Monkey Shines rep­re­sent­ed the first steps toward Hollywood by indie gen­re leg­end George Romero and as such, has a sto­ry behind the sto­ry that is worth explor­ing.  Unfortunately, ear­lier home video edi­tions of this title were bare-bones affairs that offered no sup­ple­ments to dig into this tale.  Thankfully, Scream Factory has brought this title into the blu-ray realm and kit­ted the title out with an array of extras that explore the behind-the-sce­nes tale of his first for­ay into Hollywood dis­tri­b­u­tion.

MonkShi-bluA solid-look­ing trans­fer kicks things off.  A lot of Monkey Shines takes place indoors in mood­i­ly lit set­tings and this pre­sen­ta­tion does a nice job of giv­ing it depth and an earthy col­or palet­te.  Both 2.0 and 5.1 stereo options are includ­ed, both in loss­less form.  The 5.1 track was used for this review and it’s a sub­tle affair that adds a gen­tle amount of dimen­sion, par­tic­u­lar­ly in its use of David Shire’s lav­ish orches­tral score.

This new disc also adds a healthy selec­tion of bonus fea­tures.  A com­men­tary track fea­tur­ing Romero and mod­er­a­tor Stuart “Feedback” Andrews kicks things off.  It’s an infor­mal yet infor­ma­tive affair that deliv­ers plen­ti­ful info in Romero’s trade­mark laid-back style.  Romero describes the changes he made in the source nov­el, the chal­lenges of direct­ing a mon­key and how Orion manip­u­lat­ed the test-screen­ing process to change Romero’s end­ing.  MonkShi-05Andrews gen­tly guides the process by adding plen­ti­ful ques­tions that allow him to engage in a dia­logue with Romero.  In short, a qual­i­ty lis­ten for the director’s fans.

The biggest of the extras is a near­ly 50 min­ute fea­turet­te enti­tled “An Experiment In Fear,” an inter­view-dri­ven piece that incor­po­rates the input of Romero, pro­duc­er Peter Grunwald, stars Jason Beghe, Kate McNeil and John Pankow as well as Tom Savini and mem­bers of his spe­cial effects team. It was pro­duced by Red Shirt Pictures: RSP hon­cho Michael Felsher has MonkShi-06a close rela­tion­ship with Romero, which not only allowed for a nice ros­ter of par­tic­i­pants here but also ensured that it has a very frank tone about Romero’s Hollywood adven­tures.

There’s plen­ty of choice tales about deal­ing with the trained mon­keys — Beghe tells the best one about a “prank” that the main mon­key played on him — plus Beghe and McNeil dis­cuss the chal­lenges of shoot­ing their love scene and Savini and his crew give the view­er the low­down on how he cre­at­ed mon­key “dou­bles” for key moments in the film.  Romero and edi­tor Pasquale Buba tell a sad tale about why they had to drop sev­er­al Ella Fitzgerald songs at the last moment and Romero reveals that the stu­dio-man­dat­ed reshoot of the end­ing cost him the gig direct­ing Pet Sematery.  It’s a pret­ty absorbing piece MonkShi-08over­all — and be sure to stick around for a fun bit after the end cred­its.

Plenty more small-scale extras fol­low.  Four delet­ed sce­nes are includ­ed: most are scene exten­sions but there’s an inter­est­ing scene between Allan and his mom in there.  About 13 min­utes of behind the sce­nes footage fol­low, includ­ing a glimpse into direct­ing the mon­key and Savini cre­at­ing his mon­key FX for the film.  A still gallery offers up 30 make­up-FX ori­ent­ed images, includ­ing a close look at a brain surgery scene that didn’t make the final cut.

MonkShi-07Two trail­ers and a t.v. spot show off Orion’s approach to mar­ket­ing the film: one good trail­er is dri­ven by high­lights from the film but the oth­er two spots use a goofy cym­bal-clap­ping mon­key toy bit that prob­a­bly hurt the per­cep­tion of the film.  A five min­ute EPK is nice­ly done, includ­ing Romero and his leads dis­cussing the film.  Along sim­i­lar lines, there are more inter­view clips from the ses­sion that yield­ed the EPK and a 2-min­ute news sto­ry that plays up how the film used a real mon­key for most sce­nes.

All in all, Scream Factory has put togeth­er a nice disc that dou­bles as a trib­ute to one of Romero’s more over­looked efforts.  Fans of the direc­tor and any­one who likes ‘80s hor­ror will find plen­ty to enjoy here.