Beneath The Planet Of The Apes Movie Review
The main problem with making a sequel to the original Apes was that Charlton Heston didn't want to put the loincloth back on to keep the struggle going against those damn, dirty apes. So Richard Zanuck, the producer of the original Apes, asked Heston personally to return to the role as some kind of karmic payback for making thr original. Heston took the role but insisted that Taylor be killed at the beginning of the film. So Jacobs hired some schmuck who looked like Heston, named James Franciscus, tossed him in a loincloth, told him to growl like the great one, and then hopefully watch the sawbucks pour in on opening weekend.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes doesn't just suck; it gives a new meaning to the intolerable hell that sequels always seem to deliver. The pace picks right back up with Taylor (Heston) and Nova (Zanuck's girlfriend, still without uttering a single word of dialogue) riding down the same sandy beach looking for a nice little alcove to hole up and start producing their own colony of "talking humans." Before you know it, Taylor and Nova are traveling through the desert and strange storms appear across the sky. Taylor hops off the horse, tells Nova to "find Zira" if he gets into trouble, and then he suddenly disappears into a rock wall. Huh?
Cut to: another astronaut from Earth's past - John Brent (Franciscus) -- who has been sent to find Taylor and his crew. After his ship crash lands, this knucklehead runs into Nova, who then leads him to Cornelius and Zira (Kim Hunter). Meanwhile, militant gorillas are amassing public approval to venture into the Forbidden Zone (oooh!) to root out some unknown evil that poises a viable threat the survival of the ape race. Brent and Nova head off into the Forbidden Zone to find Taylor and wind up in the subway tunnels of New York, where they encounter a race of radioactive telepathic human mutants. After the mutants capture Brent and Nova, they discover Taylor, locked up in a jail cell, awaiting freedom from this godawful film. Taylor, Brent, and Nova cleverly escape from the human mutants as the gorilla army invades through subway tunnels. Main characters die off one by one, the world gets blown to smithereens (courteous of a suggestion by Heston himself), Nova utters her single memorable line, and then this atrocity is brought to a close by one of the boldest endings ever produced by a studio... ever.
Initially, Twentieth Century Fox was a bit timid about the original production of Planet of the Apes mainly because of trepidation that people would laugh their asses off at the sight of human actors running around with monkey masks on. The makeup work of John Chambers was exemplary in the first Apes production, but this time around, most of the crowd scenes have people wearing ill-fitting rubber masks that you usually find in the bargain bins of K-Mart. This problem would only get worse as the sequels progressed.
The reflection of the discontent of the American populace at large during the late sixties is strongly apparent by the use of pacifist chimpanzees organizing non-violent sit-ins to protest the aggressive actions of the gorilla armies and its zealous generals. Director Ted Post even used handheld shots within the protest rallies to give parts of the film an authentic documentary feel. But those efforts actually feel cheap and forced, as if the studios were trying too hard in their attempts to connect with a disfranchised viewing audience.
Overall, this second go-round one-dimensional matte paintings, cheap sets, and radioactive telepathic mutant humans is about as enjoyable as giving your cat a bath. Still, I never thought I would see a G-rated film with guns a-blazing, nuclear weapon explosions, and blood sprayed across walls. Someone get Disney on the phone!
The new Legacy Collection features the five original films, plus a sixth disc, Behind the Planet of the Apes, which is an exhaustive documentary about the series (and more), hosted by, of course, Roddy McDowell.
Our full Apes coverage:
Planet of the Apes (1968)Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)Planet of the Apes (2001 remake)