Less remembered are the
four sequels that followed the original Planet.
Perhaps Burtons re-make will spark interest in
these forgotten films, which, when seen as a wholeand
despite the unavoidably amusing fact that they star
talking monkeysdeserve to be recognized as one
of the most ambitious and entertaining series of fantasy
films ever made.
PLANET OF THE APES
"Take your stinkin hands off me, you damn
dirty ape!"Taylors first words to his
disapproving ape captors.
Taylor (Charlton Heston),
a bitchin astronaut from the kick-ass year of
1972, crash-lands his rocket-ship on a strange planet
sometime in the future. Unfortunately, its a planet
ruled by scary-looking talking apes, who treat the planets
humans as wild animalsusing them for labor, putting
them in zoos, stuffing them in museums, and dissecting
them for sciencenone of which grooves too well
A couple sympathetic
simians, Cornelius (Roddy McDowell) and Zira (Kim Hunter)
help Taylor to escape, where he takes an attractive
female savage on that infamous journey down the beach,
where they discover the destroyed remains of Lady Liberty.
Turns out Taylor has been on Earth all along but a future
Earth annihilated by atomic war and turned upside-down,
evolutionarily speaking. Taylor is understandably bummed.
Planet has a mistaken
reputation as being a kitschy curiosity, mainly due
to Hestons teeth-gnashing, testosterone-riddled
"ITS A MADHOUSE!!!"-style performance.
The intelligent scriptco-penned by the master
of bleak, prophetic science fiction, Rod Serlingis
at once rollicking adventure, sly commentary (Zira to
Taylor: "Remember, all men look alike to most apes"),
and dark comedy (as one ape sighs, "Human see,
human do"). You have to look quickly to see a shot
of three ape judges deciding the fate of Taylor, the
first covering his mouth, the second covering his eyes,
and the third covering his mouth.
Although Taylor is clearly
our intrepid bad-ass, the filmmakers make it difficult
to tell what side we should be rooting for. While Taylor
is pretty much an insufferable jerk, it comes out that
the apes are keeping humans (and human advancements)
down for a reasontoo much "advancement"
and Earth will eventually go kablooey. Again.
BENEATH THE PLANET
OF THE APES (1970)
"Glory Be to the Bomb, and The Holy Fallout."Chanted
by spooky underground mutants.
Taylor (Heston again)
and Nova, his sexy savage, continue their trek down
the coast when, suddenly, they run into mystical lightning
bolts and walls of fire, whereupon Taylor falls through
a holographic mountain. As if this werent peculiar
enough, Nova runs into Brent (Heston look-alike James
Franciscus), another hapless astronaut sent from happenin
1972 to find Taylor.
After some pretty dumb
loincloth-laden adventures in Ape City, our Heston-esque
hero and his under-dressed cave-babe head underground,
where the entire city of New York exists as a creepy,
half-excavated tomb run by telepathic humans who worship
a left-over "Doomsday Bomb" that theyre
planning to blow up the planet with when the apes attack.
Just when you thought
things couldnt possibly get any weirder, the humans
rip off their faces to reveal gross radiation scars.
Then the apes attack, kill the mutants, Nova, and Brent.
Ever the cheery optimist, Taylor hits "the button"
with his dying breath, blowing up Ape-Earth to smithereens.
While pretty much a mediocre
movie, the last half hour is filled with so many shocks
and risky twists (how many mainstream movies end with
the destruction of all life as we know it?), that Beneath
is, at the very least, a ballsy follow-up to the original.
ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET
OF THE APES (1971)
"I loathe bananas."Ape Zira to half-witted
This is where youre
going to need to start taking notes. Okay: right before
Earth exploded in Beneath, the two kindly chimps,
Cornelius and Zira, managed to fix Taylors spacecraft
and travel to fabulous 1973 Earth. Upon landing, they
become international celebrities, providing plenty of
Crocodile Dundee-style chuckles as they navigate city
life, watch TV, taste alcohol, attend sporting events,
and speak at womens club luncheons.
What becomes clear, though,
is that an annoying paradox of the Terminator 2
variety has begun. Cornelius and Ziras child will
become the first of an intelligent race of apes that
will eventually take over the Earth (resulting in the
world seen in the first Apes film). Understandably
nervous about the end of mankind, evil government types
decide the apes must die. After hiding out in a traveling
circus, the ape family is cornered and killed. In a
shocker ending, we see that Zira had switched her baby
with a circus apes baby, and it lives on, creepily
mumbling the word "Momma" over and over.
