OK... the Earth has been blown up, all human and ape races have been extinguished (including all original characters of the first and second productions), and the thought of another Apes sequel is about as possible as Natalie Wood starring in Brainstorm 2. Neverless, Arthur Jacobs, along with screenwriter Paul Dehn, put together a third Apes movie. This feat is achieved by sending Cornelius and Zira (McDowall and Hunter reprising their original roles) back in time, leaving right before the nuclear apocalypse of the future perpetuated by Heston's Taylor, all through hopping on Taylor's sunken spaceship from the first movie. (The only problem with that is that the spaceship is somehow repaired by an ape society that initially didn't even know how to run a microwave oven.)
I know, I know, I must be losing you by now, but stay with me, it gets funnier.
Accompanied by Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo), Cornielus and Zira crash land in the ocean in 1973 and are promptly locked up in the L.A. County Zoo. During captivity, Dr. Milo is killed by a gorilla (hey, I thought ape doesn't kill ape!) and Cornelius and Zira demonstrate their speech capabilities to two sympathetic animal psychiatrists -- Dr. Lewis Dixon (Bradford Dillman) and Dr. Stephanie Branton (Natalie Trundy). The two talking monkeys are then transformed into worldwide celebrities, wined and dined, and treated like the newest members of Menudo.
A suspicious government agent then steers a presidential commission to lock up Cornelius and Zira, concerned about the repercussions of an evolving, talking ape society. During interrogation, Zira basically reveals the plotlines of the last two movies to the evil government agent and his cronies. The president's commission demands the Zira and Cornelius be neutered, but the two talking monkeys escape from the military base and end up in hiding out in a traveling circus run by Armando (Fantasy Island's amazing host Ricardo Montalban). The chimps give birth to a daring little monkey boy as the government cronies closes in. Cornelius and Zira, with the baby monkey in tow, find refuge in an abandoned shipyard with the government hot on the their trail.
I bet you can guess what happens next, since all of these damn Apes movies always end on such a happy happy joy joy note with that big surprise that usually spells S-E-Q-U-E-L.
Of course, at this point in the Apes series, the sequels started to feel somewhat contrived and pointless, as if the Fox studios would rather push Planet of the Apes Shrinky Dinks than craft an intelligent and interesting film. Zira's speech regarding ape evolution could have been developed into a somewhat plausible lineage for the following sequels (two more to go!) but alas, no. The same logic can be seen in the current Disney trend of releasing all of its animation sequels in straight-to-video format.
Ironically, this third entry in the series would prove to be the best of the all of the sequels because the main body of the film revolves around the relationship between Cornelius and Zira. Sadly, that's not saying much.
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)
Hide my monkey... behind my back.