Escape from the Planet of the Apes

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Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Escape from the planet of the apes.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Don Taylor
Produced by Arthur P. Jacobs
Written by Paul Dehn
Based on Characters created 
by Pierre Boulle
Starring Roddy McDowall
Kim Hunter
Bradford Dillman
Natalie Trundy
Eric Braeden
Sal Mineo
Ricardo Montalbán
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Joseph F. Biroc
Editing by Marion Rothman
Studio APJAC Productions
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • May 21, 1971 (1971-05-21)
Running time 98 minutes
Language English
Budget $2,060,000[1]
Box office $12,348,905[2]

Escape from the Planet of the Apes, directed by Don Taylor, is a 1971 science fiction film starring Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Bradford Dillman and Ricardo Montalbán. It is the third of five films in the original Planet of the Apes series produced by Arthur P. Jacobs, the second being Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970).[3] Its plot centers around many social issues of the day including scientific experimentation on animals, nuclear war and government intrusion. The film was well received by critics,[4] getting the best reviews of the four Planet of the Apes sequels. It was followed by Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

Plot summary[edit]

The preceding film, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, ends with the apes' future Earth and everything on it being destroyed by a nuclear weapon.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes begins by establishing that three apes—Cornelius, Zira, and Dr. Milo (played by Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, and Sal Mineo, respectively)—escaped the Earth's destruction by salvaging and repairing the astronaut Taylor's spaceship (which sank in the first movie) and piloting it through the shock wave of Earth's destruction, sending the ship through a time warp. The salvage, repair and launch all happen within the brief period of the final act of the previous film.

The apes arrive on Earth in 1973, splashing down on the Pacific coast. They are transported to a secluded ward of the Los Angeles Zoo, under the observation of two scientists, Stephanie Branton (Natalie Trundy) and Lewis Dixon (Bradford Dillman). The three apes decided not to let the humans know that they can speak and they also decide not to tell them about Earth's destruction because of the Ape War. Later, the apes' power of speech is revealed when Zira's impatience gets the better of her during an experiment. Soon after this, Milo is killed by a gorilla who becomes agitated by an argument amongst the three chimpanzees.

Meanwhile, a Presidential Commission has been formed to investigate the return of Taylor's spaceship and how the apes, which they already are aware are atypically intelligent, came to be aboard it. The apes are brought before the Presidential Commission, where they publicly reveal their ability to speak. The council asked them if they knew about Taylor, but Cornelius and Zira tell them that they know nothing about Taylor. They did reveal that they came from the future and escaped Earth when war broke out. Everyone welcomed them as guests. Cornelius and Zira secretly tell Stephanie and Lewis that they knew about Taylor, how humans are treated in the ape dominated future, about the Earth's eventual destruction. Stephanie and Lewis are shocked, but they handle it and tell Cornelius and Zira to keep this quiet until they find the right people to talk to.

The apes become celebrities, being lavished with presents and media attention. They come to the attention of the President's Science Advisor Dr. Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden), who discovers Zira is pregnant and fears for the future of the human race. Determined to force the issue, he gets her drunk on champagne (which he assures her is harmless, calling it "grape juice plus"). The resulting interrogation enables him to convince the Commission that Cornelius and Zira must be subjected to more rigorous questioning.

Both are questioned using various means of interrogation; during this time, one of Hasslein's assistants refers to the apes as "monkeys", stirring Cornelius's anger. Hasslein defuses it, saying they simply want to know how apes rose in dominance over men. Cornelius reveals that the human race will eventually meet its downfall and be dominated by simians, which will later lead to Earth's destruction. Cornelius tells them that Earth was destroyed by a weapon that humans made because humans had a bad habit of killing each other. Zira tells them that the gorillas started the war and the orangutans supported the gorillas while the chimpanzees had nothing to do with it. However, there are still suspicions about how humans are treated by the future apes rather than the Earth's destruction.

Suspicion had already been aroused by Zira letting slip, during the original hearing, that she had dissected humans in the course of her work. Hasslein orders Lewis to administer a truth serum to her, while Cornelius is taken to confinement quarters. Lewis assures Zira that the serum will have the same effect as the champagne Hasslein convinced her to drink earlier. As a result of the serum, Hasslein learns for himself that Zira examined and operated on humans in the future.

Zira is taken to join Cornelius in confinement while Hasslein takes his findings to the U.S. President (William Windom). Meanwhile, Cornelius called Hasslein and the others savages for what they did to Zira. However, Zira tells Cornelius that she did the same thing to humans during her days and Taylor called them savages. Zira tells him that she was glad to tell them because she was tired of lying. However, Cornelius tells her that by telling them the truth, they would get killed. An orderly bringing food refers to the unborn child as a "little monkey"; Cornelius has heard enough of the epithet and knocks the tray out of the orderly's hands, thinking he has only knocked the orderly unconscious; he is stunned later to overhear that the boy died. Hasslein uses it as an illustration of the future danger the apes present and calls for the apes' execution. The president reluctantly orders that the unborn child's birth be terminated and that both be sterilized. Running for their lives, Cornelius and Zira (assisted by Stephanie and Lewis) find shelter in a circus run by Señor Armando (Ricardo Montalbán), where an ape named Heloise has just had a baby. There Zira gives birth to a son, whom she names Milo.

Hasslein, knowing that Zira's giving birth was imminent, orders a search of all circuses and zoos. As a result, Armando must send the apes away; Lewis gives Cornelius a pistol to use as a last resort. Cornelius and Zira kiss Stephanie and Lewis goodbye. Hasslein tracks the apes down to an abandoned ship, and finds Zira resting with her infant. Hasslein shoots Zira after she refuses to hand over her infant and then proceeds to fire several shots into the infant; he is immediately shot to death by Cornelius, and falls overboard. After Cornelius kills Hasslein, he is shot by an unseen Marine Corps sniper and, as Stephanie and Lewis watch, falls to the deck of the ship. Zira tosses her dead baby over the side of the ship before crawling to lie with her husband.

The survivors are unaware of the real fate of the infant ape: Cornelius, Zira, and Armando switched babies with the common ape Heloise before their escape. Armando now watches over the intelligent infant Milo. The film ends with the baby Milo sitting in a cage, plaintively speaking the words "Mama? Mama?"


In this film, actor Roddy McDowall returns to the character of Cornelius which he played in the first film but not in the second. A new character of Dr. Milo is introduced played by actor Sal Mineo, who hoped his career would gain from the new project much as McDowall's career had from participating in the first film. Charlton Heston, star of the first film and supporting actor in the second, appears in this third installment only in two brief flashback sequences.


Despite Beneath the Planet of the Apes ending in a way that it prevented the series from moving on, 20th Century Fox still wanted a sequel. Roddy McDowell, in the franchise documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes, stated that Arthur P. Jacobs sent Beneath screenwriter Paul Dehn a telegram concerning the sequel that read "Apes exist, Sequel required." and Dehn decided to create an out from the destructive ending of Beneath by having Cornelius and Zira going back in time with a Leonardo da Vinci-like ape after fixing Taylor's spaceship before the Earth was destroyed. Dehn also consulted Pierre Boulle, writer of the Planet of the Apes novel, to imbue his script with the same satirical elements. The screenplay, originally titled Secret of the Planet of the Apes, accommodated the smaller budget by having fewer people in ape make-up, and attracted director Don Taylor for its lighthearted humor and focusing in the chimpanzee couple. Dehn also added to the latter part of the film regarding the chase for Zira, Cornelius and their son references to the racial conflicts and a few religious overtones to the story of Jesus - a line of dialogue even has the President comparing the plan to kill an unborn child to the Massacre of the Innocents.[5][6] While Kim Hunter had to be convinced by the studio to make Beneath, she liked the script for Escape from the Planet of the Apes and accepted to work on it, though Hunter also stated that "I was very glad I was killed off" and Zira was not required anymore after that film. Hunter stated that despite the friendly atmosphere on the set she and Roddy McDowall felt a sense of isolation for being the only people dressed as chimpanzees. Production was rushed due to the low budget, being filmed in only six weeks,[7] from November 30th, 1970 to January 19, 1971.[8]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ 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. p256
  2. ^ "Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 24, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Those Damned Dirty Apes!". Retrieved 2011-08-03. 
  4. ^ Rating for Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
  5. ^ "The Secret Behind Escape", Escape from the Planet of the Apes Blu-Ray
  6. ^ Hofstede, David. Planet of the Apes: An Unofficial Companion
  7. ^ Chimp Life, by Tom Weaver & Michael Brunas - Starlog (November 1990)
  8. ^ Planet of the apes : 40-year evolution / written by Lee Pfeiffer & Dave Worrall. Published by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, c2008.

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