Newly restored on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital by StudioCanal

StudioCanal continue their fine work in movie restoration with this 80s horror from Psycho II director Richard Franklin.

I confess I was very much looking forward to seeing this – I hadn’t seen it since its original release in 1986 – and admired it for the twin attractions of the Scottish locations and Elizabeth Shue, whom I would happily watch in just about anything.

However, both the film and I have aged since it first appeared, and while Link has, unlike me, had the advantage of a splendid restoration, I think it fair to say that neither of us can claim to be as dynamic a proposition as we once were.

The restoration shows Ms Shue and the country locales to great effect, and the soundtrack does the same for the terrific score from Jerry Goldsmith (this latter a major selling point of the movie). But, I’m afraid to say that the plot does not bear scrutiny in this day and age.

Dr Phillip (Terence Stamp) is an anthropologist lecturing at the, ahem, “London College of Sciences” who takes on American student Jane (Shue) as an assistant for the summer. Given that even a casual conversation with the good doctor will reveal that he’s as mad as a box of frogs, and she will be spending the summer in a remote house with only him and three apes who are liable to kill birds and small animals if not controlled, for company, it is hard to suspend disbelief that she enthusiastically accepts his offer.

The clincher seems to be that he asks if she can cook and clean – apparently she thinks that being female she’s genetically disposed to so do…not your modern woman then.

On arrival at Phillip’s house, she is met by the butler, Link, an ex-circus chimpanzee (oddly played by an orangutan with dyed fur and prosthetic ears). It’s when Link hears Dr Phillip on the phone arranging to have him put down due to his violent tendencies that things start to go awry. Dr Phillip disappears and Jane is left alone with the chimps – I’m not about to introduce any spoilers, but you can bet your last fifty pence piece that no good will come of it.

This Jane has to survive without a Tarzan – her boyfriend and his chums turn up late on, but prove to be no more than cannon fodder, and the climax is woman versus apes – a climax that gives Link the opportunity for a Jimmy Cagney in White Heat moment.

On balance, this is both worth restoring and worth seeing. It’s something of a curiosity, if perhaps not quite making cult status. And after a long slow start, the action ramps up and it holds your attention to the end. Add to that the fact that the animals are played by animals, trained by the highly respected Ray Berwick and not men in furry suits, there is a note of unpredictable realism there.

There is also a selection of bonus material that includes an audio interview with Richard Franklin, a demo of Goldsmith’s Link theme, commentary by film historian Lee Gambin and critic Jarret Gahan and an interview with programmer and horror film expert Anna Bogutskya that makes this a value for money package.

Release date February 1st

Jim Welsh

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