The next stop in the Sci-Fi Chronicles book is the long-running Planet of the Apes series, I’d previously reviewed the first film for the blog, so leapt forward into the first sequel, which sees Earth Astronaut, Brent (James Franciscus) travelling through some kind of space anomaly in his search for Taylor (Charlton Heston), who as we saw in the first film, wandered off into the Forbidden Zone and discovered what really happened to those on Earth.
He meets Taylor’s paramour, Nova (Linda Harrison) and soon finds himself caught up in his own version of events of the first film as Brent discovers the planet is ruled by talking apes, and that humans are seen as a subspecies and slave race. With the help of Cornelius (played here by David Watson instead of Roddy McDowall), and Zira (Kim Hunter), Brent sets out after Taylor, and discovers a strange cult beneath the surface that poses a threat to all life on the planet.
In addition the cult under the surface, there are factions within the ape community, led by the gorilla Ursus (James Gregory) who want humans subjugated completely, and if not subjugated, then eliminated once and for all. There is politics and peace movements at work here, reflecting our own societies in a lot of ways.
It’s still notable for once again, embracing a downer ending, and of course the fantastic make-up work on the hero apes (you can tell the budget didn’t have enough to make enough prosthetics for the extras so they went with simple masks, which sadly are noticeable, but don’t necessarily eject you from the film).
The costumes, make-up work and the use of outdoor locations do lend the film a reality, and in terms of characters, I almost prefer Brent to Taylor. Gregory’s Ursus is menacing and troubling, and the trouble between the different breeds is a way of shining a light on our own racial problems.
That’s one of the best things about these films, yes they can be taken at face value as simple Saturday matinee entertainment, or you can realize there are deeper social issues on display here, just like in all great science fiction.
The reveal of the surviving humans amongst the debris of buried New York is cool, as well as the culture they’ve developed, but the thing that has always bothered me about them is… where do all the masks come from?
I rather like this first sequel, it takes the world we were introduced to in the first film, and about halfway through this one, they expand upon it nicely, opening the scope of the world, and as mentioned, grounding it all in within the reality of the creation.
I love the ending of this one as much as the first one. I love that not everything in these films has to be happy endings. I’m looking forward to taking in the rest of the series.
Do you have a favorite?