Escape is a creative, mature
movie that stands completely on its own. Rubbery make-up
or no, its impossible not to fall in love with the
two witty, gentle "ape-o-nauts," and watching
them become material consumers is both pleasurable and
eerie. The characters are complex; even the government
types stop their evil-doing long enough to philosophize
over the ramifications of their actions: "If you
could go back in time," ruminated one, "would
you kill Hitler as a little boy, or while still in his
most shrewd move is how perfectly it sets up the next
two sequels. Zira and Cornelius explain that in the
1990s, a plague will kill all cats and dogs. Humans,
desiring pets, will take in apes. Those ape pets will
become ape servants, then ape slaves, until one ape
will rise to lead a revolution.
Which leads us to...
CONQUEST OF THE PLANET
OF THE APES (1972)
"Go Human, Not Ape"Picket sign protesting
apes landing sweet waiter jobs.
In one of the most expository
sentences ever put to film, circus owner Armando (Ricardo
Montalbon) brings Cornelius and Ziras teen-ape
son, Caesar, up to speed:
"There can be only
one talking chimpanzee on Earth, the child of the two
talking apes, Cornelius and Zira, who came to us years
ago out of the future, and were brutally murdered for
fear that, one very distant day, apes might dominate
the human race."
long-winded explanation is for naughtevil government
types are prevalent even in future-Earth (1991), and
they suspect that Armando may be hiding the chatty chimp.
That leaves Caesar alone in a modern-day world where
apes work as janitors, painters, waiters, gophers, and
shoe-shiners, after being trained in "conditioning
camps." (This is after cats and dogs have gone
After Armando is killed,
Caesar begins an ape revolt. First, in rather comical
ways (pouring water on diners laps, shoe-shining
socks, etc.), then in slightly less comical ways (rifles,
butcher knives, fingers-in-eyeballs, etc.).
The riot sequences were
based on images from the 1965 Watts riot. The filmmakers,
knowing that a leader of a minority uprising would never
be accepted by audiences as a hero, simply cloaked the
Watts riot with a bunch of ape outfits. By this film,
even the phrase "Planet of the Apes" had taken
on a metaphorical meaning; after all, 1991 America ISNT
run by apes, so the HUMANS must be the "apes,"
This is what great science
fiction is all about.
It all leads to a question
that by now is an Apes trademark: who are we
supposed to root for? Our sympathies lie with the downtrodden
apes, but their victory equals the overtaking of humanity,
whichas we saw in the original filmwas pretty
BATTLE FOR THE PLANET
OF THE APES (1973)
"Ape has killed ape! Ape has killed ape! Ape has
killed ape!"Chanted by apes after an ape
kills an ape.
Its 12 years after
the bombs have flattened most of the world, and a slightly
older Caesar rules over a small colony of apes and humans.
Although their relationship is uneasily harmonious at
best, it is the apes who are firmly in charge. As proof
of their moral superiority, they need only remind the
post-apocalyptic humans that apes NEVER harm other apes.
Suffice it to say, this
rule gets broken, man/monkey mayhem ensues, and the
underlying moral becomes, "There are NO bad races,
just bad individuals."
Caesar attempts to derail
the impending "gorillas war" that his
parents Cornelius and Zira foretold (the war that ended
up blowing up Earth in the second film, Conquest).
But if you think about it, preventing that war would
prevent Cornelius and Zira from ESCAPING the war and
traveling to 1973 America, and thus CREATING the entire
race of intelligent apes! By preventing the war, the
apes would negate their own existence.
Ultimately, this is far
too confusing to dwell upon, so the mutant humans living
in the New York City underground (remember them from
Beneath?) "invade" the ape village,
limping around with a couple of rusty guns and an old
school bus. (Dont ask.) As climactic battles go,
its a pretty sorry note for the series to end
Bunk battle sequence
notwithstanding, Battle does successfully bring
us up full circle. The theoretical next chapter would
be the original Planet of the Apes, which is
actually a pretty ingenious way of ending a movie series.
Reminiscent of George
Romeros "Dead" trilogy in both
scope and ambition (if not make-up), the Apes
films are flawed and rubbery in more ways than one.
But they are also true treasures from an era when cinema
wasnt afraid to take narrative and metaphorical
chances and wasnt afraid to alienate a few audience
members in the name of ape-centric art.
of the Apes
an Apathetic Audience
Rock(A Hard Day's Night)
Cannes Film Festival
Ebert's 3rd Overlooked Film Festival/David Urrutia Interview
Is on My Side
Artist Not at All Known as Prince
Up on Ochs
From the Book of Job
in Terre Haute