! In the event, I guess I’ll give Backdraft one and a half BMW windshields!

Friday 18 September 2020

Burl reviews The House by the Cemetery! (1981)


Ha ha and marinara sauce, it’s Burl, here with a review of some pastaland slaughter! Yes, today I’m reviewing a picture made by that much-loved auteur Lucio Fulci, the man who brought us City of the Living Dead and many other movies! Ha ha, and not just gory zombie pictures either - he was a filmmaker for all seasons! But his horror pictures are really his trademark, and in this one, The House by the Cemetery, he really went all out with not just the tomato paste, but the alarming existentialism as well!

I was slightly reluctant to watch this movie again! I last saw it when I was a teenager, but I could remember that it featured a child in peril, and now that I have a child of my own, just a little older now than the one in the movie, I don’t have a very high tolerance for scenes such as that! But the kid in the movie is an eerie looking little moppet called Bob, and I thought maybe, just maybe, he would end up being more the source of the terror than the recipient!

Ha ha, no! The entire last half of the movie, it seems, is made up of scene after scene of Bob being remorselessly terrorized by a zombielike creature who resembles Admiral Ackbar’s disreputable second cousin! This entity is none other than the hideous Dr. Freudstein, a scientist from long ago who has discovered that a steady program of murder can keep him alive, if not especially handsome! So he hangs out in the basement of his old house and murders whoever he can!

The family in the house consists of a bookish scientist who’s there to follow up on the work of the scientist who lived there before and was goaded into suicide by the continuing presence of Freudstein; his wife, played by that familiar face of Italian horror, Catriona MacColl; and poor, unearthly little Bob! There’s also a babysitter who seems to have some agenda of her own, but who is beheaded before she has a chance to enact it! Of course it all ends in a strange, seemingly downbeat ending that’s nevertheless open to some interpretation!

Ha ha! No, I didn’t like the excessive terrorization of little Bob, but outside of that, I must say that Fulci did some good work here, not least in the hiring of his technicians! Sergio Salvati, the cinematographer, provides some marvelous imagery, and good old Gianetto De Rossi does up the trick gore effects in a way few others have managed! Fulci himself weaves an atmosphere of increasing dread and baneful inevitability; not in the relatively subtle way of, say, an Algernon Blackwood story, but with his usual dark sledgehammer lumpiousness! I didn’t enjoy the experience of watching this picture, but I recognize its place in the pantheon! I give The House by the Cemetery two throat rippings!

Monday 14 September 2020

Burl reviews Pacific Rim: Uprising! (2018)


Ha ha and bash bang boom, it’s Burl, here with another review of a giant robot movie! Yes, some years ago I had the mindless pleasure of seeing Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim in the movie theatre, and now, at the insistence of my son, I’ve just recently caught up with its sequel, Pacific Rim: Uprising!

Well, Del Toro was not involved with this one except as a producer and as some kind of consultant, and his absence is keenly felt! The original picture was silly but had Del Toro’s nearly evangelical monster movie conviction behind it, exemplified not just by the monsters themselves but by the details surrounding them! And so we get crazy character names like Stacker Pentecost, or a home base called the Shatterdome!

The newer picture lacks this conviction and in fact has no understanding of it, and as a result the necessary carryovers from the first installment are present only grudgingly, it seems! Thus Stacker Pentecost’s son, played here by John Boyega from Attack the Block and The Force Awakens, is called Jake Pentecost, and all the other names are boring too! And it takes a good long while for the monster action to really begin - there’s far too much robot vs. robot, leading the viewer to wearily conclude that he or she might as well be watching a Transformers picture!

I realize this sounds like an extremely harsh criticism, and it is, but the picture offers a few compensations here and there! Boyega, while not especially memorable in the role, is at least perfectly cast! And the direction they take that annoying little motormouth scientist from the first one makes a certain sense, and opens the narrative up a bit from the battling behemoths! The trick effects are a little more weightless than they were in the first, but it all still looks pretty good in that sequel-to-a-blockbuster way!

Unfortunately the bad guys behind all this are not the creatures themselves, but a never-seen race of extra-dimensional beings referred to, for no particular reason, as Precursors! (Ha ha, as an attempt to keep up with the Del Toro standard, this nomenclature fails spectacularly!) But the triple-sized creature they send up for the climax is soundly defeated by the last remaining robot, and the picture ends, as does another misbegotten big-budget sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, with a call to arms and a pledge to Take The Fight To Them! If a third picture in either of these series manifests itself, I shall be fairly surprised, ha ha!

Now I realize I haven’t told you much about the plot or the craft of this movie, but that’s because, take it from me, you don’t need me to! And if you care about any of that, you’ve probably already seen the picture! So all that remains is for me to give Pacific Rim: Uprising a single frenemy!

