Battle for the Planet of the Apes
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|Battle for the Planet of the Apes|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||J. Lee Thompson|
|Produced by||Arthur P. Jacobs|
|Screenplay by||John William Corrington
Joyce Hooper Corrington
|Story by||Paul Dehn|
|Based on||Characters created
by Pierre Boulle
|Music by||Leonard Rosenman|
|Cinematography||Richard H. Kline|
|Editing by||Alan L. Jaggs
John C. Horger
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||93 minutes|
Battle for the Planet of the Apes is a 1973 science fiction film directed by J. Lee Thompson. It is the fifth and final entry in the original Planet of the Apes series produced by Arthur P. Jacobs, following Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. It stars Roddy McDowall, Claude Akins, Natalie Trundy, Severn Darden, Lew Ayres, Paul Williams and John Huston.
This synopsis is based on the extended version of the film released to syndicated television in the late 1970s, the Japanese laserdisc and more recently on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Told as a flashback in the early 21st century, with a wraparound sequence narrated by the orangutan Lawgiver (John Huston) set in "North America - 2670 A.D.", this sequel follows the ape leader, Caesar (Roddy McDowall), at least twelve years after he led the revolution in the previous film, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. In this post-nuclear society, Caesar tries to cultivate peace between the apes and the surviving humans. A gorilla general named Aldo (Claude Akins), however, opposes this and plots Caesar's downfall. Caesar is married to Lisa (Natalie Trundy), the female ape of the previous film, and they have a son, named Cornelius (Bobby Porter) in honor of Caesar's father.
Caesar regrets never having known his parents until his human assistant MacDonald (Austin Stoker) tells him about film archives of his parents, where he can also learn about the future. The archives are located in the Forbidden City, now a radioactive ruin. After obtaining a geiger counter and weapons from the armory, Caesar travels with MacDonald and orangutan Virgil (Paul Williams) to the Forbidden City and sneaks in to find the archives. However, there are radiation-scarred humans still living there under the command of Governor Kolp (Severn Darden). Caesar and his party view the recordings of Cornelius and Zira and learn about the future of the world, but barely have time to study the tapes before they have to escape being captured. Caesar assembles a meeting to report his discoveries at the Forbidden City. Aldo objects when some humans show up, and he leads the gorillas away.
A team of scouts sent by Governor Kolp return and tell him about the Ape City. Kolp considers this covert trip by Caesar an act of espionage. His assistant, Méndez (Paul Stevens) believes they did nothing wrong and should be left alone, but Governor Kolp stubbornly declares war on Ape City, mustering the humans to destroy the ape society.
Aldo is furious that Caesar wants to co-exist peacefully with humans, and plots a coup in order to become the Ape leader himself. Cornelius overhears this while trying to catch his escaped pet squirrel in a nearby tree. Aldo spots him and hacks the tree branch down, critically injuring Cornelius. After a gorilla scouting pair is attacked by the approaching humans (though the gorillas struck the first blow in this case by killing a human scout beforehand), Aldo orders all humans to be corralled and leads the gorillas to loot the weapons armory. Cornelius eventually dies from his wounds, leaving Caesar devastated, but not without leaving him with a warning about Aldo's coup.
It is at that moment that Kolp's ragtag force launches their attack against Ape City. The initial mutant attack succeeds, forcing Caesar to order the defenders to fall back. When Kolp finds Caesar lying among dozens of apes, he threatens to kill him, but the fallen apes, who were feigning death or hiding on Caesar's orders, launch a counter-attack that captures most of the mutants. Kolp and his remaining forces are killed by Aldo's troops while attempting to retreat.
After the battle, Aldo wants to kill the penned humans, but Caesar shields them. Aldo declares that Caesar should be killed if he shields the humans. However, Virgil reveals Aldo's responsibility for Cornelius' death and the breaking of the ape community's most sacred law ("Ape shall never kill ape"). An infuriated Caesar pursues Aldo up a large tree, resulting in Aldo falling to his death. Caesar then attempts to free the humans, but they refuse to leave the pen unless humans are treated as equals. Caesar then realizes the apes are just as despicable as the former slave-owners, and the apes and humans then decide to coexist with one another and begin a new society.
