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Monkey Shines (UK) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000064810
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 1/10/2004 22:02
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    Review of Monkey Shines

    6 / 10


    An experiment was conducted once, where a worm was taught a trick or a skill, and was then dismembered and fed to other worms. These other worms then learnt the same trick, merely through ingestion. Putting aside the tantalising questions of how to teach a worm to perform, or exactly who would do such a job, this does imply a quick if rather murderous way to pass your exams, or learn a new language. Real life is never that simple, and what works for worms certainly doesn`t work for us. Fortunately the realms of credibility do not bind cinema, and George A. Romero`s Monkey Shines applies this science to simians.

    Allan Mann is a health conscious law student, who takes pride in his fitness and keeps in good physical shape at all costs. The price he pays is a little high though, as whilst jogging one day, he gets struck by a truck and left a quadriplegic. Having been such a physical character, he becomes severely depressed, especially when his girlfriend leaves and he is soon verging on the suicidal. Fortunately he has a friend who is a mad scientist. Geoffrey Fisher works with intelligent monkeys, and injects himself with stimulants to stay awake. He has also been injecting a serum created from human brain tissue into the monkeys to see if they get any smarter. He sees a way to kill two birds with one stone, and he has his prize specimen Ella trained to help quadriplegics. When Allan meets Ella he is impressed at just how intelligent the monkey is, and is soon pleased at the companionship and the freedom that Ella gives him, especially given the draconian nurse that his mother has employed to care for him. It is truly as if Ella can read his mind as she anticipates his needs, but soon it appears that this telepathy is not just one way, and Allan`s personality begins to change.


    Monkey Shines is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic ratio. The transfer is unexceptional. The picture is fairly clear throughout, although you will notice some grain and some print damage. It can also be a little soft at times. It`s your average back catalogue treatment.


    Europeans can rejoice at the languages available on this disc. The English track is a DD 2.0 Surround track and the surrounds are put to use for a little ambience and for the music. The dialogue is clear, and while the music over the credits is a little Planet of The Apesy, the incidental music is otherwise unmemorable. Other tracks include DD 2.0 German, French, Spanish and Polish; although the Polish track isn`t a dub, merely the translated dialogue spoken over the original English track. There are plenty of subtitles too.


    MGM back catalogue, `nuff said.


    For a brief moment, about an hour perhaps, I had the impression that Monkey Shines was going to be one of those films that broke the mould, that presented the viewer with something new and challenging. Unfortunately the last fifty minutes quickly disabused me of that fact as the film applied every worn out horror cliché until what was left barely rose above the average. Homicidal monkeys aren`t something new in cinema, ever since King Kong ascended the Empire State building we have been thrilled by just what our close cousins may be capable of. Planet Of The Apes had them rule over lowly humans, and Lawnmower Man had a chimpanzee playing computer games. But this is perhaps the first time that a simian antagonist has barely been twelve inches tall.

    It works because of the premise though, a quadriplegic completely paralysed and needing everything done for him would be at the mercy of even the smallest of menaces, as shown in one scene where Allan is attacked by a budgerigar. I also like the rather sci-fi way that the monkey`s intelligence was increased, and it`s in the early moments of Allan and Ella`s relationship that the film seems exciting. Ella seems to anticipate what Allan needs before he even asks, and it`s a nice way of suggesting a mental link between the two. Then when Allan can see through Ella`s eyes in the first `dream` sequence, it is deftly suggested that more is going on than meets the eye. But it`s when man and monkey become more simpatico, and Allan begins to take on certain aggressive traits that it becomes ridiculous. This is suggested by giving him a set of monkey teeth. That is when this film lost me.

    It was having a hard time keeping me in the first place, as the acting and dialogue wasn`t exactly top notch. John Pankow as the mad scientist Geoffrey seems to have been cast for his prominent cranium more than anything else, and Jason Beghe as Allan manages to convey his fear of the little monkey adequately enough. But to be frank, the monkey acts the socks of everyone else in this film. The latter half of this film descends into the kind of slasher movie that horror fans are all too familiar with, only this time it is the monkey that is going around despatching victims in various imaginative ways.

    Monkey Shines is certainly different from your average horror film in terms of premise. But in execution it is all too familiar. It`s worth a look if you`re into this kind of thing, but I`m sure that there is an episode of the X Files out there that covers the same ground.

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