Escape from the Planet of the Apes
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|Escape from the Planet of the Apes|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Don Taylor|
|Produced by||Arthur P. Jacobs|
|Written by||Paul Dehn|
by Pierre Boulle
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Cinematography||Joseph F. Biroc|
|Edited by||Marion Rothman|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$12.3 million|
Escape from the Planet of the Apes is a 1971 science fiction film directed by Don Taylor and written by Paul Dehn. It stars 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). Its plot centers on many social issues of the day including scientific experimentation on animals, nuclear war and government intrusion. The film was well received by critics, getting the best reviews of the four Planet of the Apes sequels. It was followed by Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
During the events of the preceding film Beneath the Planet of the Apes, occurring off-screen, Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) escaped Earth prior to its destruction when they accompanied their fellow chimpanzee Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo) in testing the salvaged and repaired spaceship used by Taylor. The shock wave of Earth's destruction sends the ship through a time warp that brings the apes to 1973 Earth, splashing down off the Pacific coast of the United States.
The apes are transported to a secluded ward of the Los Angeles Zoo, under the observation of scientists Dr. Stephanie Branton (Natalie Trundy) and Dr. Lewis Dixon (Bradford Dillman). With Dr. Milo explaining their situation in private, the apes decide not to let the humans know that they can speak while agreeing not to reveal Earth's destruction from the Ape War. But Zira's impatience exposes the apes' power of speech during an experiment, Dr. Milo killed moments later by a zoo gorilla who became agitated by the chimpanzees' argument. Lewis tries to communicate with the apes that he is peaceful and he wishes to treat them as equals, winning their friendship as a result.
A Presidential Commission is formed to investigate the return of Taylor's spaceship and determine how atypically intelligent apes came to be aboard it. The apes are brought before the Commission, where they publicly reveal their ability to speak. The council asks them about Taylor, but Cornelius and Zira tell them that they know nothing about him. They reveal that they came from the future and escaped Earth when war broke out. They are welcomed as guests of the government. Cornelius and Zira secretly tell Stephanie and Lewis that they did know about Taylor, explain how humans are treated in the ape-dominated future, and about the Earth's destruction. Stephanie and Lewis are shocked but still sympathetic, the latter advising the couple to keep this information secret until they can gauge the potential reaction of their hosts.
The apes become celebrities, and are lavished with gifts and media attention. They come to the attention of the President's Science Advisor Dr. Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden), who discovers Zira is pregnant. Fearing for the future of the human race, he offers her champagne (which she has developed a taste for) to loosen her inhibitions and questions her further while recording it. Her candid responses enable him to convince the Commission that Cornelius and Zira must be subjected to more rigorous questioning.
Hasslein insists that he simply wants to know how apes became dominant over men. Cornelius reveals that the human race will cause its own downfall and become dominated by simians, and that simian aggression against humans will lead to Earth's destruction by a weapon made by humans. Zira explains that the gorillas started the war, and the orangutans supported the gorillas, but the chimpanzees had nothing to do with it. Hasslein suspects that the apes are not speaking the whole truth.
During the original hearing, Zira had accidentally revealed that she dissected humans in the course of her work. Hasslein orders Lewis to administer a truth serum to her while Cornelius is confined elsewhere. Lewis assures Zira that the serum will have the same effect as champagne. As a result of the serum, Hasslein learns details about Zira's examination and experimentation on humans along with her knowledge of Taylor.
Zira joins Cornelius in confinement while Hasslein takes his findings to the President (William Windom), who reluctantly must abide by the council's ruling to have Zira's pregnancy be terminated and that both apes be sterilized. In their chambers, Cornelius labels Hasslein and the others savages for Zira's treatment as she reminds Cornelius that she did the same thing to humans and Taylor called them savages. Zira is relieved to have revealed the truth because she was tired of lying. Cornelius fears that the truth will get them killed. When an orderly arrives to offer the apes food, his playful reference to their unborn child as a "little monkey" made Cornelius lose his temper while knocking the orderly to the floor. While Cornelius assumed he knocked the orderly out while he and Zira escaped, it turned out he inadvertently killed the human. Hasslein uses the tragedy in support of his claim that the apes are a threat and calls for their execution, but is ordered by the president to bring them alive as he will not endorse punishment for the orderly's death until due process has been served.
Branton and Dixon help the apes to escape, taking them to a circus run by Señor Armando (Ricardo Montalbán), where an ape named Heloise has just given birth. Zira gives birth to a son, whom she names Milo in honor of their deceased friend. When Hasslein, knowing that Zira's labor was imminent, orders a search of all circuses and zoos, Armando insists the apes leave for their safety. Lewis arranges for the apes to hide out in the shipyard in the Los Angeles harbor until the coast is clear to return to the circus as it heads to Florida, giving Cornelius a pistol at the former's request as the couple do not want to be taken alive.
Hasslein tracks the apes to the shipping yard and mortally wounds Zira when she refuses to hand over the infant, firing several shots into the infant before being killed by Cornelius. Cornelius is shot by a sniper and falls, Zira tossing the dead baby over the side and crawling to die with her husband, witnessed by a grieving Lewis and Stephanie.
As Armando's circus prepares to leave for Florida, it is revealed that Zira switched babies with Heloise prior to leaving the circus and that Armando is aware of this. Milo begins to talk.
- Roddy McDowall as Cornelius
- Kim Hunter as Zira
- Bradford Dillman as Dr. Lewis Dixon
- Natalie Trundy as Dr. Stephanie Branton
- Eric Braeden as Dr. Otto Hasslein
- William Windom as President of the United States
- Sal Mineo as Dr. Milo
- Albert Salmi as E-1
- Jason Evers as E-2
- John Randolph as the Chairman
- Harry Lauter as General Winthrop
- M. Emmet Walsh as Aide
- Roy Glenn as the Lawyer
- Peter Forster as the Cardinal
- Bill Bonds as the TV Newscaster
- James Bacon as General Faulkner
- Ricardo Montalbán as Armando
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 seemed to prevent the series from continuing forward, 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 similar 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 by its humor and focus on the chimpanzee couple.
Dehn also added to the latter part of the film regarding the chase for Cornelius, Zira and their son references to 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. 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 the job, 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, from November 30, 1970 to January 19, 1971.
According to Variety, the film earned $5,560,000 in rentals at the North American box office.
Reviews for the film were generally positive. It currently holds a 78% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
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. p256
- "Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
- "Those Damned Dirty Apes!". www.mediacircus.net. Retrieved 2011-08-03.
- "The Secret Behind Escape", Escape from the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray
- Hofstede, David. Planet of the Apes: An Unofficial Companion
- Chimp Life, by Tom Weaver & Michael Brunas - Starlog (November 1990)
- Planet of the apes : 40-year evolution / written by Lee Pfeiffer & Dave Worrall. Published by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, c2008.
- "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 46
- http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/escape_from_the_planet_of_the_apes/ Rating for Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
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