Movie Mania #12…Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Thursday, March 14 2013 @ 10:00 PM CDT
“Cast out your vengeance. Tonight, we have seen the birth of the Planet of the Apes!” Hello and welcome back to “Movie Mania”, exclusive to the awesome Pop Culture Network. Today I am going to be taking a look at Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the fourth installment in the original Planet of the Apes movie franchise. The producers were smart to end Escape from the Planet of the Apes in such a way that it was easy to continue on the story for the next film, a tactic they should have used earlier on. Join me for a review and behind the scenes look at Conquest of the Planet of the Apes to learn about the magic that went into creating the origins of the franchise.
Read the rest of Movie Mania #12…Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was released by 20th Century Fox in 1972; just one year after Escape from the Planet of the Apes was released. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was approached in a much different manner than all of the other films, a manner that had the potential to lose the film its “G” rating and its child audience. The film was set to be darker than all of the other films and a lot more intense, which makes sense for a movie with the word conquest in the title. Filming began on January 31, 1972 with J. Lee Thompson as the director. Arthur P. Jacobs returned as the producer and the script was once again written by Paul Dehn, who had been involved in writing the first two sequels as well. With the incredibly talented production crew on staff and ready to continue their work on the franchise it seemed as though Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was a sure success, and that is exactly what it became.
The film is set in a futuristic society that resembles a military state. In the time between Escape from the Planet of the Apes and this film, a plague wiped out every dog and cat on the planet, thus leaving humans in a desperate need for pet companions. Apes were brought in to fill that need but it quickly became clear that they had the potential to do things that dogs and cats could never do, and before long the apes went from pets to slaves. The main character of the film is Cornelius and Zira’s baby, who survived the events of Escape from the Planet of the Apes and who is now an adult chimpanzee. Caesar, originally named Milo by his parents, is still living with Armando, the circus owner, and is traveling with him into the city.
Roddy McDowall, who previously played Cornelius, returned to play Caesar in this film. The associate producer Frank Capra Jr. said, “That was the great leap for Roddy and that was wonderful because it still brought his personality to the character. He is not the same exact individual but it is still his spirit coming through.” I am really glad that they brought Roddy McDowall back for this role as he captured the essence of the character in a way that probably nobody else could have. He had the experience and the knowhow and that made a huge difference in the performance he provided, this was a smart move by Arthur Jacobs and his team.
Returning once again to the franchise was Natalie Trundy who had previously played a mutant in Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Dr. Stephanie Branton in Escape from the Planet of the Apes. This time she took on the role of a chimpanzee named Lisa, the love interest of Caesar. Natalie Trundy was the wife of Arthur P. Jacobs and he asked her once again to give her talents to his movie franchise. She was reluctant to be an ape as she had seen the incredibly complex process behind the ape makeup. She decided to take on the role despite her doubts and she delivered a great performance.
Another returning actor from the franchise was Ricardo Montalban who was again cast as Armando. Armando has been watching over Caesar for twenty years when the film opens and cares for him very much. The two are very close and Armando is a friend and father figure to Caesar. As the two make their way throughout the city they come across a police force beating up an ape. This is startling for Caesar to see and it angers him to the point of screaming words in front of the officers and a crowd of people. This very much mirrors the scene in the first film where Taylor first speaks in front of the apes. This scene is a lot more subtle however and the people are not certain, at first, that the ape actually spoke. Armando ultimately takes the blame for the outburst, in a desperate attempt to shield his friend from being exposed as a talking ape, and is arrested and taken to Governor Breck. This scene also makes a parallel to the issue of slavery and demonstrates the brutality and horror of it. This scene and others like it address many social and historical issues, just like all of the films in the franchise.
Separated from Armando, Caesar finds himself among the other enslaved apes. There he witnesses the daily horrors and humiliations the apes are put through and with each occurrence he becomes more and more enraged. He eventually gets purchased by Governor Breck, played by Don Murray, during a slave auction and then officially names himself Caesar by pointing the word out to Breck in a book. The seemingly random name selection process is not so random for Caesar who purposely chooses the name of a leader.
