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Movies Kelly Parks

Review by
Kelly Parks

Escape From The Planet of the Apes
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ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES - 1971
20th Century Fox
RATINGS: Finland: K-16 / Germany: 12 / Sweden: 15 / UK: PG/ USA: G

Okay, let's get the huge, glaring plot hole out of the way first. This movie opens with the splashdown of a manned spacecraft in the Pacific off the coast of California. The military recovers the craft and discovers three astronauts inside. The three are Cornelius (Roddy McDowell: PLANET OF THE APES, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, LASERBLAST, FRIGHT NIGHT, FRIGHT NIGHT II), Zira (Kim Hunter: PLANET OF THE APES, THE BLACK CAT, TWO EVIL EYES, THE KINDRED) and Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo: WHO KILLED TEDDY BEAR?). Three intelligent apes from 2000 years in Earth’s future. The idea is that they recovered the ship we saw crash and sink in a lake in the first movie (PLANET OF THE APES), got it working again, and used it to escape the destruction of the Earth seen at the end of the second movie (BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES).

The first two movies make it clear that the ape civilization has maybe a 19th century level of technology. Yet these three individuals, who don't use electricty much less electronics, are able to salvage this very high tech vehicle, repair it, refuel it (!), figure out how to fly it (in spite of not even having invented airplanes yet), and successfully pilot it to orbit, then activate the Hasslein drive which propels them through space and time to Earth in 1971. I don't care if Dr. Milo was Einstein's smarter cousin, there's just no way!

Yes, yes, I know, it's just a plot device to get these characters to the 20th century so the PLANET OF THE APES franchise could continue and other than this part it’s a pretty good movie, but damn! It’s a lot to swallow right at the beginning.

The three chimpanzees from the future carefully conceal their ability to speak. The military is mystified at how their spacecraft has returned with such unusual passengers, and decides to put them in a medical facility at the zoo for observation. Dr. Lewis Dixon (Bradford Dillman: PIRAHNA, THE SWARM) and Dr. Stephanie Branton (Natalie Trundy: BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES), both animal experts, are put in charge of Cornelius, Zira, and Dr. Milo.

TRIVIA
Director Don Taylor was no stranger to Thrillers, having directed 7 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock presents. Two episodes of Rod Sterling's NIGHT GALLERY, as well as
THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1977),
DAMIEN: OMEN II,
and
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN (1980).


RESOURCES
See the Official 20th Century Fox
PLANET OF THE APES
site

Go to the
LINDA HARRISON
Official Website site.

THE FORBIDDEN ZONE

IMDb

IMPAwards

!!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!!:
When Dr. Dixon first sees the three apes, he's mildly surprised to see that they're wearing clothes and seem very bright, but he dismisses it by saying they must be well trained. Is that how a zoologist would react in that situation?
NO!
He'd say,
"Oh my god! They're standing upright and have opposable thumbs! This is a whole new species of chimpanzee! Maybe a new order of primate! I've got to publish immediately so I can name the species. I'll be famous!"
The fact that they can talk (which is discovered very quickly when Zira can't resist the need to give her opinion) would just be the icing on the cake. At first glance they are very obviously not like any chimpanzee ever seen before.

Dr. Milo is killed by an enraged gorilla in the next cage, adding to Zira's hatred of gorillas, who she sees as militaristic warmongers (another odd choice, since real gorillas are very peaceful animals).

Cornelius and Zira are brought before a hastily assembled presidential commission. There they reveal to the world that they can speak and quickly become media darlings and instant celebrities. They're moved from the zoo to a Beverly Hills hotel and appear to be well on their way to careers giving speeches and making appearances at dedications.

But although Cornelius and Zira are honest about many things, such as their coming from Earth's future, where humans are dumb and apes rule, they are less forthcoming about other details, like humans being hunted for sport and used by Zira herself as unwilling subjects in experimental brain surgery.

A member of the commission, Presidential Science Adviser Dr. Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden: COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT, THE ALIENS ARE COMING [TV]) is an expert on space and time travel. His name is mentioned in both previous movies in connection with their space drive, so I assume he's the inventor. Hasslein is suspicious of the future apes from the start. He gets Zira drunk and she reveals more details, including the destruction of the Earth as seen from the window of the spaceship. When Hasslein learns Zira is pregnant, he fears this could be the beginning of the race of super-intelligent apes that knock mankind off his throne. This must be stopped.

This movie reminds me of the old Steve Martin joke about how to be a millionaire and never pay taxes: "First, get a million dollars. Then . . . " If you first accept and get past the fairly ridiculous premise, this is an enjoyable story. Cornelius and Zira are the kind of strangers-in-a-strange-land characters you can really care about.

That's why I give it three shriek girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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