Published Feb 24, 2014It really was a different time in the 1970s. It was a time when a couple of scriptwriters from the hugely popular show Get Smart could come up with the idea of making an even sillier spy spoof with an all-chimpanzee cast and get it rubber-stamped. Thus was born Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp. It debuted in September 1970 as part of ABC's Saturday morning television line-up and was essentially a simian version of Get Smart with bits of other '60s spy shows thrown in for good measure.
The title character is an agent at the Agency to Prevent Evil (A.P.E. for short) with his nemesis Baron Von Butcher leading the Criminal Headquarters for the Underworld Master Plan (C.H.U.M.P.), and there's an ample supporting cast of equally ridiculously named monkeys. It's a genuinely bizarre show to watch because it is presented with a straighter face than it should be; it's simply a spy spoof with chimps instead of humans, and there's very little that the chimps don't do. They ride motorbikes and horses, ski down admittedly small hillsides and some other impressive stunts, at least for apes. The good guys also go undercover as a psychedelic rock band called the Evolution Revolution, and each of the 17 episodes features a song by them, although disappointingly, it's not sung by the chimps.
Ultimately, this is the kind of release that will appeal mainly to people who have fond memories of the show from their childhood, because frankly, it isn't a great show. It's very repetitive, and the most novel thing about it is seeing chimps dressed up in human clothes doing vaguely human things. It hasn't aged well when it comes to some of the dodgy ethnic portrayals, but that isn't uncommon for shows from this period and somehow it doesn't seem quite so bad when it's a monkey doing it. The picture quality is mixed, too, with some episodes looking faded with lots of surface noise.
There's an hour of interviews and documentaries that covers the logistics of making the show, sharing a few secrets such as how the voiceover actors would actually ad-lib a lot of the script to match the movement of the chimps' mouths. But best of all, it has some footage of the chimp who played Lancelot from 2011. He's probably over 50 now, and living at a wildlife sanctuary in California. Even better, the sanctuary will benefit from the proceeds made from the sale of this DVD, so at least you can indulge your nostalgic tendencies in good conscience.
(Video Service Corp.)