A million years ago, mankind was just beginning its long path to civilisation, but there were other branches of the evolutionary tree that had sprouted off from our example, such as the man-ape that effectively represented the missing link between us and our ape ancestors. Sadly for these gentle creatures, they were not to survive as into the future as far as we did, and humanity were responsible for their eventual extinction, so here we follow the final example of his species (Peter Elliott) who returns to his tribe one day after a hunting trip to discover the humans have slaughtered every one of them, including his wife and child. What can he possibly do now?
Missing Link was effectively a nature documentary about a type of animal that is no longer around, and hadn't been for millennia, dreamt up by nature filmmakers Carol Hughes and David Hughes as something a bit different from your usual natural world movie. There were certainly many shots and scenes that remained faithful to the directors' more accustomed subject matter as they highlighted various flora and fauna around Africa as the man-ape (never given a name by narrator Michael Gambon) wanders the wilderness to find himself, since there are no others of his race left as far as we can tell. Or maybe they couldn't afford more than one working ape suit, donned by apeman extraordinaire Peter Elliott.
Elliott had a habit of turning up on chat and magazine shows to demonstrate his ability to mimic gorillas and chimps and the like, but here his talents were rather squandered when he was not called upon to behave much like one of those beasts since the man-ape was closer to human than he was a less advanced primate. Under Rick Baker makeup which featured hair all over his body and a big, rubbery face bearing a resemblance to Mick Hucknall, shots of Elliott would be inserted into the more traditional nature footage to make it look as if he were sharing the environment with them, though the fact remained he looked like what he was, a bloke in an ape suit a few steps up from the George Barrows model of years gone by.
Those other animals were of the sort that were still around today, there were no other creature effects fashioned for the film, so you would have a lion attacking a zebra in one sequence, huge toads mating and doing back flips in another, and the planet’s least impressed-looking lizard when faced with the man-ape in the desert. There was an emphasis on the harsh realities of Mother Nature, survival of the fittest type stuff, meaning you watched plenty of animals feasting on other animals, which according to this was absolutely fine since that was the order of things, rendering it all the odder that the Hughes' should be so down on the only briefly glimpsed humans for doing the same.
Indeed, we were assuredly not let off the hook when it came to our track record of bringing certain other living things we share the planet with to extinction, which smacked of finger wagging complacency and even smugness when the emphasis was on the creatures of the Earth following the same tenets in life, so presumably that would apply to us as well. If you were going to see humankind as one big homogenous mass, then that was doing us a disservice since we were capable of holding a variety of opinions and behaving in many different ways, some destructive, other constructive, and Missing Link demonstrated an unlovely streak of misanthropy that was evident in too much ecological thinking. But never mind that, because here's the man-ape acting curiously like Norman Wisdom as he trips out of hallucinogens, the bit everyone who's seen this recalls. Otherwise, eccentric, not necessarily scientifically rigorous (was it truly our ancestors solely responsible for the demise of the missing links?), but with some decent enough photography. Music by Sammy Hurden and Mike Trim, heavy on the nose flute.