Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
"The Naked Ape" is a walkie talkie
Cleveland Press September 21, 1973
Take a non-book, base a movie on it and the result is a non-movie.
Desmond Morris' popular book about man's relationship with the ape would seem an unlikely candidate for screen treatment, and that's the way it turns out.
The picture was financed by Playboy magazine, that publication's second venture. The first was "Macbeth."
Take the kind of film made for classroom use by such outfits as Encyclopedia Britannica, imagine it done by Playboy and you have some notion about "Naked Ape."
The picture is a combination of animation and live actors. The movie deals principally with the areas of sex and aggression.
No matter how hard they try, the moviemakers have been unable to mix anthropological information and speculation with entertainment.
Sometimes the animated sequences work. But the live actor bits work not at all with the performers intoning scientific jargon while involving themselves in a feeble attempt at titillating sex comedy.
The picture is framed with opening and closing sequences about the Vietnam war giving the film an outdated feel. Much of the sexual escapades are fantasy sequences in the mind of the young man (Johnny Crawford). His partner in these is Victoria Principal.
Throughout their lengthy courtship rite they talk endlessly, a couple of walking text-books. It doesn't even stop in bed. And a walk down the matrimonial aisle finds them in earnest discussion about ape vs. human organisms.
The quality of filming and acting throughout is of the kind used in slick television commercials.
The movie was directed and scripted by Donald Driver, once of Musicarnival and more lately of Broadway theater.
Clearly not suitable as an education film the picture also fails as entertainment. Even in the ribald school of cinema this one is only a feeble snigger, and very, very dull.