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on 24 August 2011
Adapted by Stephen Gallagher from his own novel, this thriller caused a sensation when it first aired in 1991. Having heard the 1981 radio adaptaion, I remember keenly anticipating this production, and was not disappointed. Some have criticised the production for being slow, and compared to today's "shout and run" approach to drama, it must seem so. But this apparent slowness actually allows the drama to develop, the tension mount realistically, and gives the viewer time to appreciate the issues raised. These are big themes - the ethics of mankind's assumed superiority over animals, how far should science go down certain paths, what happens when the science is hijacked by commercial and political interests, and how involved in such interests should the scientists be?

I can only point to one performance being a bit wooden but by the second episode that doesn't matter. On the whole the performances are excellent. Emma Gillespie isn't particularly convincing as the young nurse tentatively exploring the mystery surrounding the Jenner fertility clinic, but John Lynch is excellent as her dopey waste of space boyfriend who has to grow a backbone very quickly. His bewildered shuffling at the edges of the action in episode two is spot on as he realises that something beyond his first fears is happening in the remote village near the clinic. Gallagher admits that Lynch's role was underwritten, but paradoxically this gives the actor the chance to display silent acting at it's best. His eyes say more than his script ever could. David Calder pitches his opportunistic doctor just right, his callousness covered by an air of benevolent professionalism. George Costigan and Gary Mathers provide good support as the dogged detective and the grieving husband, both frustrated at being on the periphery of events. Pippa Haywood is a frighteningly convincing ambitious young researcher whose excitement at the commercial possibilities of creatures such as Chad is apallingly recogniseable. The two young children are quite affecting with their understated terror. Their eyes show the haunted look of children caught in a stituation they can't understand or escape. Especially touching is Sebastian Shaw, a fine veteran actor in one of his last roles as Jenner's one time mentor, clinging to the last shreds of his dignity in a dismal nursing home.

Kenneth Cranham steals the show however with a masterclass in inhumane officialdom. A brief scene which reveals him to be a devoted father actually highlights his callous approach to his work.

The locations are perfect, with the chaotic urban paranoia balanced by the rural scenes, which are moodily ominous. Never have torn bin liners seemed so malevolent.

Chad is a magnificent creation, his body shape and face going beyond human or chimp into the disturbingly "unlike". The mask is very well animated, especially in the barn scene in the final episode, where, together with Douglas Mann's brilliant body language beneath the suit, it is almost possible to belive he is showing regret. The fact that this is an actual performance rather than the cgi cartoon creature we would get now lends a fearsome physicality to his prescence, particularly unsettling in his scenes with the children.

Thinking back to the way national newspapers were falling over each other to be the first to show images of Chad, the half human half chimp hybrid, it is surprising to find his image so prominent on the DVD packaging. It is also surprising that the shock ending to the first episode is revealed in the blurb. I well remember the continuity announcement that Gallagher mentions in the special features, a perfect moment of light relief after a harrowing last act.

This is thoughtful drama, well made and well acted. Not everything has to be shouted while on the run to be gripping.
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on 4 August 2005
I watched chimera the first time round when it was on t.v, it freaked me out then so i was reluctant to watch it again. Just looking at the cover of the video takes me back to nights of abject terror!! I decided enough was enough the freaky little half-bred thing on the cover wasnt going to put me off so I watched it. Just as i remembered scary in places but works better now in this day and age of cloning and playing god than it did back then. Would recommend this to anyone. very good. Just got to stop looking out of the window now to make sure the thing with the dodgy walk isnt out there!! I certainly wouldnt want my kids playing with it!
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VINE VOICEon 21 July 2010
I didn't watch Chimera (pronounced Kai-mera) back in 1991 as I was only 6 and this would certainly have scared me but while this TV series has become very dated in fashion, the subject hasn't. Based on the book of the same name by Stephen Gallagher, the TV series is set over four episodes on two disks.

We are introduced to Tracy as she changes her career slightly to work in The Jenner fertility clinic but while adapting to a quiet country lifestyle, Tracy realises she's got into something far more complicated resulting in pretty much a whole new cast for the second episode.

The cliff hangers in every episode are superb. They're really unexpected - especially the first. Unfortunately some of the acting is a bit below par, a few over zealous facial expressions or actions and it's obvious there is no one on the other end of the phone if you don't give them the chance to say one word while having a whole conversation. There's also a few scenes involving two little kids and it surprises me that they don't seem to question where their parents may have got to.

There are so many well known names and faces in this series: John Lynch, George Costigan (in very fetching Hawaiian shirts), Paul O'Grady and Christine Kavanagh to name a few. If you've seen Emmerdale or Corrie you're bound to recognise a few faces. As this is set in the very early 90s the fashion is just hilarious. I barely recognised Paul O'Grady - it was the voice that made me realise. Christine's character could easily be from today with a few exceptions but there are a few hairstyles and jumpers and the biggest (literally) dating object has to be a mobile phone - it's a huge brick!