Tuesday 8 September 2020

Burl reviews The Stuff! (1985)


Glip glap glorp, it’s Burl, here with a dessert recipe for you courtesy of Mr. Larry Cohen! Ha ha, move that light! Yes, as you probably already know, I’m fond of Larry Cohen and his pictures, even though many of them aren’t very good, and this one in particular is, well, flawed! But as with all of his movies, however technically inept the may occasionally be, or how unformed the narrative, there are compensations both conceptual and performative, and frankly this picture, The Stuff, needs all the compensations it can get!

The idea can hardly be beat, ha ha! We open in an industrial setting, where a worker espies a strange creamy substance bubbling from the ground! Of course his first instinct is to take a big fingerful of this goop and jam it in his mouth, and, finding it delicious, take it to market as The Stuff!

Before you know it The Stuff is the newest taste sensation, replacing ice cream, whipped cream, icing, or any other sweet paste! The establishment confectionary companies aren’t any too pleased about this, and they hire an eccentric industrial espionage agent, Mo Rutherford, so-called, he frequently explains, because whenever he gets something, like money, he always would like some mo of it! Equally unhappy with The Stuff is a little Long Island boy who sees it move in his fridge, and the advertising lady who came up with the dynamite campaign for the uncanny treat once she learns (and easily accepts) the truth about it - namely, that it’s a sentient slime which will hex the eater’s brain and, eventually, grotesquely rupture his body!

So there you go, ha ha, primo material for horror, action, weird trick makeup effects, and social satire; and all of this The Stuff has, but in very budget amounts! Of course this is fair because it was a very budget production, though it must be said here and now that there are some excellent trick effects in it and some obvious but amusing old fashioned techniques on view, like the old spinning set routine or the forced perspective shots! These things give the picture a pleasantly old-fashioned feel!

Cohen was always good at putting together marvelous New York casts, and he does again here! Michael Moriarty, who, believe the hype, is very good in Q, is Mo; Andrea Marcovicci from The Hand is the advertising lady, Nicole; and then Garrett Morris from Motorama (but who isn’t from Motorama, ha ha!) shows up playing an excitable cookie magnate who suffers a wide-mouth demise that looked a lot better in the pages of Fangoria than it does in the movie! Near the end, when Paul Sorvino turns up as a right-wing cock-a-doodle-doo, we get some satirizing of the demented-patriot mindset, as though satirizing American consumerism and diet were not enough for one picture!

I guess the slapdash way Cohen put this together got under my skin a little, ha ha, because I believe he knew perfectly well how to make coherent movies, but so often he just didn’t bother! We find this syndrome in God Told Me To, in which it sort of works because the material is so weird, and in A Return to Salem’s Lot, where it doesn’t so much; but it especially seems the case here! There are explanatory factors: for one, the ambition and the budget didn’t exactly match up, and I understand there was post-production monkeying from the distribution company!

Of course the blame for the movie’s many flaws - the inconsistent acting, the confounding mise-en-scene, the chicken-with-its-head-cut-off storytelling, the whole impossible tanker-truck scene - rests with Cohen, but then so do the virtues! The killer dessert angle is marvelous; there are funny bits throughout; and the supporting cast, including Patrick O’Neal from Silent Night, Bloody Night and The Stepford Wives, Danny Aiello from Radio Days and The Protector, Rutanya Alda from Amityville II: The Possession and Black Widow, and, in cameos, Brooke Adams from The Dead Zone and (appropriately) Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Laurene Landon from Armed Response and Maniac Cop, Abe Vigoda from Death Car on the Freeway, and even Clara Peller from Moving Violations, is truly unique!

I guess whether you like The Stuff or not rests largely on whether you like Cohen and his crazy movies or not! I’m highly sympathetic to them, and him - I was sad when he died, prematurely it seemed to me! - and I also have some pleasant teenage memories connected with the movie! I’m going to give The Stuff two big spoonfuls!

Monday 7 September 2020

Burl reviews Alien Nation! (1988)


Hello outlanders, it’s Burl here to review a picture set in the far-off near-future world of 1991! Like Independence Day and V, it’s a story that begins with an enormous metal frisbee hovering over Los Angeles, but this time the aliens aren’t here to blast us or turn us into vittles - they’re refugees from some slave planet, looking for safe harbor! And they have big heads so of course you know the movie I’m talking about is Alien Nation!

