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OF THE PLANET OF THE APES - 1972
20th Century Fox
RATINGS: Finland: K-16 / Germany:
12 / Sweden: 15 /
UK: PG / USA: G
This is a movie based on a really, really bad idea.
Okay, the setting (according to the opening credits) is "North America - 1991". Twenty years after Cornelius and Zira (the super intelligent apes from 2000 years in the future) were murdered by government agents who feared they would be the Adam and Eve for a race of apes that would ultimately replace humans as Lords of the Earth (as seen in ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES). Their son, originally named Milo but later re-named Caesar (Roddy McDowell: PLANET OF THE APES, FRIGHT NIGHT), was hidden from harm by a sympathetic circus owner named Armando (Ricardo Montalban: STAR TREK II: The Wrath of Khan).
Armando and Caesar (on a leash) arrive in a large city, intent on distributing leaflets advertising the circus. We quickly see that much has changed in the world since the last movie. The United States has either become or been replaced by a North American police state. Cops in black Nazi SS style uniforms are everywhere, watching the citizens but mostly watching the apes.
Which brings us to the bad idea I mentioned earlier. It becomes immediately clear that this is a society built around ape slavery. Apes are everywhere, performing every menial task imaginable, from sweeping and mopping to running errands to working as waiters. Armando explains to Caesar that this began a few years earlier, in 1983, when a virus brought back from space killed all the dogs and cats on Earth. Humans were left without pets. So did they turn to birds? No.
Boa constrictors, turtles, or iguanas?
They make pets of apes.
The late Director J. Lee Thompson was already well established for taking on the troubled movie, The Guns of Navaronne, and making it into a hit.
Thompson directed the last two PLANET OF THE APES sequels, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES and this one.
Thompson also directed CAPE FEAR (1962), RETURN FROM THE ASHES, EYE OF THE DEVIL, THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981). Thompson ended his career doing a number of Charles Bronson movies including THE EVIL THAT MEN DO (1984).
See the Official 20th Century Fox
PLANET OF THE APES
Go to the
Official Website site.
Have you been to a zoo recently? Have you ever seen an adult male gorilla up close? In spite of being relatively peaceful animals, gorillas are quite dangerous because they are immensely strong. A gorilla could take the strongest human weight-lifter in the world and tear his arms off, then tie his legs in a bow knot. Chimps and orangutans aren’t as strong but they’re still much stronger than humans. Dogs and cats make good pets because they are domesticated, a selective breeding process that has taken thousands of years. Eight years ain’t gonna do it. Apes are wild animals and would make extremely poor pets and worse servants. Plus, unfortunately, most of the great apes are endangered species, and there simply aren’t enough in the world to serve as a slave underclass.
But let’s get past that. The plot intent here is obvious, because this is meant to explain how apes came to hate humans so much, and is clearly leading up to an ape rebellion. And from that point of view, this is a decent movie. Caesar has led a sheltered life in the circus and this visit to the city is his first exposure to the way his kind are treated. Overcome with rage at seeing a chimpanzee servant being beaten by police and taunted by onlookers (who are protesting human jobs being taken by apes), he yells, "Lousy human bastards!" The cops respond immediately, and Armando claims he was the one who yelled the insult. He is taken in for questioning and Caesar is alone.
Some in the crowd claim they heard the ape talk and when this story reaches Governor Breck (Don Murray: [TV] THE STEPFORD CHILDREN, RADIOACTIVE DREAMS) he immediately suspects the presence of Cornelius and Zira’s offspring. Breck despises the ape slaves, and is constantly wary of rebellion (this would seem ridiculous were it not for it being well known that Cornelius predicted these very events). The hunt is on and Caesar is forced to hide among the slaves. His intelligence stands out and by a fortuitous coincidence, he’s bought at auction by the Governor’s aide, McDonald (Hari Rhodes: COMA). Caesar ends up working in the offices of Ape Management, an excellent place to begin a rebellion.
There is a key scene where Caesar's chimpanzee girlfriend Lisa (Natalie Trundy: BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES) actually speaks, apparently learning how from Caesar. I'm sorry, but no. Apes don't speak - not because they haven't learned - but because they can't. They don't have the vocal apparatus. If you transplanted a human brain into a chimp's body the resultant creature might understand everything you said but would not be able to answer. The only thing that would turn modern apes into sentient, speaking beings like Caesar is some serious genetic engineering.
Despite it's flaws, this isn't a bad movie. We can't help but feel sympathy for the slaves and empathy for Caesar's rage.
Just barely, I give it three shriek girls.
copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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