I sat and watched all 4 episodes plus the features in one go but it was worth it just to make sense of what was happening. The fourth episode is good at tying up the lose ends and explaining important moments where we ended up following another character earlier on. I wasn't overly keen on the music - mainly from the intro as it's more operatic which seems quite out of place. The special effects are nothing compared to what could be created today and the main subject of the series just isn't realistic enough but I did find myself thinking I wouldn't like to see that in real life.

The special features are very thorough covering plenty of the behind the scenes action which show the making of the prosthetics, the movements and the work that went into filming some of the scenes while Stephen Gallagher narrates. There's a radio interview available for download from the disk as well as a video interview so there's a lot of background as to how the idea came about from the book through to casting and how ITV was the channel to show it. The photo gallery has some great shots from the 4 episodes with press kit also available for download and just pictures of other DVDs available to buy which don't really add anything to it.

So would I recommend it? Yes. If you keep in mind this is almost 20 years old there's no reason it still can't be enjoyed. I wouldn't say it was scary in a horror film type of way - it's more just the unknown and suspenseful scenes that add a lot of drama. I'd give it 3.5/5.
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on 22 February 2015
Sadly a bit dated now - not so much in the fashion or style but the turgid pacing - half this needs editing out. I don't care about characters search for their dead wife - I want to see the killer chimp please!xxx
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VINE VOICEon 19 August 2010
Format: DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"The past is another country; they do things differently there...." Watching a TV thriller from two decades ago is one of the best ways to remind yourself of that. It's not just that production values have changed, although this eco-thriller from 1991 moves at a magisterially slow pace and has an oddly unedited feel, like documentary footage. We also remember with a little flutter of surprise that young men no longer wear sensible hand-knits to the office, that women no longer wear vivid orange lipstick and nurses have abandoned the paper cake-frills they used to wear atop their neat hairdo's. And we're shocked (in a way that perhaps we haven't been since Janet Leigh's fateful shower) when fate in the shape of the title character overtakes almost the entire cast at the climax of Episode 1.

Viewed as a museum piece, Chimera makes for interesting viewing. As a standalone thriller, it perhaps falls rather flat when set against today's fast-moving, slick and imaginative serials such as Sherlock or Life on Mars. It makes valid points about exploitation of the powerless, and serves as the same kind of warning against scientific hubris as "Frankenstein" did in its own time - it's also nice to see it restored to something like its original format after the the footage was ruthlessly carved up by Americans to create a schlock horror called "Monkey Boy".
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on 2 January 2015
Item exactly as described and delivered very promptly
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Format: DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This DVD contains all 4 of the 50-minute uncut episodes of the original Chimera miniseries. I mention this because apparently the only other version to be released was cut down to a 2-hour movie, which I can't imagine did the material any justice whatsoever. But this is the full version.

It opens with Nurse Tracy Pickford getting a job at a fertility clinic. But those pesky government scientists have been up to no good (are they ever up to anything else?!) & the clinic turns out to be a front for an experiment to create a human-ape hybrid. The result is a hairy bloke in a lumberjack shirt who inevitably manages to escape, killing his captors in the process. But who is to blame - the tragic creature unable to reign in its savage instincts or those who created it in the first place?

This may sound like an out-and-out sci-fi/action series but it more closely resembles a contemporary thriller, as Nurse Pickford's journalist boyfriend tries to establish exactly what happened & bring those pesky government scientists to account, while keeping one step ahead of the law.

My initial reaction was that it seemed rather dated (well it was made in 1991, based on a book written in 1982), plus the dialogue was unconvincing, the acting wooden & the music in the dramatic scenes OTT to the point of being ridiculous. But by the second episode things picked up, the atmosphere grabbed hold of me & I found I had a captivating bit of telly on my hands. It was also nice to play 'spot the actors who later became famous' (look out for Lisa Tarbuck, Paul O'Grady & a handful of soap actors).

Despite these flaws, I enjoyed it overall - it doesn't seem as innovative & daring as it did when I first saw it on TV 19 years ago as a teenager but it was nevertheless entertaining. It was nice to see again, primarily as a litmus test to assess how much society has changed in the meantime - although author Stephen Gallagher mentions in an interview on the DVD extras that a patent has recently been put forward in the USA to splice chimp & human DNA...

