Monday, June 18, 2012

LANCELOT LINK: SECRET CHIMP - THE COMPLETE SERIES

I have the vaguest memories of watching this Saturday morning children's show when I was a kid, either in its original 1970 ABC television airings (I would have been five) or in reruns a year or two later. In any case, I do remember being amused by LANCELOT LINK: SECRET CHIMP as a lad, and now, as a 40-something adult, I still find it funny. But then, everyone knows it is an indisputable fact of comedy that chimps in costumes, with dubbed human voices, are always funny.

Secret agent Lancelot Link (voiced by Dayton Allen, employing a Humphrey Bogart impression) works for A.P.E. - the Agency to Prevent Evil. His partner is distaff agent Mata Hairi (voiced by Joan Gerber), and together they covertly work to foil the evil schemes of C.H.U.M.P. (Criminal Headquarters for the Underworld's Master Plan), led by the nefarious Baron Von Butcher (Bernie Kopell, THE LOVE BOAT). In between adventures, Link and Hairi front the psychedelic rock band, The Evolution Revolution, performing catchy pop songs in musical interludes introduced by TV host "Ed Simian."

LANCELOT LINK featured live, trained chimps dressed in outrageous costumes acting out the same sort of spy spoof stories that GET SMART did a half-decade earlier. In fact, Bernie Kopell gave the Baron character the exact same voice he'd used when he played arch-villain "Siegfried" on SMART. The gags are labored, juvenile and obvious - but they still made me laugh, as did the (sometimes ad-libbed) verbal jokes. It's undeniably cheesy, but it's supposed to be. It's also somewhat politically incorrect, with some of the C.H.U.M.P. agents portrayed as extremely broad ethnic stereotypes, with voices to match.

This new 3-disc DVD set from Film Chest presents all 17 original episodes in their 1.33:1 standard 70's TV format. The transfers are pretty decent, although they do show their age. It also appears that there's been some digital scrubbing done on the episodes, which look a bit soft and slightly (but only slightly) washed out. Audio is standard mono. The first two discs contain all of the TV episodes, while disc three is a bonus disc. It includes  interviews with producer Allan Sandler and director Bob Emenegger, a retrospective documentary, recent footage of the chimp who portrayed the heroic Link, still alive and kicking at Los Angeles' Wildlife Waystation preserve, a still gallery, and all of the Evolution Revolution "videos."

Although it came about five years after the big spy fad of the Sixties, LANCELOT LINK was imaginative and entertaining 70s kidvid, and holds considerable nostalgic appeal today. While the Film Chest presentation isn't picture-perfect, it is a considerable improvement over the LINK discs released by Image Entertainment a few years back. This set is officially licensed and complete - two things that the Image set wasn't.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: do you find talking chimps funny (and if you don't, what's wrong with you?)? If you do - or, more importantly, have kids that do - then you might want to pick this up. It's dated, but it's also still pretty damned funny.

And - according to Film Chest, proceeds from the sales of this DVD set will be set aside for the benefit of Wildlife Waystation, Lancelot Link's current residence.

BUY: Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp