MONKEYS, GO HOME! (1967)
With a title like Monkeys, Go Home!, this film piqued my interest the moment I heard about it. What have these monkeys done? Who wants them to go home? No doubt they’ve been up to something pretty ridiculous to be thus admonished! The possibilities were endless, but I never expected a warped ideological battle between capitalism and communism set on a French olive farm…
Henry Dussard (Dean Jones) is an American who has just inherited a large olive farm in the French countryside. His plans to tend the farm himself and make an honest living are quickly dashed, however, when Father Sylvain (Maurice Chevalier), a local priest, informs him that the olives in this town are special, and can only be harvested by being picked off the ground one by one by delicate hands. The priest suggests that Dussard marry a widow so that he can use her children to help pick his olives, but bafflingly enough, the American has an idea that is even more insane: buying a bunch of out of work space chimps to do the job instead.
Fun, I guess?
Enter Maria Riserau (Yvette Mimieux), sister of the widow that Father Sylvain wants Dussard to marry. She’s cute and spunky, and tries to weasel her way into the olive farming operation for reasons unknown. Dussard is reluctant, mainly because he’s afraid she’ll fuck with the chimps’ productivity by putting them in frilly dresses.
A fear that proves to be well-founded.
Unfortunately, a man, a woman, and four olive-picking chimps does not a movie make. So, we are introduced to our villains: the neighborhood communists (led by Bernard Woringer and Clement Harari). Okay, so to be fair, we’re not explicitly told that they’re communists, but they hold secret meetings of all the town’s workers in a basement ranting about capitalist oppression. You do the math.
Bridge club, this ain’t.
Alright, so for incredibly vague reasons, the communists are against Dussard using his chimps to pick olives. At one point they say it’s to keep him from putting people out of work, but since most of the picking seems to be done by children anyway, this doesn’t really hold water. Anyhow, they try to get the public to rise up against the chimps by graffiti-ing anti-ape sentiments all over town. Dussard and friends respond with pro-monkey slogans.
Hahaha, monkey business. GET IT?
This is followed by a bunch of boring bullshit about haggling over olive prices. Then the communists convince some lady (Yvonne Constant) to pretend to be Dussard’s cousin, so she can exploit a loophole in the French legal system and take over his farm. Maria then tells her that the farm is haunted by the ghosts of Dussard’s uncle’s tortured midget wives. Since the fake cousin is sloppily drunk, superstitious, and apparently doesn’t know what a chimpanzee looks like, she freaks the fuck out when she is awoken by four monkeys in dressing gowns.
To be fair, this would be terrifying under any circumstances.
The communists, once they learn of their defeat, set off a town-wide brawl that levels the entire village. The ensuing destruction is simultaneously the high point of the film, and deeply disturbing (the majority of the people having their livelihoods wrecked have nothing whatsoever to do with the plot).
Kids like watching an hour and a half of sheer boredom, followed by five minutes of intense violence, right?
Finally, it’s olive-picking time, but it turns out the chimps are too horny to concentrate on their work. Looks like Dussard is a shit-head after all, except wait, all his neighbors help him harvest the crop and everyone is happy. The End.
You know all those wonderful things you keep hearing about communism? Working together for the common good? Helping your neighbor without any thought for your own monetary gain? Creating a peaceful loving society for future generations? You were mislead. Those are actually all fortunate byproducts of capitalism. I know this now, because I just watched Monkeys, Go Home!
Henry Dussard is a hardworking man with an innovative plan to revolutionize the olive-picking industry. He just wants to tend to his crops in peace and enjoy a modest profit. A more idyllic example of the capitalist entrepreneurial spirit could not be imagined.
He controls the means of production, but the monkeys couldn’t be happier!
But, watch out! Wherever capitalism starts to thrive, there are sure to be communist sourpusses lurking about. In this case it’s the local butcher and his friend, an estate agent. Don’t be fooled, these two aren’t looking out for the good of the proletariat (monkeys in this case, I guess?), they are just jealous because the butcher wants Dussard’s girlfriend, and the estate agent wants to make a fortune by selling his olive farm. Shame on you, you greedy greedy communists!
You know communists, always out to make a buck!
On the other hand, what isn’t to like about Henry Dussard? The guy goes out of his way to share his innovative picking methods. He even offers to loan his team of monkeys out to all the other farmers so that they can harvest their crops at the same cheap rate he’s enjoying. Sharing the wealth, if you will. Suck it, communists. Hell, these monkeys are even going to co-opt your slogans!
This one is aping “Working men of all countries unite.”
Then, when Dussard’s monkey harvest goes awry, what happens? Surely he collapses into ruin in this tragic world where a man’s existence is measured in dollars and cents? Not so! The neighbors whose friendship he has won by his generosity pitch in to help him with his harvest without asking for so much as a dime.
But what of those reds? Their scheming results in nothing but a massive fight that literally tears their town to pieces.
Nice work, assholes.
So there we have it. Everything works out for Dussard, because capitalism is a forgiving system. His stupid “monkeys run a farm” idea can fail, and his fellow man will pick up the slack. Communism, on the other hand, is all about personal greed and wanton destruction. I’ve made up my mind: Commies, go home!
WHY DON’T PEOPLE LIKE IT?:
Why would anyone like it? Almost nothing of interest happens in its tiresome 101 minutes. Its attempts at social commentary are bafflingly clumsy, and border on incoherent. Worst of all, the movie promises ape-based shenanigans, and totally fails to deliver. Previous Disney outings The Monkey’s Uncle and Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. contained one monkey apiece, and the chimp provided the highlights of each film. How can you multiply the number of monkeys by four and get a total snore-fest? Somehow, Monkeys, Go Home! found a way.
Dean Jones is in a car with them, and even he looks bored.
- If you’re a fan of robots talking over movies, you may know Monkeys, Go Home! director Andrew V. McLaglen better as the director of the Joe Don Baker vehicle Mitchell.
- It’s rather sad that this was Maurice Chevalier’s last film.
A dignified final role.
MOST REGRETTABLE MOMENT:
Father Sylvain, a priest who constantly walks around with a herd of young children, explains the difficulty of handling olives in the creepiest way possible, “The man’s fingers are too rough. The fingers of the woman are better. But those of the child are best of all!”
Dean Jones is understandably concerned.
Miserably slow, devoid of both plot and humor, and lacking even chimpanzee-related hijinks, I can think of no reason whatsoever to recommend Monkeys, Go Home! I can only hope that whatever Disney movie I’m watching next week has less dull moments.
Never A Dull Moment (1968)