Planet of the Apes. Beneath The Planet of the Apes (BPA) gets mixed grades from fans. Some see it as a meager rehash. Fans think it was a worthy sequel. Charlton Heston plays Taylor again, though he's not the star.The lovely Linda Harrison stars again as Nova. Many other characters from the first film return. This would be the first of several remakes throughout the 70s.
Quick Plot Synopsis
The story opens where the first movie ended. Taylor and Nova ride past the ruins of the Statue of Liberty and out into desert. They encounter a wall of fire, freak lightning, and an earthquake. Taylor falls into an illusory cliff. Meanwhile, Brent (James Franciscus) and his skipper have crash-landed (ship identical to Taylor's). Skipper dies. Brent sees Nova riding up. She doesn't talk, but has Taylor's dog tags. They ride to Ape City where they hear General Ursus giving a speech about invading the Forbidden Zone. Brent and Nova sneak into Zira and Cornelius' apartment. They get some food and directions. Outside of the city, they're captured by patrols and to be used as target practice. Zira helps arrange their escape. Free but chased in the wilderness, Brent discovers a cave that leads into an old NYC subway stop. They explore deeper, finding more of NYC ruins underground. In a cathedral, Brent finds a telepathic "priest" worshipping a gold missile. Other telepathic men take him to a council for interrogation. They torture him with mind pain. He tells them about the ape army coming to attack. They throw him in same cell with Taylor and use mind powers to make them kill each other. Nova interrupts, breaks mind power and the two men kill the mind-man. The apes have meanwhile pressed on despite the illusory wall of fire, etc. and are attacking the underground city. An ape shoots Nova. She dies. All the underlings gather in the cathedral to worship their bomb god before they blow it up to stop the apes. Taylor tries to stop them, but gets shot. Brent tries to hold off the apes, but gets riddled and dies. Taylor utters one last signature line: "Damn you all" and pushes the big red button. Fade to white. A narrator tells how a small green planet was then dead. The End.
Why is this movie fun?
Even though half of the film is a re-tread of the original, director Ted Post keeps the pace brisk. Linda Harrison is still great to look at. There are still some unresolved plot threads that give one grist to mull over.
Cold War Angle
This aspect is quite blatant. On the one side, you have mutants who have no weapon but mental tricks and a total doomsday bomb (which they worship). On the other side, you have brutal, chauvinistic militarists. There are not good guys. The nihilist ending is in part tragic, but partially a relief.
Taylor Two -- The first half of the film plays like a repeat of the first -- hunky shirtless hero captured by brutal apes, but escapes with cute girl in leather minidress. But, they had James Franciscus play the hunk. Heston is said to have not wanted to reprise his role, but relented somewhat. His Taylor in BPA amounts to a fairly unnecessary extended cameo.
Whence Mutants? -- Unexplained, is why there is a civilization of bald mutants still living in the underground city of New York. Their mutantness is suggested as coming from the prior nuclear war. Why do they wear rubber face masks all the time?
Subtle Homage? -- At one point, in Mendez's "prayer" to his god, the bomb, he uses the phrase, "…worlds without end…" Were the writers giving a subtle acknowledgment to the 1956 film World Without End? In the old film, we had astronauts who fly into the future, but don't know they've landed on future earth. They find a post-nuclear world, in which weak/damaged humans live in underground cities, while brute savages rule the surface. Nice of the writers to give the old film a nod.
Comes With Frees -- The narrator at the end of the film is the venerable voice talent: Paul Frees. He lent his voice to many golden era sci-fi and even acted in a few. In Spacemaster X-7 ('58), he got more of a central role.
Bottom line? BPA is conflicted as to whether it is a strong sequel to a strong movie, with a story of its own, or a cheap remix of the first film. Try to ignore the cheap remix part and focus on the more imaginative second half. This is only the second sequel. Keep an open mind for the next ones. The end of the planet did not end the franchise.