Incidentally, if you liked this series, you may be interested in First Born, a BBC miniseries from the same era in which a human/oran-utan hybrid is created. It's essentially the same subject, handled in a very different way.
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VINE VOICEon 26 August 2010
Format: DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Chimera a period piece marvel at the out dated special effects, that said this is a great story. A twist or two in the story not least the first episode where the person we thought was going to be the star did not make it to the end of the end.
The extras are quite good with home movies of the making of the program.
So yes good story let down by the dated effects, this story needs a big screen remake, with a higher budget.
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Format: DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
We revisit 80s and early 90s cult TV at our peril. What once stood out from the crowd often now tends to just drag out, with the most frightening thing the hairstyles and lack of fashion sense. That's not far from the case with Chimera, a 1991 horror series with excellent credentials but limited success. At the time novelist Stephen Gallagher was one of the great white hopes of British horror, Lawrence Gordon Clark one of the most respected directors on TV (his Ghost stories for Christmas BBC adaptations are classics that still hold up today) and the more than respectable cast includes John Lynch, Kenneth Cranham and Christine Kavanagh, so hopes were high that it might trigger a horror revival on TV. Unsurprisingly, that didn't happen.

Most of the first episode plays out almost like light soap opera, with nurse Emer Gillespie leaving uncommitted film historian John Lynch for a job in a mysterious and remote fertility clinic where murky government research is going on behind security-coded doors. Unfortunately, while taking time to get to know the characters might be admirable the first episode is more than half over before it even begins to hint at dark deeds and deadly conspiracies, though it does come to a satisfyingly bravura grand finale that leaves a heavy body count and the viewer none the wiser. Things pick up in the second episode as the three surviving minor characters from part one take centre-stage and our new main character is left in the dark while the police and the men from the ministry try to put the pieces together, but once they start falling into place there's a bigger problem - the make-up job on the genetically engineered primate responsible. 'Chad' may be kept offscreen for most of the first two episodes, but once we see him he evokes all the wrong reactions: at times all that's missing is the wings and he could be one of the Wicked Witch of the West's flying minions.

It's not the only area where budget limitations get in the way of the script's aspirations, but even though it's the most noticeable it's doubtful the series would have been much more successful with a bigger budget. With so little revealed in the first episode that it starts to feel like padding, once the debate over whether Chad is victim or villain gets under way, it's in very familiar terms - he even befriends a couple of children, Frankenstein-style. But then this is very much an attempt to do the kind of Frankenstein story Nigel Kneale might have created, albeit without Kneale's ability to combine thought-provoking ideas and lateral thinking with gripping and often chilling narratives. The show is decent for what it is, but it's never as much as it wants to be, leaving Nigel Hess's haunting end title music one of the most memorable things about it. More two-and-a-half stars than three.

Still, Revelation have put together a good DVD package - all four original episodes (rather than the heavily cut US version retitled Monkey Boy that runs half as long and cut most of the opening episode), behind the scenes footage, interview with Stephen Gallagher, stills gallery, and press kit and radio dramatisation scripts PDF.
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Format: DVD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
An ITV mini series from 1991 comes to DVD. Adapted from his own novel by writer Stephen Gallagher. This was released once before on video but that was a heavily edited version that cut a lot out. This is complete and unedited.

There are four fifty minute long episodes. The first three are on disc one and the last is on disc two,along with some extras.

There are no subtitles and the only language option is English.

The story sees young nurse Tracy Pickford changing her life by moving out of the city and leaving behind her job there, her flatmates, and dumping her seemingly rather ineffectual journalist boyfriend. She takes a job at a fertility clinic in a remote park of yorkshire run by a Doctor Jenner. The area is quiet and uneventful and work there seems routine.

But Tracy isn't let into a special part of the clinic. There's clearly something go on inside it. And when the secret gets out shocking things happen. And several people's lives will never be the same.

I won't say much more about the plot because the show develops in directions that you really won't expect from the first episode and it's a pleasure to watch it unfold, as you're left wondering what will happen next.

An interesting mixture of monster movie, horror, cutting edge scientific speculation - it doesn't shy away from considering the moral issues of that - and conspiracy thriller. The show keeps it's monster well hidden till the right point [unlike the box cover or the dvd menu] and although there are some gory moments a lot of the horror is kept offscreen and left to the imagination. A way that always makes it work better.

The supporting characters could be cliched but they do manage to show some depths - a couple of nice scene do humanise Kenneth Cranhams sinster government fixer Hennessy and a military sidekick of his - and the plot does unfold on the basis of the actions of the characters.

This was made in 1991 so it does look rather dated. Watch credit card transactions being done by phone, rudimentary computer graphics and huge mobile phones, among other things. But there's something rather quaint and nostalgic about that. TV from a bygone age always has to be viewed that way. So if you can suspend your disbelief and go with the flow there's an entertaining bit of drama on display here.

The extras on the second disc are as follows:

Stephen Gallagher's home movies of the production of the series: nobody made behind the scenes features in 1991 but the writer took this footage of the show being made. It runs for nearly half an hour and he narrates most of it.

There's an eighteen minute long interview with Stephen Gallagher about the book and the show.

A three minute long gallery of images from the show and it's production, all set to some of the incidental music used in it.

If you put the disc on a computer then you can open up PDF files of the script for a radio adaptation that was done of the book and of the original press kit for the show.

And instead of trailers there's a short section of images of other dvd's available from the dvd company.

Decent tv and a decent dvd package for it.
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