Film Review – BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970)

Views From Da Crow's Nest: Rise of the CGI ApesBENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (USA, 1970) ***
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / APJAC Productions; Release Date: 23 April 1970 (Italy), 26 May 1970 (USA), 11 June 1970 (UK); Filming Dates: began 14 April 1969; Running Time: 95m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: G/15.
      Director: Ted Post; Writer: Paul Dehn (based on a story by Paul Dehn and Mort Abrahams and characters created by Pierre Boule); Producer: Arthur P. Jacobs; Associate Producer: Mort Abrahams; Director of Photography: Milton R. Krasner; Music Composer: Leonard Rosenman; Film Editor: Marion Rothman; Art Director: William J. Creber, Jack Martin Smith; Set Decorator: Walter M. Scott, Sven Wickman; Costumes: Morton Haack; Make-up: John Chambers, Edith Lindon, Daniel C. Striepeke; Sound: Stephen Bass, David Dockendorf; Special Effects: Johnny Borgese (uncredited); Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott, Art Cruickshank.
      Cast: James Franciscus (Brent), Kim Hunter (Zira), Maurice Evans (Dr. Zaius), Linda Harrison (Nova), Charlton Heston (Taylor), Paul Richards (Mendez), Victor Buono (Fat Man), James Gregory (Ursus), Jeff Corey (Caspay), Natalie Trundy (Albina), Thomas Gomez (Minister), Don Pedro Colley (Negro), David Watson (Cornelius), Tod Andrews (Skipper), Eldon Burke (Gorilla Sgt.), Gregory Sierra (Verger).
      Synopsis: The sole survivor of an interplanetary rescue mission searches for the only survivor of the previous expedition. He discovers a planet ruled by apes and an underground city run by telekinetic humans.
      Comment: This sequel to the phenomenally successful PLANET OF THE APES (1968) was designed as a cash cow for the ailing Fox studio. The rushed nature of its production is often apparent in a film which had its budget halved with ape masks  compromised for the extras. The story sees Franciscus arrive in similar fashion to Heston in the previous film to find Heston is still alive but has vanished. Harrison, as Heston’s companion from the first film, takes Franciscus to the ape city where he discovers the apes are planning a war with human mutants who live underground in the Forbidden Zone. Sets re-used and re-dressed from previous Fox productions such as HELLO DOLLY (1969) are effective in portraying a decayed New York City which has become the mutants’ home. The final act sees doomsday played out in apocalyptic fashion as the apes invade the mutants’ base. Dehn’s script has lots of anti-war messaging but lacks the nuances and polish that made the original so good. The film moves from set-piece to set-piece with little room for character development or conflict. Once the action moves underground in the final act the pace and often violent action picks up through to the gloomy conclusion. However, the film feels a little lacklustre and whilst Hunter and Evans reprise their roles they have much less impact here. Gregory is the standout as the gorilla general who leads his army to their ultimate fate. Followed by ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971).

Film Review – PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

Image result for planet of the apes 1968PLANET OF THE APES (USA, 1968) ****½
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: APJAC Productions / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Release Date: 8 February 1968 (USA), 21 March 1968 (UK); Filming Dates: 21 May 1967 – 10 August 1967; Running Time: 112m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: 4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35 mm (Eastman 50T 5251); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Franklin J. Schaffner; Writer: Michael Wilson, Rod Serling (based on the novel by Pierre Boulle); Producer: Arthur P. Jacobs; Associate Producer: Mort Abrahams; Director of Photography: Leon Shamroy; Music Composer: Jerry Goldsmith; Music Supervisor: Lionel Newman (uncredited); Film Editor: Hugh S. Fowler; Art Director: William J. Creber, Jack Martin Smith; Set Decorator: Norman Rockett, Walter M. Scott; Costumes: Morton Haack; Make-up: John Chambers; Sound: David Dockendorf, Herman Lewis; Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott, Art Cruickshank, Emil Kosa Jr.
      Cast: Charlton Heston (George Taylor), Roddy McDowall (Cornelius), Kim Hunter (Zira), Maurice Evans (Dr. Zaius), James Whitmore (President of the Assembly), James Daly (Honorious), Linda Harrison (Nova), Robert Gunner (Landon), Lou Wagner (Lucius), Woodrow Parfrey (Maximus), Jeff Burton (Dodge), Buck Kartalian (Julius), Norman Burton (Hunt Leader), Wright King (Dr. Galen), Paul Lambert (Minister).
      Synopsis: An astronaut crew crash lands on a planet in the distant future where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species, and humans are the oppressed and enslaved.
      Comment: Classic multi-layered sci-fi which raises questions on the changing culture in society during the 1960s, as its premise turns evolution on its head. Heston’s cynical hero is at odds with his travelling companions as well as his eventual captors and it is a brave move for the character’s cynicism to make him not altogether likeable. Heston gives a strong performance mixing his character’s anger and helplessness with a keen determination to prove his point. Evans provides a neat contrast as the ape scientist and defender of the ape society’s faith. Schaffner directs with style with some great camera work during the opening act in the planet’s wasteland. McDowall (who would appear in all but one of the original sequels, adds charm as the archaeologist chimp. Hunter too gives a good account of herself as the only ape scientist to trust Heston. Alongside Chambers’ ground-breaking make-up there’s a top-notch score by Goldsmith and great use of desolate Utah and Arizona locations.
      Notes: Followed by four sequels – beginning with BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970) – a TV series (1974) and an animated TV series (1975-6). After a remake in 2001, the series was rebooted in 2011 with three more films commencing with RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

