US Release Date: 05-26-1970
Directed by: Ted Post
- James Franciscus, as
- Kim Hunter, as
- Maurice Evans, as
- Dr. Zaius
- Linda Harrison, as
- Paul Richards, as
- Victor Buono, as
- Fat man
- James Gregory, as
- Don Pedro Colley, as
- David Watson, as
- Charlton Heston as
James Franciscus and Kim Hunter in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.
What had been a surprise box-office and critical hit in 1968 became a franchise in 1970 with this sequel to the original Planet of the Apes. This series would eventually include 5 movies (not to mention a television series, a Saturday morning cartoon and tons of tie-in products long before it was standard procedure for a Hollywood movie).
Charlton Heston was reluctant to appear in this sequel so his character Taylor is reduced to a small part. He has a quick scene at the beginning showing what happened to him and Nova after their fateful discovery of the half-buried Statue of Liberty. Taylor then (literally) disappears until the final twenty minutes or so of the movie.
Instead we get James Franciscus as Brent a nearly identical character to Taylor. He is an astronaut sent to find Taylor and his fellow shipmates. He crash lands on Earth in the same year as Taylor, 3955 A.D. After burying the other member of his mission, Brent very quickly meets Nova, Taylor's mute companion, and they set off together on her horse in search of some answers.
Nova takes Brent to Ape City where he quickly realizes the dangerous situation he is in. After gasping incredulously, “It's a city of Apes!" He tries to escape but is captured before he gets the chance. Of course he crosses paths with Zira the kindly chimpanzee veterinarian and her husband Cornelius. Having been friends with Taylor they are amazed but pleased to meet another intelligent human. Kim Hunter returned as Zira but this is the only movie in the series that Roddy McDowall isn't in (except for one quick scene at the beginning which is taken directly from the first movie).
Anyway Brent escapes and is chased by the gorillas to the area known as the Forbidden Zone. Here Brent - with Nova in tow - discovers an underground cave which he quickly realizes is an old New York subway tunnel. He meets a bunch of underground mutants with mental telepathy. They all have radiation poisoning and worship a nuclear warhead. "Glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen."
Brent eventually finds Taylor being held prisoner by the mutant humans. Using telepathy the mutants force Taylor and Brent to fight each other. The climax of the movie happens when the Gorillas invade the mutant's underground city. After much bloodshed a dying Taylor sets off the firing mechanism on the bomb and the planet Earth is destroyed. Apparently Charlton Heston wanted to be sure there wasn't going to be yet another sequel. Of course the movie made money so the filmmakers did manage to come up with one anyway, but without Heston.
This movie was made with a smaller budget than the original. In some of the crowd scenes in Ape City you can see that some of the apes have only half finished masks. One scene in particular reflects the state of the country in 1970. Campus unrest, then at its height with the Kent State tragedy, is reflected in the scene where young chimpanzees stage a peaceful demonstration against the militaristic gorilla regime.
Not as good as the original movie but Beneath the Planet of the Apes did successfully continue one of the most unique sagas in the history of the movies.
Linda Harrison as the mute, but incredibly sexy Nova in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.
This sequel is far inferior to the original Planet of the Apes movie. It feels exactly like what it is; a low budget attempt to cash in on the success of the first film. The plot is silly and full of holes and the ending is dark, cynical and a huge let down, whose only purpose was to end the series, and it failed even to do that. Before I sound too harsh, let me add that there are some entertaining segments, but overall this is a huge letdown following a timeless Sci-Fi classic.
As Patrick said, Heston had no interest in appearing in a sequel, which was his prerogative, but then the producers handled the situation in the worst possible way. Instead of replacing him, they half replaced him by bringing in James Franciscus as a surrogate Taylor. He even looks like Heston's younger brother. They should have just actually cast Franciscus as Taylor. The coincidence of having another astronaut show up at the start of the film who looks almost identical to Taylor is silly.
And speaking of silly, how about seeing two nearly naked apes in a sauna? Why would such hairy apes ever use one? And the chimpanzees protesting the war just date the film and adds to the campiness.
The "war" they're protesting doesn't even make sense. The apes learn there's something odd in the Forbidden Zone, but they don't know what and they never really explain how they learned it. Instead of sending some scouts into investigate, they send in their entire army, even though they don't know what they're facing. All of which means that the chimpanzees don't even know what war it is that they're protesting.
Of course the biggest plot holes come in terms of geography. In the first film, Taylor, Cornelius, Zira and the others, ride for days into the Forbidden Zone until they reach the ocean where they find a cave that contains human artifacts. Taylor then rides along the seashore for an unstated amount of time until he finds the Statue of Liberty buried in the sand. By now he must be at least a week's ride away from Ape City. However, in this film, Brent is chased by Apes in the habitable lands around Ape City until he stumbles upon a cave that leads him down into the remains of New York City. Now how in the hell did the Statue of Liberty get so far away from the city?
The gorilla army marches into the desert of the Forbidden Zone where they confront illusions and come across the remains of New York. Instead of entering the City that way though, they first return to the habitable lands outside the Forbidden Zone and enter the City by the same tunnel that Brent used. Huh? I really wish someone would draw a map of all this.
All of the running does little to distract you from the lack of a plot. For approximately 30 minutes in the middle of the film there is virtually no dialogue at all. Brent and Nova are chased, captured, escape and are chased again for no real purpose and without much excitement or genuine tension.
When Heston shows up again for the film's climax, all his presence does is remind us of the far superior first film. Reportedly it was his idea to end the story with the destruction of the earth as he really didn't want to make another sequel. It's not exactly a rewarding ending for him, Brent and especially Nova, but at this point in the film it doesn't really have anywhere else to go. They should have had Brent's ship land on the planet instead of crash, then at least there would have been the possibility for an escape. Although as Patrick pointed out, the writers came up with a way to make a sequel anyway.
Although this installment in the Apes series would make enough money to guarentee more sequels, it's probably the weakest film in the original franchise.
James Franciscus and Linda Harrison in Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Although Beneath the Planet of the Apes is a low budgeted disappointment, at its heart is a genuinely decent science fiction story. Like the first film, this is an anti-nuclear war film. The symbolism of the radioactive telepaths worshipping the bomb is anything but subtle. As Scott wrote, the war protestors date this film as does the fear and fascination over nuclear power. Could we not also draw obvious parallels to this story and American racism?
Although I do not live in New York like my brothers, the geography seemed messed up to me as well. It is however, only one of many flaws. Other than to shock Brent and the audience, there is no need for the underground dwellers to wear masks and take them off. They all know that they each look hideously deformed, and how could they make such perfect looking masks anyway? My number one questions is how did they get a nuclear warhead into St Patrick's Cathedral?
Once Charleton Heston bailed on the project it should have been rewritten to be about Taylor and Nova’s son some 20 years later. He could have been the leader of a bunch of humans revolting against ape rule. He could have a hot girlfriend like his mom and he could have discovered a race of underground, nuclear bomb worshipping telepaths whom he tries to recruit in helping him do battle with the apes. The nuclear symbolism could have remained and the protesting chimpanzees would have had an actual war to protest.
I recall enjoying this film very much when I was young. I was scared of the apes as well as the telepaths. I was fascinated by this world with its countless secrets apparently buried all over the place. Watching it today however, it is little more than a missed opportunity of what could have been.
Photos © Copyright 20th Century Fox (1970)