Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971) – Don Taylor

 

Where do you go after the literally explosive ending of the last film? Why back in time of course! My exploration of the Planet of the Apes series continues with the massive Sci-Fi Chronicles book.

Using the spacecraft from the first film, somehow recovered and repaired before the climax of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Cornelius (once again played by Roddy McDowall), Zira (Kim Hunter) and their friend Milo (Sal Mineo), travel back through the spacial anomaly, and arrive on present day (1973) Earth.

Here, the tables are turned, at first they seem to be loved and adored by the world, but some within the government suspect them to be a threat to humanity, and a string of events seem to be taking shape that may lead to the fall of man, and the rise of the apes.

I get, storywise, that it’s fun to see Cornelius and Zira out amongst the people enjoying a measure of celebrity, it has some nice moments, but seeing as the army is there when the ship arrives, I don’t understand why it wasn’t all kept secret, and the apes held in quarantine somewhere to be interrogated and, as we know would no doubt happen, eventual dissection.

At first that does seem to be the way the story is going, as the Army works with a zoo to look after them, though the humans get a real shock when the trio finally decide to start talking. Dr. Lewis Dixon (Bradford Dilman) and Dr. Stephanie Branton (Natalie Trundy) are two vets called in to consult and examine the over-sized chimps, where they prove how smart they are and in fact have a bit of fun with their human captors.

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A day after their arrival, Milo dies at the hand of a gorilla, and the President (William Windom) elects to reveal their existence to the world. Dr. Hasslein (Eric Braeden), begins to see the apes as a threat, when it is admitted that they come from the future, and begins to orchestrate machinations against them.

It is rather amusing that not one of the public they encounter seems to react in a terrified way to the appearance of talking apes amongst them, something we know would happen immediately in today’s culture. It is charming to see the two apes enjoying early 70s culture. however.

Things get darker however, and soon Cornelius and a pregnant Zira find themselves on the run from Hasslein, finding aid from Armando (Ricardo Montalban), a circus owner.

The film gets dark as it explores the idea of controlling future history by changing the present, in other words, the plan is to kill the unborn baby before the apes get a chance to evolve.

The film once again goes for the downer ending, but this time, tinged with a little hope, well for apes that is.

It’s amazing how solid these films are, filled with commentary, and deeper themes, while simply masquerading as a fun science fiction film. But all of them have something to say about us as a species, where we’re going, and our behaviors toward each other and those we share the planet with.

I’m really enjoying this cycle of films.

Escape-from-the-Planet-of-the-Apes

 

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