Lancelot Link Secret Chimp (1970) – By Duane L. Martin

Lancelot Link. Ever heard of the show? I hadn’t. Not until some time last year anyway when I discovered it on YouTube. Instantly I fell in love with the show and downloaded all the episodes I could find. The problem with that was, the quality pretty much sucked. Oh well, at least I had them. Then, a few months ago, I got the announcement. Film Chest was releasing all seventeen episodes of the series in a three disc collector’s edition. I dove on that like a bum on a bologna sandwich. I quickly requested my review copy, and it arrived, unfortunately, right after the last issue came out, so I’ve been sitting on this review all month. So…how is it? Well, first let me tell you what it is.

Lancelot Link is kinda like Get Smart, only with chimps, and the occasional orangutang. Here’s a rundown of the characters and who did the voices for them. I was surprised to find that Bernie Kopell (Doc from The Love Boat) did several of the voices.

A.P.E. (The good guys. It stands for Agency to Prevent Evil)

Lancelot Link – Voiced by Dayton Allen
Mata Hairi – Voiced by Joan Gerber
Commander Darwin – Voiced by Dayton Allen
Bruce – Official A.P.E. courier.

CHUMP (The Bad Guys. It stands for Criminal Headquarters for the Underworld’s Master Plan)

Baron von Butcher – Voiced by Bernie Kopell
Dragon Woman – Voiced by Joan Gerber
Creto – Voiced by Bernie Kopell
Wang Fu – Voiced by Bernie Kopell
The Duchess – Voiced by Joan Gerber
Ali Assa Seen – Voiced by Dayton Allen
Dr. Strangemind – Voiced by Dayton Allen impersonating Bela Lugosi

This three disc special edition, to put it bluntly, is awesome as hell! It really does justice to the show and is packed with extras including interviews and behind the scenes featurettes that can’t be missed.

Interspersed between the episodes, are songs from an all chimp hippie type band called The Evolution Revolution. In one episode, they established that the band’s lyrics were actually used to communicate secret messages for A.P.E.. They were real songs though, and were really just used for the most part as fillers in between episodes. The songs were co-written and performed by Steve Hoffman.

This show had a seven figure budget, and they made the most out of it, including using real location shoots, tons of great props, sets and costumes. There was also the labor intensive training of the animals. Two of the three producers of the show, Stan Burns and Mike Marmer, had been writers for Get Smart, quit their jobs as head writers on The Carol Burnett Show to work on Lancelot Link. Considering the fact that the show only ever saw seventeen episodes, this may have been a mistake, but then again, they gave birth to something really great that has the potential to be a real cult phenomena, and is certainly at the very least an incredibly cool part of television history, so maybe they didn’t make a mistake after all.

One funny note about the show, is the extraordinary lengths they had to go through to get the voice overs to fit the lips of the chimps. There was a lot of ad-libbing, breaking into song, and even spontaneous recitations of nursery rhymes just to get the words to fit right.

The show aired from September 12, 1970 to September 2, 1972, and then went off the air. But now, thanks to the magic of modern technology, we can enjoy all these great episodes all over again, as many times as we want, whenever we want.

The uniqueness and cleverness of this show makes it a must have for anyone, but those who grew up around that time will also feel a great sense of nostalgia while watching it. I know I did. I highly recommend grabbing yourself a copy of this three disc set, and experiencing something truly different. By the way, if you’re a member of PETA, don’t bother. No one wants to hear you complaining about how they’re using the chimps in the show like you did with that car commercial.

To find out more about this series, you can check out its website here, and to pick up a copy for yourself, you can grab it from Amazon here, or from any of the other usual outlets. You really can’t go wrong with this one. It’s a whole lot of fun for the entire family.