Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971)

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Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971)

Post  BoG on Sun Mar 21, 2010 7:06 pm

The 3rd film in the Apes series (after Beneath the Planet of the Apes), this one is easily the most whimsical... at least, in the first half. The writers had to stretch believability in getting the two primary apes of the 1st 2 films (the chimps Cornelius and Zira) into our present times from the future, when Earth is destroyed by a doomsday bomb.  There was no hint in the previous film that these two, along with the new character, genius chimp Milo (Sal Mineo), were recovering Taylor's old spacecraft. But, the first few scenes here are almost classic farce disguised as science fiction storytelling. We view our central characters first as 'ape-onauts' and then stuck in a zoo, followed by a brief turn at celebrity when our populace becomes enamored of the two as the latest fad.
The best and most clever thing about this sequel is that it utilizes the already well-known captivating characteristics of the chimps, delightfully performed again by Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter (this was Hunter's 3rd and final appearance as the flustered Zira). They're kind of like old friends by this point and seeing them get acquainted with our modern-day culture just comes across as plain good times, though in a TV-movie style mode. It's also a neat reversal on the ape society of the first two films, which was visited by aberrant intelligent humans.
Things turn grim in the 2nd half, as the fad wears off and our leadership begins to take the threat of possible future ape domination rather seriously. The most interesting character becomes the chief human scientist, played by Eric Braeden, who starts out typically dispassionate but soon reveals an intense personal desire to preserve the human race and society, to the point of fanaticism. In his coldly intelligent eyes, only he sees the truly apocalyptic threat presented by the chimps' pregnancy. He's the nominal villain, but he sees himself as the only one who gives a damn.

Some of the sf plot lines regarding time travel are very clever, while others are a bit clumsy. It's clever that the two evolved time-traveling chimps may now be the cause of the future time-line ruled by an ape society. But they reveal to have a knowledge of their history that did not exist in the previous two films; Cornelius reveals stuff about a plague which killed off all cats & dogs and how an ape named Aldo first said "no" to a human - hello? In the first two films, the apes knew nothing about their history; only a few select orangutans had limited knowledge about humans ruling the planet in some dim past.
This brings about the possibility that this Cornelius and Zira are not the same chimps we met in the first two Apes films. These two are, most likely, from some parallel Earth future, similar to the one we observed in Planet of the Apes & Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Also, rather than letting events evolve over a century or more following what happens here, the next film accelerates everything to change the world in the next 20 years - in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Now, maybe... these two time-traveling chimps caused a new Earth future which resulted in the one we see in the first two films. You see? I hope so, 'cause I'm getting a headache. BoG's Score: 7 out of 10
As a kid, I almost cried when Cornelius met his end. It was brutal.
Click Here ESCAPE FROM POTA Program
to view the original program booklet on the film from 1971.
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