When you come from the future, as our Outposter Wrenage does, it means you have time. If you know everything that is going to happen today already, and you are settling down to sleep around the same time that the rest of the world is just rousing from their slumber, then you can devote that time to the honorable craft of writing us Retro Reviews. So he has once again.

If you have something you want to share with us, like Wrenage, then give us a shout at [email protected]

So what has Wrenage watched in the future that is, for us, this morning?

Link

Link

Remember that run of science-amok monkey movies that popped up in the late 1980s? Project X with Matthew Broderick, George Romero’s Monkey Shines, and Shakma with Amanda Wyss and a slumming Roddy McDowell?

We’re not going to talk about any of those. Rather, we’re going to talk about a science-amok monkey movie that beat all three of those to the screen: Link.

**Spoiler Warning**

Major spoilers are included in this Retro Review, so if you want to check this movie out then be warned that this review is going to give away the ending.

I dimly remember previews for Link, but I had never seen it until this past weekend. Judging by its box office take ($1,720,450), not seeing Link is the default setting of most moviegoers.

Link

I did know Elizabeth Shue starred in the movie. Link came between The Karate Kid and Adventures in Babysitting in Shue’s filmography. She plays a college student who takes a job in a secluded English manor as an assistant to Terrace Stamp, who appears to have been going through a phase where he told his hairdresser:

“Make me look like Sting.”

The look doesn’t work. Stamp’s coif looks like a rat orgy died on his head.

Link

Stamp plays a primate scientist working with two chimpanzees, called Imp and Voodoo, and an orangutan playing a chimpanzee, Link. If that reads awkwardly, it’s because it is awkward. The filmmakers actually used makeup to make an orangutan look more chimp-like. Apparently, the orangutan was a better actor than any of the chimps they considered for the role… or maybe he simply threw less faeces at people. Regardless, they gave the ape fake ears and a dye job to make its fur darker.

Link

Somewhere, a coffee shop neckbeard scowls as he ponders how he can keep preaching that monkeys are better than people because they don’t own property when Link proves that monkeys are also guilty of blackface. Another worldview bites the dust.

As for the movie itself, Link is refreshingly devoid of painting monkeys as sympathetic cuties. Stamp readily admits that chimps engage in cannibalism and might rip off your scrotum if they suddenly get in a bad mood. You never know when an animal might flip its switch from tame to wild.

Within Stamp’s monkey house, Imp is a young chimp who is, supposedly, the friendliest of the bunch. Voodoo is violent female chimp, and Link is basically Stamp’s butler. He lumbers around the mansion in trousers and a suit jacket, serving food and smoking cigars.

Link

Eventually, Stamp goes missing, and Shue is left to fend for herself against an increasingly violent Link. Some highlights include: over-enthusiastic van pushing, a monkey version of Cagney’s “Top of the world, Ma!” and a guy taking a trip through a mail slot.

It all sounds fun in theory, but its execution is a bit clunky. The movie looks cheap. The actors are forced to work around the behavior of animals, which makes their performances stilted. Plus, the score by the usually reliable Jerry Goldsmith borders on terrible. Goldsmith’s soundtrack evokes circus music, and it undercuts whatever suspense is generated.

My guess as to why they went that direction with the music is because they realized how goofy an orangutan playing a chimpanzee looks while wearing a suit, so rather than try to fight it, they tried to embrace the wonkiness of it with a quirky score.

Link is a three-star movie all the way, but the final shot threw me for a bit of a loop and made me believe the movie may actually deserve a fourth star for its trickery.

We’ll get to that…

What initially motivated me to check Link out is that it was directed by Australian Hitchcock aficionado Richard Franklin. Franklin has a couple of solid films under his belt. He accomplished the impossible by crafting a serviceable sequel to a genuine classic (Psycho 2), and he did a nice riff on Rear Window by placing in on the Australian highways with Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis (Roadgames).

Link

With Link, you can tell Franklin was not able to complete the magic act of pulling the story that was in his head out of his skull and getting it on screen. The movie always feels like it is reaching for more and can’t quite get there. Some of this may have to do with editing. Link was distributed by old friends Cannon Pictures, and they edited about thirteen minutes out of the film, much to Franklin’s chagrin.

The screenplay was written by Everett De Roche, another Aussie, who worked with Franklin on Patrick and Roadgames. De Roche also wrote other Ozploitation films like Long Weekend and Razorback, so he proved himself capable of interesting work. From a writing standpoint, Link is interesting. Its premise is solid. Can’t really go wrong with girl vs. monkey in an isolated setting.

As an added bonus, one of the producers on Link was a young Rick McCallum, who went on to be George Lucas’s righthand man on the Star Wars prequels.

So, what went wrong exactly? The more I think about it, nothing went wrong. The final shot of Link is the punchline to the whole joke. Shue’s character, along with the audience, was completely bamboozled. I didn’t pick it up myself right away. My wife, of all people, who has about as much interest in movies as a hen has in a flag, is the one who pointed it out to me.

Once I saw it, the punchline seemed obvious. I went on the internet to check out other reviews of Link to see what others said about the ending. I didn’t do hardcore research into the subject, but I couldn’t find anyone talking about it, so we will talk about it here.

Major Spoilers

Link was not the villain of the movie. Link was actually on Shue’s side. Link was trying to save her from Imp, the friendly chimp everyone thought was harmless. Imp is actually the killer, but the movie did such a nice job of hiding this from the viewer, that it is only apparent in hindsight.

The final shot of Link sees Shue and her boyfriend drive away from the manor. On the way, they find Imp, who escaped the mayhem and is sitting on a fence beside the road. They stop and pick him up. As the car drives away, the camera pulls back to reveal sheep peacefully sleeping in a field on the other side of the fence.

I thought nothing of it, and then my wife said:

“Those sheep are dead. Imp killed them.”

I looked closer. The sheep did, in fact, look a bit dead, and I realized the final shot was not the everything-is-fine camera pullback to show our heroes making their way to safety. The pullback revealed Imp as the killer, and our heroes were in trouble.

A light shined down from above, and I heard a celestial choir singing “Ahhhhhhh,” as I became aware of other clues dropped within the film.

The movie opens with Imp killing pigeons and a cat. Once the movie reaches the mansion, one realizes Link is not actually shown killing anyone. At most, the viewer sees an ape hand when someone is murdered. The ape hand could easily belong to Imp. Sure, Link displays violent and odd behavior, but he is frustrated by the fact that Imp has fooled everyone except him.

Link

Imp is present when Stamp is killed. Imp is present when the gamekeeper is killed. Imp disappears from Shue’s side when the final victims are killed. Imp taunts Link. Imp mimics humans and is shown grinning in glasses, like he is the brain of the cast. Imp leads Shue to discover the murder of Voodoo and implicates Link. Imp tells Shue that she should “Kill Link” via a computer. Finally, Link captured Imp on two occasions to keep Imp from hurting more people. Link locked Imp in a cage, until Shue freed him, and Link locked Imp in a well, until Shue freed him yet again. Imp played Shue like a harp from hell.

Even Imp’s name is a clue. He is the mischievous little devil causing all of the trouble.

You got me, Richard Franklin. You put more thought into Link than is apparent. I salute you. What is now one of my favorite twists in a film because it seems a lot of folks miss it. That is probably the highest art a twist can reach — when people don’t even realize they saw it. Hitchcock would probably give Franklin a Jeremiah Johnson nod of approval if they were both still here.

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