Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp

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Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp
Genre Action/Adventure
Comedy
Created by Stan Burns
Mike Marmer
Starring Tongo (chimpanzee)
Voices of Dayton Allen
Joan Gerber
Bernie Kopell
Narrated by Malachi Throne
Composer(s) Bob Emenegger
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 13[1]/17[2]
Production
Producer(s) Stan Burns
Mike Marmer
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 45–48 minutes
(1970–1971)
22–24 minutes
(1971–1972)
Production company(s) Sandler-Burns-Marmer Productions
Distributor CBS Television Distribution
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Audio format Monaural
Original run September 12, 1970 (1970-09-12) – January 2, 1971 (1971-01-02)

Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp is an American action/adventure comedy series that originally aired on ABC from September 12, 1970 to January 2, 1971. The Saturday morning live-action film series featured a cast of chimpanzees given apparent speaking roles by overdubbing with human voices.

Production[edit]

Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp had a "seven-figure budget"[1] with location filming, props and costumes, and the laborious staging and training of the animals. The filmmakers made the most of the budget, staging multiple episodes with the same settings and wardrobe, occasionally reusing the more elaborate chase footage that sometimes included a Rolls Royce.[citation needed]

Two of the three producer/creators—Stan Burns and Mike Marmer—who had been writers for Get Smart, quit their jobs as head writers on The Carol Burnett Show to work on Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp.[1]

According to The Believer, "to make the dialogue fit the chimps’ lip action, Burns and Marmer went to ridiculous lengths. Voiceovers were ad-libbed on the set, giving birth to beautifully absurd moments of the chimps breaking into songs at the end of sentences or spontaneously reciting Mother Goose rhymes just so it would look right."[1]

Plot construction[edit]

Owing considerable homage to Get Smart, the plot was always played for laughs and featured Lancelot Link and his female colleague, "Mata Hairi," whose own name in turn was a play on Mata Hari, in secret agent and spy satires. Link worked for A.P.E., the Agency to Prevent Evil, in an ongoing conflict with the evil organization C.H.U.M.P., the Criminal Headquarters for the Underworld's Master Plan. APE's chief Darwin gave Link and Hairi their orders as part of his "theory," a play on the Charles Darwin (after whom the character had been named) scientific theory of evolution. CHUMP's monocled chief Baron von Butcher inevitably hatched the latest plan to endanger the world. The Baron's network of international fiends included his shifty chauffeur Creto, mad scientist Dr. Strangemind, imperious Dragon Woman, drowsy Wang Fu, singing sheikh Ali Assa Seen, and the cultured Duchess. One or more would appear in each episode.

A regular weekly feature was chimp TV host "Ed Simian" introducing a musical number by an all-chimp band, "The Evolution Revolution." An album of these songs was released on the ABC/Dunhill record label. There were also Lancelot Link comic books and other merchandise, including Halloween costumes.

The episodes were all narrated, in a mock-sober delivery, by Malachi Throne.

The characters[edit]

APE[edit]

CHUMP[edit]

  • Baron von Butcher (voiced by Bernie Kopell) - Modeled on Kopell's character of "Siegfried" in Get Smart! Kopell is believed to have approached his voicings of the Baron as if Siegfried were the head of KAOS.
  • Dragon Woman (voiced by Joan Gerber) -
  • Creto (voiced by Bernie Kopell) - His name was basically a play on the word "cretin." Also a play on "Kato" The Green Hornet's chauffeur and crime fighting sidekick.
  • Wang Fu (voiced by Bernie Kopell) - His name was a play on "Kung Fu."
  • The Duchess (voiced by Joan Gerber) -
  • Ali Assa Seen (voiced and sung by Dayton Allen) - His name was meant to sound like "assassin."
  • Dr. Strangemind (voiced by Dayton Allen impersonating Béla Lugosi) - Name inspired by Dr. Strangelove.

