Archive for September, 2008

Two More Planet of the Apes Films

2 September 2008

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (Don Taylor, 1971)
This reverses the trajectory of the first two films and has three apes travel from their society to a fictionalised 1970s Earth. It’s not quite clear how they found and repaired Taylor’s ship, but perhaps it’s a sign of superior ape science. The characters have escaped from the climax of the previous film. As in Beneath, the captain dies, leaving Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) to negotiate our “present” day.

Initially they hide their power of speech, but Zira lets it slip in frustration, Whilst they are viewed as bizarre celebs at first, they are clearly perceived as a potential threat and have to fight for their survival. This is all the more vital when they discover Zira is pregnant.

Here it is the apes who experience racism, or at least the xenophobia of a species under threat. There is almost the sense of this becoming an escaped slave narrative. My sympathies, at least, lie with Zira and Cornelius.

A clever attempt to extend the franchise beyond the ending Heston wanted for it in Beneath.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (J. Lee Thompson, 1972)
Here the events are set in the 1990s, after a virus has wiped out the cats and dogs. Apes have been kept as pets and trained as servants – and it is pretty obvious as slaves. Caesar the talking ape (Roddy McDowall) stays in hiding with a circus, at risk of execution if he is discovered. When Armadano (Ricardo Montalban) the circus ringmaster is arrested, Caesar has little choice but to become a slave. But soon he is fomenting rebellion.

In what is either a failure of nerve at the allegory, the one other decent human being MacDonald (Hari Rhodes) is black, and this fact is used repeated to point to the slavery/race metaphors. He rescues Caesar from being executed and acts as a moral compass. This is the most violent of the films so far.