CANNON MONTH: Link (1986)

Richard Franklin had optioned a short outline of this film, which he said was “a sort of Jaws with chimps.,” but it sat until writer Everett de Roche showed him a National Geographic article in which Jane Goodall discussed violence among chimpanzees, including “the cannibalizing of young chimpanzees by one particular mad female chimp. She observed actual inter-tribal warfare, not unlike the opening of 2001, between two groups of chimps. The whole ’60s idea of man being the only animal to make war against its own kind was suddenly thrown out the window. Since then, they’ve discovered that lions and other animals do it as well, but that, to me, was a really interesting idea for a good thriller.”

As Franklin tried to get financing, he ended up making Psycho II and Cloak and Dagger, which gave him the ability to get this movie made. He compared it to The Birds, but then realize that people may think that he was basically making another Hitchcock sequel.

While the movie was originally going to be released by Universal, Frankin said that the studio’s “…instinct will probably be to release it this summer, which I really hope they don’t do. It’s not a Spielberg movie. It’s quite different and, in a way, I wish Psycho II had been given the chance to make more money by playing fewer theatres for a longer period of time. Link is a very special thriller and should be treated accordingly.”

Then Cannon released it, chopping out eight minutes in the U.S. and five more in England, a process that Franklin said was When the film was horrifying with “each new one chipping a little more away until my wife was moved to liken the plight of my monkey movie to that of the horse in Black Beauty.”

Dr. Steven Phillip (Terence Stamp) is an anthropologist trying to learn more about just how smart chimpanzees are and the link between man and ape by bringing three of them — Link, Imp and Voodoo — to his isolated estate in the English countryside. Jane Chase (Elisabeth Shue) is his assistant and she’s instantly shocked by Link, a former circus chimpanzee who now serves as Phillip’s butler, dressed in a perfect uniform.

After the doctor disappears, Jane remains alone with the test subjects, who become more violent, take over the mansion and begin fighting over territory and Jane.

The Jerry Goldsmith and some of the comedic antics may seem sort of wacky, but it all works, because when things start going wrong, the juxtaposition is startling. I’m all for movies where apes rise up and give humans what they deserve, so I loved Link, even if Franklin’s true vision was cut down.

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