DVD Review: LINK (1986)

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Review: Link/Cert: 15/Directed by Richard Franklin/Screenplay by Everett De Roche/Starring Elisabeth Shue, Terence Stamp, Steven Pinner, David O’Hara, Kevin Lloyd, some monkeys/Date of release: 26th August 2013

Now, here’s a pleasant surprise. This long-forgotten 1986 monkey mayhem movie, described by director Richard Franklin as “a sort of Jaws with chimps” (he later dismissed it as “an unsatisfying experience”) actually turns out to be an extremely competent and well-crafted horror thriller which echoes the likes of Konga and even the classic King Kong. Less ludicrous than the former and, obviously, considerably less iconic and ground-breaking than the latter, Link is clearly long overdue the rediscovery and re-evaluation this budget-price DVD release should afford it.

In only her second film role, Elisabeth Shue plays London School of Science student Jane Chase, who offers to spend her summer break in the remote Scottish home of her tutor Dr Steven Philip (Stamp), assisting him with his intelligence experiments with young chimpanzees. One of Philip’s apes is a ferocious and super-intelligent chimp (in reality a disguised orangutan) called Link. When Phillip conspires to have him put down, due to his violent and unpredictable nature, Link goes bananas. Then, Philip goes missing, Jane finds herself alone in the house with tame chimp Imp, and Link decides to fully assert his superiority against those who have subjugated him.

It’s hard to imagine what behind-the-scenes unpleasantness must have soured Franklin against his movie, because what’s on screen is tense, atmospheric stuff. Franklin slowly ratchets up our sense of unease as we begin to suspect that Link is seriously smarter than the average chimp. Before long, would-be captors and rescuers are being ruthlessly seen off by the sinister simian and Jane is fighting for her life against an antagonistic anthropoid which will stop at nothing to wipe her out.

Link is a terrific romp of a movie, skilfully and cleverly directed by Franklin, and very recognisably a product of its time - Shue’s mullet hair and Jerry Goldsmith’s jauntily inappropriate, thudding, synth-driven score virtually carbon-date the movie into the 1980s. Nevertheless, it offers a crisp and refreshing take on the Man vs. Nature story which is as compulsive and irresistible today as it was back when Jaws led the way for Link and the dozens of other killer animal movies which followed in its wake. Hugely watchable, great fun, and genuinely exciting, Link really shouldn’t be missing from your  chimp chiller collection.

Special features: Trailers, stills gallery.


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