Horr (1973) writes the following: Monkeys,
Apes, and Man was produced by the National Geographic Society
and Wolper Productions for a general television audience. This
immediately poses problems for the filmmaker, who must walk
a tightrope between "view ability" and scientific
accuracy. This film manages to do both with reasonably high
consistency, although the professional primatologist will wince
at some interpretations or better, nuances, which accompany
otherwise exceptional sequences.
The film covers a wide variety of material
and contains some truly outstanding film sequences which makes
it a invaluable classroom document--with appropriate corrections
by the instructor.
The film opens with excellent footage of mountain
gorillas from Diane Fossey's current study. Unfortunately, the
scenes are brief and, for the primatologist, marred by narration
which claims that Ms. Fossey is dispelling for the first time
the myth of the gorilla's viciousness. Her work is filled with
important new insights into gorilla behavior; however, that
particular myth was destroyed over ten years ago by George Schaller.
Following this introduction and the titles
is a section on evolution. Films of the Scopes Monkey trial
and the "Evolution Revolution," a chimpanzee rock
band, are followed by excellent footage on slow loris, uakaris,
proboscis, and other monkeys and a beautiful sequence of black
and white colobus leaping through the trees. With arboreality
thus established as the base of all primate adaptation, our
attention is shifted to baboon footage by DeVore which illustrates
the role of predation and dominance in keeping terrestrial primate
inclose, social troops.
The role of the primatologists is again introduced
by shots of Guy Eaton and his wife observing a colony of Japanese
macaques at the Oregon Primate Center with some comments about
monkeys as emissaries from another species telling us about
ourselves. Brief shots of Japanese macaques living in winter
snow lead into some interesting footage of Koshima Japanese
macaques swimming. Comments are made about washing, swimming,
etc,. as learned, possibly, "cultural" variations,
but perhaps to include, as the viewer is left to assume too
much or too little about this most important phenomenon.
The sequences of Kortland's experiment placing
an animated, stuffed leopard in front of an unsuspecting chimpanzee
troops are among the most valuable of the film, especially since,
unlike some other sequences, I do not believe this had ever
been released elsewhere. It is fascinating to see the chimps
attack the "leopard' with large sticks, although careful
inspection shows that they really do not (in the footage shown)
ever use the stick as a club, but only throw it in the general
direction of the leopard. This magnificent footage (it is worth
seeing the film only for it) is marred by nearly inane comments
about chimpanzees "perhaps" sensing that all animals
must die, since they behave as though the leopard is dead once
its head has been knocked off and it is stiff to the touch.
Another concept left hanging is Kortland's idea that chimps
are degenerated human beings.
The study of socially deprived macaques is
neatly illustrated with some new footage form Harlow's lab,
a succinct picture of his major findings and a good introduction
to the world of cloth and wire mothers, peer group importance,
and therapist monkeys.
Among the best sequences are the Gombe Stream
chimp scenes of predation (chimps eating a monkey; the capture
is not shown), tool-using to termite and vocalization. A long
sequence of chimps exhibiting extreme dominance reactions over
a surplus of bananas is fascinating, but it is unlikely, as
the narration states, that it was an earth shattering revelation
that food would stimulate such behavior in chimps, or other
primates for that matter.
The film closes with views of Jane Goodall
teaching her child, Grub, in the jungle and an interview with
Desmond Morris in which certain platitudes about the future
of man being to regain his "animal humility": etc.,
Despite some problems of narration, much of
this film is interesting and very valuable. It is useful in
the introductory class because it does entertain as well as
inform. . . .