Let Man be Dominated by Such as You: Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971)
After the destruction of the Earth at the end of the last film, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, people might’ve thought they’d seen the last of series but, nope, money talks and the next installment was made. And it is dark as fuck.
The movie starts out in modern day Los Angeles, where a space capsule has washed ashore. The army shows up wanting to know if any of their crew is still alive. Much to their surprise, it’s not James Franciscus and crew under the helmets, but none other than Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), Zira (Kim Hunter), and Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo) who have traveled back in time. The humans are shocked to see the three and think of them as mere animals. They’re taken to the LA Zoo and put under the care of Dr. Dixon (Bradford Dillman) and Dr. Branton (Natalie Trundy). They, too, believe the trio to just be apes, at first. That is until Zira gets mad at them for trying to feed her a banana.
Word gets out about the, now, duo (watch the movie!) and the President of the United States (William Windom!) calls a commission together to get to the bottom of just exactly what the hell is going on with Cornelius and Zira. During the commission, the pair delight the media and they become press darlings. They’re taken to get new clothes and put up at a fancy hotel. The two doctors are firmly on the side of apes but there is someone determined to get rid of them, the president’s Science Advisor Dr. Hasslein (Eric Braeden). He knows the couple is not telling them everything they know about the future.
Because humankind sucks, the pair eventually have to go on the run with the help of the doctors. Enter circus owner Señor Armando (Ricardo Montalbán in one of the best cameos ever) who agrees to help the couple escape to Florida. Throughout the movie, the humans (apart from a kind few) have made life miserable for Cornelius and Zira, so the deck is now stacked against them, a turn from how well things were from the start. So, uh, yeah, this movie ends on a bleak as hell note. Perhaps it’s not one for the kiddies, is all I’m saying.
This is my favorite of the first series of Planet of the Apes movies. Yes, it’s dark but there is a lot going on in the film in terms of how humans conduct themselves. Which, let’s face it, isn’t the greatest, especially when they feel the entire planet is threatened. This movie has a whole different look/feel since it’s set in early 1970s Los Angeles. The cast is great. You’d think being the 3rd film in a series the level of acting would go down but, no, everyone is fantastic. People complain about the make-up in these movies but, it is what it is, I love it and it is fine. Escape does have a television movie look it but, again, that’s part of the reason I love it.