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Movie Mania #13…Battle for the Planet of the Apes

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“All knowledge is for good. Only the use to which you put it can be good or evil.” Hello and welcome back to “Movie Mania”, exclusive to the awesome Pop Culture Network. Today I am going to be finishing off the original Planet of the Apes franchise with Battle for the Planet of the Apes. In addition, I will be covering the two short lived television series that followed the final film. So kick back, relax and enjoy our final look at the groundbreaking science fiction franchise.

Read the rest of Movie Mania #13…Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Once again 20th Century Fox called for a sequel following the successful release of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Upon approaching the next installment, Arthur P. Jacobs and his production team had to decide if they wanted to continue on with the darker tone that Conquest of the Planet of the Apes had established or if they wanted to move the franchise back to being more family oriented. In the end, they went with family oriented. Arthur P. Jacobs once again called upon the talents of Paul Dehn for the script and not long after, he turned in a script called The Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

The script continued the story of Caesar, Cornelius and Zira’s son and leader of the ape revolution. The original script had Caesar fighting a group of rebels who possess an atomic bomb. Eventually, Caesar gets killed by one of his own generals, leaving the planet under the control of ruthless ape commanders. This then leads to the type of civilization Taylor finds in the original film, a civilization dominated by apes that hunt humans for sport. Ultimately, Dehn’s original outline was rejected by Arthur P. Jacobs who felt that the script was “too bleak and too violent”. Dehn went on to change the story and titled it, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, I am not sure why “The” was dropped from the title for the second script attempt. Dehn was accompanied by two additional writers, John William Corrington and Joyce Hooper Corrington, for the second script, in the hopes that the two new writers would bring “a fresh prospective” to the story.

With the script ready to go, Battle for the Planet of the Apes went into production on January 2, 1973. The production crew was once again given a low budget, this time they received roughly 1.8 million dollars. J. Lee Thompson returned to direct the film, after impressing Jacobs and Frank Capra Jr. with Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Thompson said in an interview, “Right from the start Arthur [Jacobs] said we are going to make a kid picture and something that will appeal to families. We had no real political implications; it was simply a kid’s science fiction film.” While this film is a lot lighter and less violent than the other films, especially Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, it still fits in well with them and it still brings a lot of good things to the story and to the franchise.

Roddy McDowall returned once again to play Caesar, the heroic chimpanzee. McDowall said, “I was anxious to do it because I had enjoyed the role even more than I had the part of Cornelius.” The role of the Lawgiver, seen only as a statue and iconic figure in the first two films, was given to the famous and legendary John Huston. The film opens with the Lawgiver as the narrator of the film, far in the future of the actual events of the film. He proceeds to tell Caesar’s story and reads from scrolls, which become the sacred scrolls that are seen and referenced to in the other films. This time around, thanks to the time travel of Cornelius and Zira, the Lawgiver preaches the idea of a civilization and society in which humans and apes share dominion over the planet and live together in peace and friendship. This is a radical change from the Lawgiver’s teachings and writings in the original films and again is the result of the changes that Cornelius and Zira’s time travel created.

The heart of the story focuses on Caesar’s efforts to create and maintain a civilized order of society for apes and humans to coexist in. A large scale and devastating nuclear war occurs in the time between Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and this film, leaving few known survivors beyond Caesar’s small group of apes and humans. The two species are living together but things are far from perfect and there is a lot of tension between them. Furthermore, the apes are being educated by humans and start to create their own laws.

The character of Caesar was “softened”, according to Roddy McDowall, in accordance with the new tone of the film and the character. McDowall also stated, “He [Caesar] is no longer militant and angry but patient and benevolent.” Caesar is portrayed as a family man, or family ape I guess, and takes his role as a husband and father very seriously, but he is still ready for battle and manages to fight valiantly at the end of the film. Natalie Trundy reprised her role of the chimpanzee Lisa, now Caesar’s wife, making this the fourth time that she appeared in the franchise.