The story proper takes up several years after the initial landing, with James Caan from Misery playing a human cop who loses his partner to the incredibly powerful shotguns of two duster-sporting alien criminals! He takes a nerdy alien played by Mandy Patinkin from The Princess Bride as his new detective partner! (Maybe on the set Patinkin told Caan “Ha ha, that guy Rob Reiner is a nice fellow! You should work with him some time!”)

The alien fugees are Newcomers to most people, and “slags” to bigots like Caan, but despite his distaste for the otherworldly immigrants, Caan wants Patinkin along because he thinks the big-domed detective can help him find the aliens who killed his buddy! Terence Stamp from Link plays the most likely suspect, an alien businessman/drug dealer who seems like the kind of guy Axel Foley might come up against in one of his pictures; while Kevyn Major Howard from Full Metal Jacket and Death Wish II essays the role of Stamp’s scowly lieutenant!

Most of the movie is a very so-so investigation plot with a little sci-fi and the inter-species tension salted in here and there! It does work a bit to fill in the sociological details of the alien arrival, but that only goes so far! There’s a not-bad car chase, and then some lame would-be monster attack stuff at the very end! Ha ha, this is another 80s picture with buddy cops of course, and as such it follows a formula, and let me tell you, it stays the course on that formula, never deviating for a second! There are, in other words, no surprises to be found here!

It’s too bad, because the potential for them is rich! But the movie sticks to its guns, quite literally, and despite the odd moment of wit, the ingratiating performance from Patinkin and the properly gruff one from Caan, the very late-80s photography from Adam Greenberg, and the fine, if rather boring, trick makeup effects on the aliens, it’s still little more than a routine police meller; and as far as human-alien buddy cop pictures go, The Hidden, which came along a year before this one, is a much better bet! There’s not much that’s memorable here; indeed, I saw this in the theatre on its release and by just a few days later could have told you very little about the movie! Revisiting it this summer, I can see why! It has a few nice touches and it doesn’t stink, but it doesn’t do much else either! I give Alien Nation one and a half cartons of sour milk!

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Burl reviews Link! (1986)

Chee-chee-chee it’s Burl, here with a bit of monkey business for you! Ha ha, actually it’s ape business today, and what I’m talking about more specifically is a picture from Richard Franklin, who directed Psycho II and Cloak & Dagger, and then followed these works up with another Hitchcock-inspired photoplay called Link!
In a story that seems like a dream you might have after reading the Thornfield Hall segment of Jane Eyre and one of the chimp books by Jane Goodall on the same night, we have yet another Jane, an American anthropology student in the UK played by Elizabeth Shue from The Karate Kid, who goes to work for monkey professor Terence Stamp, whom we well remember from Alien Nation, at his large Cornish seaside mansion! Stamp also employs a trio of apes: two chimps, Imp and Voodoo, and a sour old orangutan in a morning coat called Link! I suspect Link is meant to be a chimp too, but he’s all orang, baby!
Stamp’s relationship with the simians is well drawn, but unfortunately this means our neo-Rochester is doomed to be their victim! After he mysteriously disappears, amid a lot of frenzied hooting and screeching from the apes, and the body of Voodoo is found, Jane very slowly comes to realize that all is not right, and she must choose to face either the wild dogs that roam the surrounding moors, or the increasingly demented Link!
The slow pace of this realization comes thanks to the Shue character being about as clever as a sack of wet mice! And, just to invoke yet another famous Jane, Link begins to see himself as her Tarzan, and he saves her from the dogs and from one of the professor’s more unsavory acquaintances! But all ape really breaks loose, in a reserved, Cornish sort of a way, when Jane’s boyfriend and his two doltish buddies come driving up to find her, and on arrival they suffer the full-throated wrath of the monkeybutler! Ha ha!
Shue is not a bad actor, but here she radiates all the wit and intelligence of a size nine shoe and from start to finish wears an expression suggesting somebody just asked her to explain relativity! Ha ha, her character’s greatest ambition, she earnestly explains, is to run an island preserve where chimps and badgers might run free! Stamp is good though, giving the performance of an actor who knows what’s going on, and the orangutan who plays Link is excellent, outmatching Shue in every scene they share!
This cocktail of Brontë, Goodall, Hitchcock and Poe is an odd cup-a-soup to be sure, but I retain a fondness for it! Ha ha, I saw it in the theatre with some pals, maybe that’s why! I also appreciate that Franklin was trying something eccentric, and knew it could easily tip into goofy, so sort of leaned in to that while still trying his best to make a straight suspense picture! And there are a few bad special effects, like Link’s final cigar-in-hand death plummet, and it could have used some extra pep, a little tomato paste, and a better coda; but on the other hand they did a decent job of turning Scotland into Cornwall, ha ha! I give Link two and a half impromptu mail slot widenings!