Additional characters[edit]

  • Marty Mandrill - former songwriter for The Evolution Revolution turned CHUMP spy.
  • Unnamed Orangutan - Appeared in cameos as a picturesque extra. Often referred to by Lance as "that weirdo")
  • Blackie - The drummer in The Evolution Revolution
  • Ed Simian - A television MC, and a parody of Ed Sullivan.
  • Parnelli Smith - An auto racing champ and supplier of cars to APE, his name was a takeoff on former Indy 500 champion Parnelli Jones.
  • Bart Sparks - MC of the Miss Globe contest (parody of Burt Parks)

The Evolution Revolution[edit]

This all-chimp band, dressed in colorful hippie-style wigs and wardrobe, featured Lancelot Link (played by Tongo) on guitar and Mata Hairi (played by Debbie) on tambourine, with Blackie as "Bananas Marmoset"[3] on the drums. "SweetWater Gibbons" (in fringed vest and granny glasses) was credited for playing Farfisa organ,[3] although the organ usually pictured in the clips was a Vox Continental organ.

In episode "The Evolution Revolution", it was established that the band's music was used to communicate coded messages for APE agents.

The songs were usually co-written and performed by Steve Hoffman, in the Bubblegum pop style then in vogue; Hoffman received "voices" credit along with the various character actors. A Lancelot Link record album was released on ABC/Dunhill, as well as a single titled "Sha-La Love You", a song originally intended for The Grass Roots; the music shared some of its style with the music of The Grass Roots, who used the same recording facilities and studio musicians. Some songs contained heavy guitar riffs, reflecting the growth of hard rock.

An Evolution Revolution song, "Wild Dreams, Jelly Beans", was later covered by the Spanish alternative rock band Hello Lilliput.

Episodes[edit]

The show's first season was an hour long and also included Warner Bros. cartoon shorts from that animation studio's final years. The second season consisted of repeats from the first season with the cartoons removed.[citation needed] The original network broadcast included a laugh track; this was later removed for the syndicated and video releases.

Sources vary as to the number of episodes;[1][2] the following list is taken from TV.com:

  1. There's No Business Like Snow Business
  2. The Lone A.P.E. / Missile Beach Party
  3. The Mysterious Motorcycle Menace / The Great Beauty Contest
  4. C.H.U.M.P. Takes A Holiday / To Tell The Tooth
  5. The Great Brain Drain / The Great Double Double Cross
  6. Lance Of Arabia / The Doctor Goes A.P.E.
  7. The Surfin' Spy / The Missing Link
  8. Bonana / The Greatest Chase In The World
  9. The Reluctant Robot / The Royal Foil
  10. The Great Great Race / The Great Plane Plot
  11. Landlubber Lance / The Temporary Thanksgiving Turkey Truce
  12. The Dreaded Hong Kong Sneeze / The Great Bank Robbery
  13. The Sour Taste Of Success / The Baron's Birthday Ball
  14. The Golden Sword / The Chilling C.H.U.M.P. Chase
  15. The Spy Who Went Out In The Cold / Too Many C.H.U.M.P.s
  16. The C.H.U.M.P. Code Caper / Weather Or Not
  17. The Evolution Revolution / The Great Water Robbery

Syndication[edit]

Reruns aired for one season on Nickelodeon's Nick at Nite during the late-1980s;[1] the program was also shown on TV Land for a brief time. The Comedy Channel (now Comedy Central) aired reruns of this as well as the BBC stop-motion series Dick Spanner in a block hosted by detective-themed stand-up comedian Tommy Sledge.

DVD release[edit]

In June 2006, most of the episodes were released on a 2-DVD set by Image Entertainment.

On May 29, 2012, SBM Productions and Film Chest released the complete series on a 3-disc collector's edition. The Chimpies skits and Evolution Revolution music videos were included as separate items as well as inside the various episodes. The documentary I Created Lancelot Link was included in the bonus features, along with an interview with the original producer Allan Sandler, an interview with music composer Bob Emenegger, and an interview with Tongo, the chimp who played Lancelot in the series.

Documentary[edit]

A 1999 documentary short, I Created Lancelot Link, was made by Diane Bernard and Jeff Krulik;[4] it includes a reunion between the show's two creators, and was "shot in shlocky Hi-8 video, and [featuring] an entertaining juxtaposition of anecdotes from Burns and Marmer and some of the show's finest moments."[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Lancelot Link from the September 2003 issues of The Believer
  2. ^ a b Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp Episode List from TV.com
  3. ^ a b "Lancelot Link & The Evolution Revolution" Original Album Liner Notes
  4. ^ I Created Lancelot Link at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]