Movie of the Day

Monkey Shines

I remember seeing the TV commercials for Monkey Shines, which tried hard to be creepy with a slow pan reveal of one of those wind-up monkey dolls crashing cymbals. I later saw what was probably a fairly heavily edited version on TV, not realizing at the time that it was directed by zombie godfather George A. Romero.

The basic idea of Monkey Shines is rather interesting: an athletic, positive-thinking man is rendered quadriplegic. As he struggles to adjust to life in a wheelchair, his wife leaves him for the doctor who treated his spinal injury (a young Stanley Tucci with a full head of hair). Meanwhile, his buddy has been experimenting on spider monkeys, trying to make them more intelligent by injecting them with human brain goodness. He donates the smartest of the bunch to work as a helper monkey, and she comes with a pretty helper monkey trainer. It becomes apparent that the simian is smarter than anyone could have imagined, and is using her pumped up brain for all sorts of murderous monkeyshines.

The problem is the film swerves into some pretty incredulous territory when we are asked to believe that the wheelchair-bound man and they monkey have some sort of psychic connection, and he can see what she sees when she leaves the house to get up to no good. Just how this connection could have formed is never explained. There is a scene in which his face is cut while he is getting a shave, and the monkey swings by and has a quick taste of the blood. But this idea is quickly dropped. I was also waiting for an explanation on why the monkey was so gosh-darn evil, and expecting it to be revealed that the human brain juice she was shot up with came from mass murder, but this is another question what was just skipped over.

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