Snob Seven: Favorite Movie Monkey

Saluting seven cinematic simians.
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With the release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and our own retrospective on the previous Apes movies, it seemed like the perfect time for the Sentries look back at their favorite monkeys in the movies.  And save the zoological comments and emails.  We know technically they aren't all monkeys, but "Favorite Movie Primate" doesn't have the same ring to it, now does it?

King Kong - first appearance King Kong (1933) by El Bicho

Had to start with the king of all movie monkeys: King Kong. Brought to life by Willis O'Brien and his stop-motion animation team, the character became an iconic figure in cinema history due to its battles with other creatures and interactions with humans. The film was remade by producer Dino De Laurentiis in 1976 and again in 2005 by director Peter Jackson. The character also appeared in a couple of Toho Studios productions, including one of which saw him battling Godzilla.

Nikko, leader of the flying monkeys - The Wizard of Oz (1939) by El Bicho

I am guessing I am not the only person who was frightened silly by Nikko and his fellow monkeys when first seeing the film as a young child.  The scenes of them taking to the skies and swooping down upon Dorothy and the gang in order to bring her to the Wicked Witch of the West are still vivid in my memory.

King Louie - first appearance The Jungle Book (1967) by El Bicho

Voiced by singer Louie Prima, King Louie has Mowgli kidnapped in order to learn man's secret of fire, but Mowgli doesn't know it. Louie sings the lead on "I Wan'na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)" and during the rescue of Mowgli by Baloo and Bagheera, Louie's home is destroyed.

Clyde - first appearance Every Which Way but Loose (1978) by El Bicho

Clyde the orangutaun was the pet of Philo Beddoe (Clint Eastwood), a trucker and bare-knuckle fighter. Sure, he hogged all the Oreos and crapped all over the floor, but that 12-ribbed ape had a fierce right and was adept at flipping the bird. 

Koko - Koko: A Talking Gorilla (1978) by El Bicho

Koko is the only real animal on the list and is the focus of Barbet Schroeder's thought-provoking documentary. Taught sign language by Dr. Francis Patterson, Koko gets caught in the middle of a power struggle between the San Francisco Zoo and Stanford University, organizations with differing agendas.

Date-Eating Monkey - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) by Senora Bicho

I am not much of a monkey fan, I don't find them particularly cute or endearing. The qualifications for a good movie monkey in my mind are they must be small and quirky. That is the reason that I have selected the monkey from Raiders of the Lost Ark as my favorite. He is not a warm and fuzzy monkey, in fact, one of the best scenes and one of Steven Speilberg's favorites is when the monkey raises his paw and makes a noise for his version of "Heil Hitler". He snuggles up to Marion in an attempt to kill Indiana Jones and it turns out to be his undoing. He is one bad monkey but so cute that you can't help but love him.

Virgil - Project X (1987) by Mary K. Williams

This film, starring a most earnest Mathew Broderick and Helen Hunt, is a morality tale in a science-fiction setting. Broderick (Ferris Bueller's Day Off) is Jimmy, an Air Force flyer who has been grounded and placed at a pilot-testing program as a disciplinary action. He quickly bonds with a young chimp named Virgil, who has been trained by Hunt (As Good as it Gets) in American Sign Language.

When Jimmy learns that the testing pilots are all chimpanzees, and how they are tested, things get interesting. There are some moments, like when Jimmy witnesses the depth of cooperation and simpatico that the primates share, that really grab you. And at times, the chimps' behaviors are humbling. Two opposable thumbs up!

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