Meanwhile Armando is being subjected to intense questioning and eventually dies in a final attempt to shield Caesar’s true identity. Caesar is extremely sad when he learns of Armando’s death but that emotion quickly transitions into sheer hate and sparks Caesar to lead an ape revolution against mankind. He formulates strategic plans and has the other apes work with him to secure the necessary weaponry for the revolution. One problem that the production team ran into at this point in the story was their ability to create such a large scale revolution on such a small budget.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was given a very low budget, making it difficult to film an ape revolution in a futuristic society. This was addressed by filming the movie in a recently completed commercial and residential complex that was right next to the studio. It was called Century City and was on land that previously belonged to the studio. It also had the perfect look for the required futuristic society and thus saved the production team a huge amount of money that otherwise would have gone into constructing an enormous set for the city scenes. I am still very surprised that they managed to pull this movie off so effectively and I again attribute it to the dedication the entire production team brought to the film.
And so, the revolution commences. Caesar leads a huge army of apes against their “masters” and ultimately takes over the city. The battle scenes are awesome and are by far the best sequences in the entire franchise. It is an epic revolution and there is a lot of violence. The amount of violence had the potential to cost the film its family audience and in its initial preview in Phoenix mothers actually took their children out of the theater. According to associate producer Frank Capra Jr. the production crew made a conscience decision to give the film more action and adventure as they felt that it was a successful turn for the series. Apparently, the censor would not pass the film after seeing it for the first time as there was simply too much violence and blood. The studio also wanted to keep their family audience and as a result they ordered a lot of the violent material to be cut. Even though the studio cut a lot of the violence out of the movie it is still pretty violent and it still has large scale action sequences that are really cool. I would prefer to have the original version but I have to say, it is still a pretty epic revolution.
The screenwriter Paul Dehn and the director J. Lee Thompson modeled the revolution after the horrible Watts Riots that occurred in 1965. This is another primary example of how this film, and the others in the franchise, mirror actual societal issues under the disguise of science fiction, a touch that makes these films very authentic and real. The biggest issue, and arguably the most reoccurring, that all the films address is race relations, again as a result of the time in which these films were released.
Once Caesar has control of the city he delivers a speech vowing to dominate humans and to create an ape civilization. The civilization he describes is basically the one Taylor finds when he crash lands in the future in the original film. In response to test audience reaction, the studio decided to extend the final scene to incorporate a new idea and vision for the ape to proclaim. The chimpanzee Lisa struggles to say, “No” at the end of Caesar’s speech and after hearing her he ultimately changes his vision from an all ape dominated planet to a mutually inclusive planet of apes and humans. This changes Caesar’s vision from the type of civilization that Taylor finds in the original film, to a civilization where apes and humans live together. So when Taylor crash lands in the future this time around, given the continuity change brought about by Cornelius and Zira’s time travel, does he arrive to a much different ape society than he originally encounters? Is he welcomed as a human instead of hunted down as one? Luckily, the next film helps to answer some of those questions, although it is ultimately left open to interpretation.
Although the film did receive a “PG” rating instead of the “G” rating it was very successful upon its release. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is an exciting film that shows the origins of the ape civilization. It is important to note that continuity wise, Caesar is not there for the original ape uprising which leads to the ape civilization Taylor ultimately finds in the original film. It is only through the capability of time travel that the apes and humans are given a second chance, through Caesar, to create a society in which apes and humans live together in peace and thus do not necessarily annihilate each other by detonating the doomsday bomb. I absolutely love that the story allows for that to be a possibility. Under the new continuity, created by Cornelius and Zira’s time travel, the Earth may not be destroyed in the future, as seen in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, because apes and humans may live in peace and harmony, thanks to Caesar’s improved vision for the future. This is a great element of science fiction and a reason that I love the genre so much, ultimately anything can happen.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is a great movie and a great installment in the Planet of the Apes franchise. I love all of the action scenes as well as the development of the story and the characters, making this a worthy and essential piece of the franchise. Another sequel was requested following the completion and release of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes; that sequel would become Battle for the Planet of the Apes, which I will be reviewing next week.
Cast of Characters
Roddy McDowall- Caesar
Don Murray- Governor Breck
Natalie Trundy- Lisa
Hari Rhodes- Mr. MacDonald
Severn Darden- Kolp
John Randolph- Chairman
Asa Maynor- Mrs. Riley
H.M. Wynant- Hoskyns
& Ricardo Montalban as Armando
That will do it for this “Movie Mania” article. I am really enjoying writing these articles and I hope that you are enjoying reading them. Please look for new and exciting “Movie Mania” articles every Thursday, only on the Pop Culture Network. If you have any questions or comments please e-mail me at Nick@PopCultureNetwork.com. Also be sure to check out our free forums at www.jointheforums.com and our store at www.shoppcn.com. Thank you for reading!
I’ll catch you guys next time!