Film Review – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017)

Related imageWar for the Planet of the Apes (2017; USA; Colour; 140m) ***  d. Matt Reeves; w. Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves; ph. Michael Seresin; m. Michael Giacchino.  Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Amiah Miller, Gabriel Chavarria, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Ty Olsson, Judy Greer, Sara Canning, Devyn Dalton, Michael Adamthwaite, Aleks Paunovic, Toby Kebbell. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. Bloated third entry in the rebooted APES series has stunning visuals and special effects, but is weighed down by two-dimensional characterisations. Reeves too often slows the action down to a crawl in order to manufacture emotional wallop and some of the plot progression lacks logic. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Film Review – DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014, Chernin Entertainment/ TSG Entertainment, USA, 131 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, Dolby Atmos/SDDS/Datasat, Cert: 12, Sci-Fi Action Thriller) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Andy Serkis (Caesar), Jason Clarke (Malcolm), Gary Oldman (Dreyfus), Keri Russell (Ellie), Toby Kebbell (Koba), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Alexander), Kirk Acevedo (Carver), Nick Thurston (Blue Eyes), Terry Notary (Rocket), Karin Konoval (Maurice), Judy Greer (Cornelia), Jon Eyez (Foster), Enrique Murciano (Kemp), Larramie Doc Shaw (Ash), Lee Ross (Grey).
      Producer: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver; Director: Matt Reeves; Writer: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver  (Based on Characters created by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver; Premise suggested by the novel “Planet of the Apes” by Pierre Boulle); Director of Photography: Michael Seresin; Music: Michael Giacchino; Film Editor: William Hoy, Stan Salfas; Production Designer: James Chinlund; Art Director: Naaman Marshall; Set Decorator: Amanda Moss Serino; Costume Designer: Melissa Bruning.

10978699-1414085339-78304The sequel to RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a rousing continuation of the franchise. Ten years after a pandemic disease seen in that film, the apes who have survived are drawn into battle with a group of human survivors who seek to restore power to the city of San Francisco.

The technical achievements of this film are huge, from the brilliantly conceived apes with CGI mapped over the physical performance of real human actors, to the excellent design work. Andy Serkis is again excellent at conveying Caesar’s internal conflict and a nod should also go to Toby Kebell who as Koba, the rebellious ape carried forward from the first movie where he was played by Christopher Gordon.

The human actors are headed up by Gary Oldman, as the leader of the survivors and Jason Clarke as Malcolm, who acts as the bridge between the ape and human colonies. The drama unfolds around the conflict Caesar feels with doing what’s right for his ape colony and keeping relations with the humans harmonious. Eventually Koba rebels and, believing he has killed Caesar, leads the apes in an attack on the human colony in a spectacular action sequence which sees the apes take control. However, Caesar has survived and Malcolm helps him restore contact with his son and together they try to put a stop to Koba’s rule.

There are nods to the films roots, notably in the character names Blue Eyes (the nickname given to Charlton Heston in the original) and Maurice (the first name of the actor Maurice Evans who played Dr. Zaius in the same 1968 film). The plot resembles that from the fifth film in the original series BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, but at least this time they have the budget.

Whilst there are moments of pure Hollywood in some of the plotting, by sheer achievement of its ambition in providing intelligent escapist entertainment this is a refreshingly successful addition to the effects driven blockbusters crowding cinemas. Credit goes to director Matt Reeves for giving the story room to breathe rather than just create a succession of action scenes. A third film is in development and should be well worth the wait.