Skullduggery (1970)

Les animaux dénaturés was written by Jean Bruller under his pseudonym Vercors and it was printed in English under the titles You Shall Know Them, The Murder of the Missing Link and Borderline. One imagines that producer Saul David and 20th Century Fox were looking for another ape-related story after the success of their last simian-centric adaption of a French novel. That would be La Planète des Singes. And the movie would be Planet of the Apes.

David replaced original director Richard Wilson and brought in In Like Flint — and Viva Knievel! — director Gordon Douglas, who was not well-thought-of by star Burt Reynolds, who turned down M*A*S*H* for this movie! Burt would tell Roger Ebert that the movie had a good script, continuing “The guy’s a good writer, Lorenzo Semple Jr. Badly directed, kind of sloughed off. Susan Clark was good; she’s a good actress. But nobody knew how to sell the picture. Any time you have Pat Suzuki dressed as a small ape, I think you’re in trouble.”

During an expedition to Papua New Guinea, Clark and Reynolds discover a tribe of ape-like people, called the Tropis. They may be the missing link, but no one will know if they are human or animal. The only way to know the truth is if someone knocks one of them up, which if they don’t have a child means that it’s just bestiality. And if they have a kid, well, evolution is going to get a lot weirder.

Anyways, one of the Tropis gets murdered — actually a whole bunch of them get barbecued and chowed down upon at one point — leading to a murder trial, so this is one of the few courtroom science fiction ape movies not called Planet of the Apes or Escape from the Planet of the Apes movies to have a court scene. Man, maybe apes lend themselves to legal drama, what with that whole Scopes trial.

But do those movies have Blacula, William Marshall, as the attorney general?

I love that Burt Reynolds is in this, just gamely playing along. I’m sure he was having the time of his life.

Kino Lorber’s new blu ray release of Skullduggery has a brand new 2K master, as well as commentary by Howard S. Berger, C. Courtney Joyner and Sergio Mims and a theatrical trailer.

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