Battle For the Planet of the Apes (1973)

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Battle For the Planet of the Apes (1973)

Post  BoG on Sun Mar 21, 2010 6:40 pm

Hail Caesar the King! But every Caesar has his Brutus!

This point, right above, is raised by Caesar's enemy, Kolp (Severn Darden in a mustache-twirling snidely elegant turn at maddened villainy), in this 5th and final Apes film. But a king usually has more than one enemy, as Caesar finds out, to his grief. A predictable and mostly expected follow-up to the previous Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, this one, like Beneath the Planet of the Apes, stresses sci-fi action rather than any deep themes related to slavery or culture shock. Several years after a nuclear war, we find a surprisingly peaceful yet primitive village occupied by both apes and humans, governed by chimp Caesar (McDowall), who began a revolution in the previous film, as a young radical. Now much older - either about 10 or 30 years older, depending on various sources - he projects a benign fatherly personality.

It's not quite paradise: though not slaves as apes were previously, humans have shifted to 2nd-class citizens, despite an image of equality, and tension escalates due to local bully gorilla Aldo (Claude Akins - 'call me by my proper rank, General, huh!'). Then Caesar himself opens the door to other possible problems by visiting a nearby nuked city (obviously the same one from the previous film). There, the human governor from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes has been replaced by his security chief, Kolp, who was bad enough as 2nd in command - now he's bored just sifting through the rubble with his few mutated followers - time to work off the doldrums and teach a clever ape how to show respect.

This entry is generally regarded as the worst of the 5 films, if most fans had to pick one, but it's not a complete waste of time. There really is a battle at the end, a mini-war between the invading mutants and the village - but then the final confrontation between Caesar & Aldo is slow going. This film is almost like a precursor to all of those post holocaust sci-fi pieces in the eighties (Steel Dawn, etc.). The biggest weakness is that nothing really new is added to the saga. The new character, Virgil (Paul Williams), for example, is a genius orangutan, but he's a retread of the genius chimp from Escape From the Planet of the Apes. What this film does, really, is bring things full circle for the 5-film saga, though not in a very creative way. As with the previous film, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, events that should occur over the course of decades or centuries are depicted in the span of days. Worst of all, the apes here speak as well as humans already (? - the new book, Timeline of the Planet of the Apes, may shed some light on this; see the Sci-Fi Reference Books section).

The filmmakers got all the old costumes from the first 3 films out of mothballs and outfitted the apes here in the same way, against all logic - where did these uniforms come from all of a sudden? Most of these problems relate to the small budget, of course. The mutated humans from the bombed out city are the ancestors of the mutants we've seen in Beneath the Planet of the Apes - they even show the alpha-omega bomb which, though almost detonated here, remains as is until it supposedly destroys everything in two millennium. This scene might be one of the restored scenes; the original film was shorter by about 10 minutes, contributing to its mediocre standing. A prologue and epilogue set about 600 years from now with the orangutan Lawgiver (John Huston) shows that the future is not set, so now we're left guessing. This movie was followed by the short lived TV series, which took place about a thousand years in the future. BoG's Score: 6 out of 10
Click image below for the original program booklet from 1973.

Ape Trivia: as depicted in the 2012 film Argo, this was the film that inspired the idea to create a fake sci-fi movie as part of a plan to rescue American diplomats trapped in Iran in 1980. Also, a blog:
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