Can you imagine a James Bond adventure performed by a cast of chimpanzees? Well, somebody took that idea back in the early 1970s and turned it into a kiddie TV show with the title “Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp.” This hairy parody has been dusted off for a new DVD release featuring all 17 episodes.
Lancelot Link and his lady partner Mata Hairi are secret agents for the Agency to Prevent Evil (APE). Their chief is Commander Darwin, and their espionage work pits them against the Criminal Headquarters for Underworld Master Plan (CHUMP), run by the notorious Baron Von Butcher and his pernicious primates Creto, Wang Fu, Dragon Lady, Ali Assa Seen and Dr. Strangemind. Each episode carries a zany title, such as “Missile Beach Party” and “There’s No Business Like Snow Business.” There are also musical interludes by an all-chimp psychedelic rock band called The Evolution Revolution (introduced by “Ed Simian”).
Almost all 17 episodes follow the same shtick: chimpanzees (and, occasionally, a lone orangutan) dressed in human clothing and wigs are engaged in silly/cutesy human antics, while shtick-thick dialogue performed by comic reliables Dayton Allen and Bernie Kopell was dubbed in. It is amusing at first – the animal training for the series was often inventive – and good-guy Lancelot has a more expansive dramatic range than Daniel Craig. However, storyline repetition sets in and the joke wears thin over the long haul. After all, how many times can you register a hearty laugh over the sight of a chimp in a wig?
Still, there is a serious aspect to this DVD: a portion of the sales goes to support Los Angeles’ Wildlife Waystation, an animal refuge where the original Lancelot is living. It is nice to know that these monkeyshines have a serious side.