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Monkey Shines (1988)

A quadriplegic man has a trained monkey help him with his paralysis, until the little monkey begins to develop feelings, and rage, against its new master.



(novel), (screenplay)

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7 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Christine Forrest ...
William Newman ...
Tudi Wiggins ...
Tom Quinn ...
Chuck Baker ...
Ambulance Driver
Party Guest
David Early ...


When Allan becomes a quadriplegic he loses all hope for living until he meets Ella - a monkey trained to fetch and carry for him around the house, obeying him in all things. But Ella is part of another experiment, and when she starts responding to Allan's underlying rage and frustration she has the ability to carry out her master's darkest wishes. Written by David Carroll <davidc@atom.ansto.gov.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Once, there was a Man whose prison was a chair. The Man had a Monkey; they made the strangest pair. The Man was a captive; the Monkey held the key. No matter how he strained, the Man couldn't flee. Locked in his dungeon, terrified and frail; the Monkey wielding power, keeping him in jail. The Man tried to keep the Monkey from his brain, but every move he made became the Monkey's gain. The Monkey ruled the Man; it climbed inside his head. And now, as fate would have it, one of them is dead. See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

29 July 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ella  »

Box Office


$7,000,000 (estimated)


$5,344,577 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (cut)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


This was the first film role for Stephen Root, then a stage actor. According to Root, he had been instructed by his agent not to let the casting directors know that he was inexperienced with film as an actor. Root's official debut was Crocodile Dundee II (1988), which had been released in theaters a month before this film, despite being shot a month after it. See more »


Ella urinates on Allan as a sign of mating, but it's actually the male capuchin who urinates on it's mate. This would suggest that Ella is in fact a male capuchin. See more »


Geoffrey Fisher: [dazed] Sorry. She got me.
See more »


Referenced in Fallout 4 (2015) See more »


That's All
Written by Alan Brandt and Bob Haymes
Performed by Peggy Lee
Courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc.
Under license from Capitol Special Markets
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

not your typical horror flick
19 September 2003 | by (Tokyo, Japan) – See all my reviews

If you're looking for body count, blood, or bogeymen, this film is not for you. It is more of a psychological thriller than a horror film, though it was billed as horror, likely because of the pseudo-science gimmick that provides the basis for the conflict in the plot.

While the film tends to wander a bit (i.e. a sub-plot involving the research head that gets dropped 3/4 of the way through) it stays fairly well focused on the main character and his problems. Aside from the lead, the most effective acting was done by the monkey(s), but the "real" actors do a pretty good job of carrying their own. It gives you a little insight into what it's like to be quadriplegic. For a late 80's movie, the style of filming was well done, there is very little cheese, and the special effects didn't overreach.

The premise seems a bit farfetched to our currently more sophisticated and informed sense of what's possible on the genetic engineering front. After all, this movie was made 15 years ago. If Romero had gone with either a supernatural cause or a plain animal jealousy angle, it might be less dated, but then again it might have been a little less believable to begin with.

Not very horrific, not startling or scary, but worth seeing if you don't mind a slightly slow-paced thriller. I gave it a higher than average score (6 out of 10) just because it didn't make me say "oh, please!" too many times unlike other movies from that time--particularly horror films--are prone to do. For example, the pivotal moment is fully supported by plausible input earlier in the film, it's not one of those miraculous developments pulled out of nowhere in the last few seconds before the climax.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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