The Lawgiver finishes his wraparound narration (he says it's been over 600 years since the death of Caesar). It's revealed he's talking to a group of young humans and apes. The two species have continued to coexist in peace. When asked by a human child "Who knows about the future?", the Lawgiver replies "Perhaps, only the dead." A closeup of a statue of Caesar shows a single tear falling from one eye.
Initially writer Paul Dehn who had provided the script for every sequel was hired to provide a story treatment for the fifth film in the series. Dehn withdrew from the project prior to completing the screenplay due to health reasons. Screenwriters John William Corrington and Joyce Hooper Corrington were brought in after the success of their film The Omega Man, although prior to that neither one of them had written any science fiction films and, indeed, Joyce Carrington later admitted they had never seen any of the Apes films prior to being hired to write the script for "Battle". Dehn was unavailable for the initial rewrites but was hired to come in and do a final polish on the script making minor changes to the script that the Corringtons had written. Dehn was given a story credit despite an appeal to the Writer's Guild of America for shared credit on the screenplay. Dehn claimed to have rewritten 90% of the dialogue and he altered the ending. The original script by the Corringtons ended on a playground with ape and human children fighting. Dehn chose to go with a close up of a statue of Caesar with a tear falling from its eye which Joyce Corrington characterized as "...stupid. It turned our stomachs when we saw it." The Writer's Guild of America ruled in favor of the Corringtons for sole screenplay credit.
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While Roddy McDowall returns, John Huston appears as the Lawgiver and veteran actor Lew Ayres has a cameo as Mandemus, the casting of this film otherwise showed the diminishing stature and budget of the series. France Nguyen, who at that time was arguably a bigger star than most of the top-billed actors, received poor billing in a small role, though the extended DVD cut restored much of her screen time.
MacDonald, Caesar's human friend, is portrayed in this film by Austin Stoker. Hari Rhodes played a character named MacDonald in the previous film, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. The change in actors was noted in dialog indicating that Stoker's MacDonald was the younger brother of Rhodes' MacDonald. In his novelization of the movie, David Gerrold writes that the original MacDonald had died in the interim but does not specify a cause.
Principal photography took place on the Fox Movie Ranch for an estimated budget of $1.7 million. Heading into filming, director J. Lee Thompson was both unhappy with the script as well as the scope of the production, which he felt could have used a bigger budget to assist in the portrayal of the "Battle". Thompson had agreed to direct without a script in place and regretted that Paul Dehn couldn't have been on the project throughout the writing process.
The syndicated television version adds a few scenes cut from the theatrical release. One scene takes place after Aldo chases teacher Abe, where MacDonald reminds him why humans should not say "no" to an ape.
Another scene towards the end of the film shows the beginnings of the House of Mendez cult, as the humans in the city are about to fire off the doomsday bomb (as seen in Beneath the Planet of the Apes), but decide not to, as it would threaten the world. In Beneath, one can see many signs of Mendez in the Forbidden Zone, a hymnal on the pipe organ reading "Mendez II", busts of past leaders of the mutant society (such as Mendez XIV), and the mutant leader in Beneath is also named Mendez. It is clear that Governor Mendez is a different leader than his predecessors, Breck and Kolp, since he is more sympathetic to the apes; so long as they do not invade their territory.
In 2006, the Planet of the Apes movies were re-released separately and in a new box set. This version was earlier released as a bootleg and has been widely acknowledged by Apes fans as the definitive version. Listed are the additional scenes:
- Near the end of the opening credits, the score continues to its original ending for 25 seconds, with extra footage of General Aldo approaching on a horse.
- The chase of the teacher of the apes is longer by 20 seconds.
