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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Blu-ray Review
Monkey Shines  (1988)
Reviewed by Dustin Putman

The Film
2 Stars
(Release Date: November 18, 2014) – "Monkey Shines" is an odd little bird that doesn't particularly look or feel like a movie written and directed by George A. Romero (1968's "Night of the Living Dead"). Whether that is because it was Romero's first studio picture, or one of his first based on preexisting source material (a 1983 novel by Michael Stewart), it is hard to say. Whatever the case, "Monkey Shines" straddles an uncomfortable, stodgy line where it flirts with the horror and thriller genres without giving itself over to them. The result is a slow and admittedly rather dull psychological drama that takes too long to get going.

Jason Beghe gives an emotionally stilted performance as Allan Mann, an able-bodied young man who is paralyzed from the neck down after getting hit by a car. Devastated by his injuries and the loss of his girlfriend (Janine Turner), who promptly breaks up with him, Allan's scientist friend Geoffrey (John Pankow) introduces him to a new helper/friend in the form of Capuchin monkey Ella (Boo). Having received injections to enhance her intelligence, Ella is a sympathetic, helpful surrogate caretaker. The longer she and Allan spend together, however, the more their minds become telepathically linked and Ella's increasing jealousy turns to homicidal tendencies. "Monkey Shines" features a compelling plot and some stylish individual moments of tension during the thunderous climax, but its energy is sapped and forward momentum severely lacking. One patiently waits for it to take off, and it never fully does.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Arriving courtesy of Scream Factory, "Monkey Shines" makes its Blu-ray premiere with a very good, if imperfect, 1080p transfer. The print used has some light scratches and speckles of dirt, and occasional shots have a slightly faded quality with colors that lack the vibrancy hoped for. Other parts, however, aim to make up for it, with a boost in clarity and depth which has never been seen from this film in previous home video versions. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sticks primarily to the front speakers. This is a serviceable track with dialogue that is always clear within the mix, but with so few noteworthy moments incorporating the back speakers it is virtually indistinguishable from the 2.0 DTS-HD track also included.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with director George A. Romero
  • "An Experiment in Fear: The Making of Monkey Shines" Featurette (49:32, HD)
  • Alternate Ending (5:12, HD)
  • Deleted Scenes (4:07, HD)
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage (13:16, HD)
  • Still Gallery (2:31, HD)
  • Trailers and TV Spots (3:57, HD)
  • Vintage Making-of Featurette (5:21, HD)
  • Vintage Interviews and News Feature (3:43, HD)
Bottom Line
Not surprisingly, "Monkey Shines" came and went in theaters in the summer of 1988 with little fanfare. A leisurely paced drama with thriller undertones more than the scary horror show the advertising campaign promised, the film likely left mainstream audiences scratching their heads. In the twenty-five-plus years since, the picture has gained more receptive and appreciative fans. For them, Scream Factory's features-packed Blu-ray release of "Monkey Shines" will be a dream come true, surpassing all of their possible expectations for this particular title.

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© 2014 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman