The Naked Ape (1973) Poster

(1973)

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8/10
Underrated retro-gem of the Sexual Revolution
ofumalow23 December 2005
It's beyond me why this movie isn't better regarded, let alone hasn't been released to any home format (legally that is). Produced by Hugh Hefner's Playboy Productions--which, much as you might object to its trademark "bunny" objectifying of women--it takes the theses of Desmond Morris' pop-anthropology book and translates them into a series of pro-sex, but more importantly pro-tenderness and pro-humanism sketches.

Some are cleverly animated (in various styles), others acted out in terms that range from the satiric to the tragic. The non-cartoon segments are primarily acted out by an appealingly goofy, vulnerable if muscled-up (from his juvenile TV stardom days on "The Rifleman") Johnny Crawford, and pert young Victoria Principle. (Stills from her nude scenes here were much later exploited as bogus evidence of a past "softcore" career after she'd achieved fame in the TV series "Dallas.")

"The Naked Ape" is imagined in creative and narrative ways that would never happen again (at least with a generous budget) after the mid-70s. It's conventionally sexy/humorous on the surface. But the overriding message is that the sexes should respect one another, and that mankind's tilt toward warring, macho self-destruction is anything but "natural." It's a beautiful message, one that the film arrives at with an entirely appropriate weight of melancholy and anti-Establishment critique.

A lot of counterculture-relic features from this era have dated badly, but I think this movie--poorly appreciated in the first place--is still forward-thinking, and would earn a larger cult following (the existing one flows from "cut" early-80s TV broadcasts and bootleg videos) if it were released as a legitimate DVD. C'mon, Hugh...this was your baby once, why not let it take some long-delayed toddling steps toward the public?

(P.S.: Looking at this review a decade later, I noticed the only two other "user comments" are from one person who erroneously thinks the original book was a "novel," and the other from someone who obviously hasn't seen the movie at all. Yeesh.)
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evidently this is now available on DVD
recexmanager31 July 2008
released by Anthem Pictures on April 10th, 2007. I special ordered this for a lady, who was looking for the Johnny Crawford version and not the modern 2006 version. Although, why would you remake a picture that was not really successful in the first place? The knee jerk reaction to the name Hugh Hefner by some people is indicative of the state of our nation. When there is very little money and electricity, and not enough to eat, issues such as airbrushed pudenda will recede to their proper place in the scheme of things. Anyhow, enjoy the film while it lasts. Actually, if you want to use your time wisely, get the book. Even though the research is dated, the backward slide of the American culture and the dumbing down of the populace seems to reinforce the message of the book. Even though the evidence is still out on evolution, only a shaved ape would come to that conclusion.
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7/10
Son of "The Rifleman" in the raw! Uh...so what?
dvox3 August 1999
Passable adaptation of the Desmond Morris novel that child/teen idol star Johnny Crawford would probably rather forget. Brings to light that burning question: why do so many former underage actors/actresses/singers, etc. try to shake their image by doffing their duds?
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