- Directed by Donald Driver
- Starring Johnny Crawford, Victoria Principal, Dennis Olivieri, Diana Darrin
- Written by Donald Driver, Desmond Morris
The Naked Ape (1973) -- It's beyond me why this movie isn't better regarded, let alone hasn't been released to any home format. Produced by Hugh Hefner's Playboy Productions - which, much as you might object to its trademark bunny objectifying of women - it takes the thesis of Desmond Morris' pop-anthropology book and translates it 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 Principal. (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 aged badly, but I think this movie - poorly appreciated in the first place - is still forward-thinking, and would earn a larger cult following 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?
The Naked Ape DVD is offered as a compact edition. This transfer is manufactured on demand and is presented on premium DVD-R with thermal disc print in a clear plastic wallet. Important: This title has been manufactured from the best-quality video master (rated 7/10) currently available and has not been remastered or restored.