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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!

1 comment:

  1. I'm still confused as to whether he was meant to be a chimp or just an orang in blackbody!