Seeking video footage of his parents and knowledge of the future, Caesar travels to the “Forbidden City” with an orangutan named Virgil, played by singer and songwriter Paul Williams, and his human assistant Mr. MacDonald, who was also in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes as the governor’s assistant. The “Forbidden City” is a barren nuclear wasteland that is inhabited by radiation scarred humans who have a doomsday bomb in their possession and who are the ancestors of the mutants seen in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Eventually the mutants from the “Forbidden City” launch an attack on Caesar and his small community. This, along with many other societal issues, leads to a struggle between Caesar and his military commander, General Aldo. Aldo wants all-out war and the appropriate weaponry to lead an effective strike on the mutants while Caesar is far more cautious of war and the potential devastation war could bring. Caesar manages to find archival footage of his parents in the ruined city and learns that war between ape and man will only lead to eventual destruction. Furthermore, Aldo is completely against ape and human coexistence and wants to usurp Caesar’s rule and ultimately lead the apes himself.

Despite the decision to “lighten” the film and tone down the violence, there are a lot of action sequences as well as a lot of violent content. When the mutants attack, Caesar and his followers defend themselves and manage to force the mutants to flee back to their devastated city. These sequences are not nearly as intense or violent as the revolution sequences in the previous film but they are battle scenes nonetheless. I find these scenes to be quite enjoyable, although they would have been better if they were filmed with a darker tone as the goal.

Following the large scale battle, Caesar has an individual battle with Aldo for killing his son. Caesar manages to triumph over Aldo and once again assumes an undisputed leadership position. The final scene is very important as it truly completes the story. It shows the Lawgiver, 600 years after Caesar’s death, preaching to a crowd of ape and human children. This shows that Caesar’s vision for ape and human friendship and peace long outlives Caesar himself. The Lawgiver acknowledges the success of Caesar’s vision and hopes that it can be maintained throughout the future. A human child in the crowd then asks, “Lawgiver, who knows about the future?” After she asks the question an ape child pulls her down by her hair and she proceeds to shove him back. The Lawgiver replies to her question by saying, “Perhaps only the dead.” The last shot of the film shows a statue of Caesar with a tear coming out of one of his eyes and falling down his face. This means that even though his peace lasts for 600 years, ultimately apes and humans will break the peace and the world will likely be destroyed as seen in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Some fans suggest that the tear is simply a tear of joy over how long the peace has lasted. While this is a possibility, I think it is quite clear that eventually Caesar’s peace will fail. Apes and humans are both given a second chance, through Caesar, to avoid the events of Beneath the Planet of the Apes but unfortunately they fail the second time around as well. They do much better and make much more progress but the tear from the statue says it all. Unfortunately, the question is never answered with 100% certainty because this is the final movie in the original franchise. It was decided during the early stages of production that this would be the final movie installment.

Overall, I think Battle for the Planet of the Apes is a great fifth installment that wraps up the original movie franchise in an effective way. I absolutely love the final scene and although I wish that they continued to make more films, I am very happy with the way they ended everything. The next Planet of the Apes film would not come out until 2001 with Tim Burton’s take on the franchise. And then of course, the awesome reboot in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I’ll save those for future “Movie Mania” articles.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes was released to audiences in 1973 and did very well, much to the surprise of the studio. Around the same time, CBS was getting great ratings with their broadcastings of the first three films and as a result the network decided to pick up a Planet of the Apes television series in 1974.

Jacobs had considered a Planet of the Apes television series all the way back in 1971. However, the success and growth of the film franchise as well as his involvement in many other productions delayed his plans. Sadly, when it came time for the television series Arthur P. Jacobs died of a heart attack, he was just 51 years old. He was loved by his entire crew, who had nothing but wonderful things to say about him and his unmatched work ethic. It is very safe to say that without Arthur P. Jacobs, Planet of the Apes never would have progressed beyond the pages of Pierre Boulle’s novel.

