Simian cinema (and TV, too): Favorite pop culture monkeys, apes and more
The many movies and TV shows featuring monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates cover the gamut. From the comedic orangutan-Clint Eastwood duo of "Every Which Way But Loose" (and its sequel) to the horror-sci-fi of the "Planet of the Apes" franchise, clearly the relationship with our simian brethren is complicated.
Whether we love them, fear them, or love to fear them, casting primates can often result in pop cultural gold. Here are some favorites.
'Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp'(Credit: LancelotLink1970 via YouTube.com)
Part "Get Smart," part Matt Helm, the short-lived "Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp" was all magic. Originally airing in the early 1970s on ABC, our title character worked for the Agency to Prevent Evil (A.P.E.) as a world-class spy pitted against the Criminal Headquarters for the Underworld's Master Plan (C.H.U.M.P.). The show also included performances by the all-chimpanzee psychedelic rock band the Evolution Revolution. Naturally.
J. Fred Muggs(Credit: NBC)
NBC's "Today" show employed simian superstar J. Fred Muggs (shown here with host Dave Garroway) as its mascot from 1953 to 1957. (He sometimes appeared with his lady friend Phoebe B. Beebe.) Why he was ever fired, well, that's just bananas.
'Planet of the Apes'(Credit: 20th Century Fox)
The 1968 "Planet of the Apes" film, starring Charlton Heston as an astronaut who crash-lands in a world where humans are slaves to apes, started a franchise that would go on to spawn many sequels (and remakes) and a short-lived TV series in 1974. It's also responsible for two oft-quoted lines: "Take your paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” and “You maniacs! You blew it up!”
'The Hangover Part II'(Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)
A drug-dealing capuchin monkey (played by Crystal, who's also appeared in "Night at the Museum") is a scene-stealing troublemaker in the 2011 sequel to "The Hangover."
'Every Which Way But Loose'(Credit: AP)
Clint Eastwood tapped into the trucker film subgenre as big rig driver Philo Beddoe in 1978's "Every Which Way But Loose," which finds Clyde the orangutan riding shotgun. The popularity of the comedic duo spawned a 1980 followup, "Any Which Way You Can." No word on a 3-D "Any Which Way but 2D," but one can hope.
'BJ and the Bear'(Credit: Butch Cassidy via YouTube.com)
Lorries and simians: Hilarious? NBC said yes with the 1979 debut of "BJ and the Bear," starring Greg Evigan as the driver and Bear his bipedal sidekick. The duo kept on truckin' until 1981.
'Curious George'(Credit: Universal Studios)
With the inspired tagline "Show me the monkey," Curious George saw feature-film action in an eponymous 2006 animated feature. Will Ferrell voiced The Man in the Yellow Hat.
'Bedtime for Bonzo'(Credit: Universal City Studios)
Before he was the leader of the free world, President Ronald Reagan was adding to his lengthy acting resume with the 1951 comedy "Bedtime for Bonzo," in which he plays a psychology professor studying nurture versus nature via Bonzo the chimpanzee.
'King Kong'(Credit: RKO Radio Pictures)
An early "talkie" masterpiece, "King Kong" made its cinematic debut in 1933 rich with metaphoric investigations of colonialism and America's history of slavery. The special effects included the giant gorilla battling a pterodactylus as he held Ann (Fay Wray).
'King Kong'(Credit: Paramount Pictures)
Cinema just can't leave King Kong alone; in 1976, with Jessica Lange and Jeff Bridges, the gorilla is on display yet again.
'King Kong'(Credit: Universal)
With a production budget surpassing $200 million, director Peter Jackson ("Lord of the Rings") tackled the three-hour beast of a film in 2005 with Naomi Watts in the damsel-in-distress role.
'The Great Grape Ape Show'(Credit: CartoonsIntros via YouTube.com)
If you can't hear the name Grape Ape without immediately saying, "Grape Ape, Grape Ape," you are indeed a child of a the mid-70s. The morning cartoon from Hanna-Barbera Productions, on ABC, centered around the simple-minded, giant hero and his hound buddy Beegle Beagle.
'MVP: Most Valuable Primate'(Credit: Keystone Pictures, Inc. / Diyah Pera)
It sounds like a title that came well before any semblance of a script, but who cares? "MVP: Most Valuable Primate" (2000) follows a chimpanzee who's one heck of a hockey player.
Aladdin's trusty monkey, Abu, never leaves his side and is always up for an adventure in the 1992 Disney film that's proven popular on the stage as well.
'Mighty Joe Young'(Credit: Walt Disney Pictures)
Charlize Theron and Bill Paxton play opposite the 15-foot-tall gorilla "Mighty Joe Young" in the 1988 film that finds the big Joe's life at a sanctuary threatened by a poacher.