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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Link (1986)
(2021 Restoration)


Starring: Elisabeth Shue and Terence Stamp
Distributor: StudioCanal


Certificate: 12
Release Date: 01 February 2021

Jane is an American zoology student who takes a job at the English isolated cliff-top house of leading anthropologist Doctor Steven Phillip. His work explores the link between apes and man, and involves three subjects: Voodoo, a violent and unruly female; Imp, a friendly and child-like chimp; and Link, a circus-trained ape who is dressed and utilised as a servant companion. After an incident in the lab, Dr Phillip goes missing and Jane is obliged to look after the apes alone. A subtle change in the hierarchy means she effectively becomes trapped in the house as one of the apes displays psychotic tendencies...

Director Richard Franklin had been attempting to get this movie made since 1980 or 1981. He soon realised that men in ape suits wouldn’t work for this project, as it relies on a number of close-ups. It proved a revelation turning to expert animal trainer Ray Berwick, who did not receive a single complaint of animal cruelty when the film was released – due to his exemplary handling of the apes. Link was initially going to be more of a factual concept. Scientific research into violence amongst chimpanzees countered the earlier long-time theory that man is the only species who makes war upon itself. Franklin chose to make the picture in England, his only gripe on the extras interview being an exaggerated comment about everything stopping for tea breaks.

Two aspects combine creatively to make this work. One is the, frankly, truly amazing animal training techniques of Berwick, and the other is the clever filming and editing which ensures we see significantly more than is actually going on. To use a football analogy, this is a game of two halves. It’s true to say that for the first half of the film very little happens. This is setting the scene and building-up to the suspense thriller which follows. The large house on the coast used as the location means there is plenty of space to play with and, more importantly, isolation. A basement that not only houses the main gas supply but which leads out to the rocks at sea level, therefore allowing a temporary means of escape, is believable in this context. Although not fully explained, I liked the addition of wild dogs on the Moor, making it impossible to seek help without a vehicle.

The primary cast are pretty solid in their performances, which was not always the case in 1980s horror flicks. Terence Stamp (Perhaps most fondly remembered for General Zod in Superman II) does a Janet Leigh and goes missing halfway through the running time as Dr Phillip. The mainstay in this – aside from the apes themselves – is Elisabeth Shue, who plays the student Jane. She is undoubtedly best known for her role alongside Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid. She is very good in this movie. There are some interesting cameos, too. Geoffrey Beevers has appeared on television and on stage numerous times, but is remembered by SF enthusiasts for his role as The Master in The Keeper of Traken, alongside Tom Baker in Doctor Who. His real life wife Caroline John (sadly deceased) is also in the movie. She was in Doctor Who many years before, alongside John Pertwee’s Doctor. The unmistakable Kevin Lloyd from The Bill also makes an appearance.

The Blu-ray has a 4K restoration as well as the following extras: An Audio Commentary by Film Historian Lee Gambin and Film Critic Jarret Gahan; An Interview with Film Programmer and Horror Expert Anna Bogutskaya; Deleted Workprint Scenes; An Interview with Director Richard Franklin (Audio Only); and the UK Theatrical Teaser Trailer. I couldn’t sign-off without mentioning the soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith, and in particular the main Link theme. It’s jaunty to the point of being ridiculous… until it is played again at the end of the film. Due to the direction the film takes, the jaunty theme suddenly takes on sinister connotations. There is a demo of the theme on the extra features. Well worth a watch.


Ty Power

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