The live action Planet of the Apes television series moved forward and aired on September 13, 1974. Roddy McDowall returned for this project as well, this time playing chimpanzee Galen. The show follows the adventures of astronauts Alan Virdon and Peter Burke who, like Taylor, crash land in Earth’s future. These astronauts arrive much earlier than Taylor, hundreds of years earlier in fact, but like Taylor, they encounter a planet ruled by talking apes. The two astronauts are quickly captured but escape with the help of Galen. James Naughton, who played the role of Peter Burke, said in an interview, “We kind of became the fugitive, you know. Each week we were caught and then we escaped. And that was basically what the show was about.” Each episode follows the adventures of the three main characters, the two human astronauts and the chimpanzee, and their confrontations with and their various escapes from the ape military. General Urko, a now popular character, was first introduced in this series and serves as one of the main antagonists of the show. The show has drama, humor, social commentary, and action, just like all of the films.

The main audience of the show was children and that posed a problem for CBS. CBS executives stated that children were not the target audience for advertisers and thus the show only ran for one season. The show was also slotted at a bad time and had to run against other, more popular, shows.

Following the end of the live action show, all of the original movies were re-released and 20th Century Fox launched an enormous merchandising campaign as part of their larger “Go Ape!” campaign. It was a huge success that involved the work of 60 companies bringing out some 300 ape related items. Among them were ape: action figures, masks, posters, games, lunchboxes, coloring books and pretty much everything in-between. All of this gave way to Return to the Planet of the Apes, the second apes television series attempt. This time, the series was animated.

NBC launched Return to the Planet of the Apes in 1975 as half-hour Saturday morning cartoon. It takes place in a much more advanced ape society that is a lot like the original novel by Pierre Boulle. The advanced society was removed from the films due to budget issues but was easily accomplished in animation. The apes: drive cars, fly planes, and enjoy a lot more technology than the apes in the films do. The animated series was and still is criticized for a lack of noteworthy voice talents. It seems that each character’s voice can be interchanged without any notice, and that all the characters have a severe monotone issue. In addition, the backgrounds, although credited for detail, were often criticized for being overused. Furthermore, the show was criticized for having slow and awkward movements, making the show itself slow and awkward. Overall, it is a Saturday morning cartoon from the 1970’s, what can you expect? The premise of the show is roughly the same as the live action series, whereby a few astronauts land in the future to find a planet ruled by talking apes. There are a lot of recognizable characters in this show however, such as: Cornelius, Zira, Nova, and Dr. Zaius. General Urko is also featured in this show along with a group known as the “underdwellers”, based on the mutants in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

Return to the Planet of the Apes, like the live action series, was canceled after one short season. Unfortunately, I have never seen a full episode from either television series but they are both available on DVD, so hopefully I can catch up on them soon. The original Planet of the Apes franchise came to an end following the cancelation of the second television series, with the exception of many comic book titles. The franchise was over, but it had changed the science fiction genre forever and continues to entertain generations of audiences. Planet of the Apes has always fascinated me and I am so excited that they effectively rebooted the series in 2011. There is a lot more to come from the Planet of the Apes, and I can’t wait to see it all.

Cast of Characters (Battle for the Planet of the Apes)

Roddy McDowall- Caesar

Claude Akins- Aldo

Natalie Trundy- Lisa

Severn Darden- Kolp

Lew Ayres- Mandemus

Paul Williams- Virgil

Austin Stoker- Mr. MacDonald

Noah Keen- Teacher

France Nuyen- Alma

Paul Stevens- Mendez

& Bobby Porter as Cornelius (Caesar’s son)


Cast of Characters (Planet of the Apes 1974)

Roddy McDowall- Galen

Ron Harper- Alan Virdon

James Naughton- Pete Burke

Mark Lenard- Urko

Booth Colman- Zaius (analog character to Dr. Zaius)

Eldon Burke- Chilot


Cast of Characters (Return to the Planet of the Apes)

Austin Stoker- Jeff Allen

Philippa Harris- Dr. Zira

Henry Corden- General Urko

Richard Blackburn- Dr. Zaius

Edwin Mills- Dr. Cornelius

Claudette Nevins- Nova

Tom Williams- Bill Hudson


That will do it for this “Movie Mania” article. 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!



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