- The mutant chief is walking around in his HQ, and has more dialogue.
- The entry into the ruins of the Forbidden City of the ape scout party with Caesar is 40 seconds longer, with more dialogue.
- The escape from the Forbidden City shows more footage and dialogue involving the apes.
- The scene where Cornelius is "shot" by a human boy begins slightly earlier, making it clear that the shooting is a game — which makes more sense, since no mutant party had yet even approached the ape city.
- DELETED SCENE: In this edited scene, Governor Kolp tells his lieutenant to fire an atomic missile on Ape City when he gives the signal.
- The mutant assault is 45 seconds longer. In this sequence there were three more smaller cuts that reduced the battle scene by 40 additional seconds, and originally there was no musical score.
- The scene where the Governor Kolp calls "Sergeant York" is missing.
- There are additional shots and dialogue before the mutants lay down the smoke screen.
- 355 more seconds of the battle were cut.
- The scene where Aldo kills Governor Kolp and his followers in the school bus has been restored.
- The fight between Aldo and Caesar is longer.
- DELETED SCENE: The new Governor Mendez talks the mutant lieutenant out of firing the atomic missile. As they argue, they discover it is the ALPHA-OMEGA bomb from Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Only with this sequence reinserted, the odd cut from the Caesar conversation involving the humans to the ending sequence makes more sense.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes grossed a domestic total of $8.8 million, making it the lowest grossing film in the series. However, the film went on to earn an estimated $4 million in North American rentals in 1973.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. The film holds a 38%" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 24 critical reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a negative review, stating, "Battle looks like the last gap of a dying series, a movie made simply to wring the dollars out of any remaining ape fans."
The film later became one of the inspirations to the story of the Academy Award winning film, Argo. After Ben Affleck's character watches the movie with his son, he is inspired to make a movie for the CIA as a cover story to get hostages out of Iran.
There has been some debate over what year the main body of the film takes place. The year 2670 A.D. is shown at the beginning of the film during the framing segment. The rest of the film is told in flashback and no exact date is stated directly. However, there are two lines of dialogue that do offer a clue, though they conflict with each other. Mendez says that there has been 12 years of peace which would place the film somewhere around or after the year 2003. This assumes that the nuclear war that destroyed Human civilization took place immediately after the previous film, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which was set in 1991. At the end of Battle Mandemus says he's lived in the Ape City armory for 27 years, placing the film in the year 2018 or later. His statement helps make more sense of Virgil's earlier comment that Mandemus was his teacher when he was a boy, though that could have occurred if they were in captivity, before Conquest. Those who adhere to the 2003 date cite that Kolp does not look 27 years older than he did in Conquest. Those who cite the 2018 date claim that Mendez's statement does not preclude 15 years of war, after Conquest, that ended in a final nuclear exchange. Several reference materials, such as the Sacred Scrolls website and Rich Handley's Timelines of the Planet of the Apes use the later date but others disagree and cite the earlier date.
Notes and references
- Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p257
- "Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
- "Those Damned Dirty Apes!". www.mediacircus.net. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-03.
- "Family Film Producer Found Dead". Associated Press (The Spokesman-Review). June 28, 1973. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
- Russo, Joe; Landsman, Larry and Gross, Edwards. Planet of the Apes Revisited. St. Martins' Griffin. 8/01
- Russo, Joe; Planet of the Apes Revisited
- Russo, Joe; Landsman, Larry and Gross, Edwards. Planet of the Apes Revisited. St. Martins' Griffin. 8/01
- "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
- "Battle for the Planet of the Apes – Rotten Tomatoes". Flixster. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
- Ebert, Roger (July 10, 1973). "Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) | Roger Ebert". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
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- Battle for the Planet of the Apes at the Internet Movie Database
- Battle for the Planet of the Apes at allmovie
- Battle for the Planet of the Apes at Rotten Tomatoes
- Battle for the Planet of the Apes at Box Office Mojo