Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ten Statements About....BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970)

"What the?  He got a cool jacket!  Why
can't I have a cool jacket?"
"Mr. Taylor, Mr. Brent, we are a peaceful people. We don't kill our enemies. We get our enemies to kill each other."

1) sigh...Another example of a sequel that was made without understanding why the original kicked so much ass. This film takes a similar tack the original does, but without the subtlety, grace or wit of that original...resulting in a mess.

2) One of the major reasons why this simply doesn't work is because James Franciscus' Brent has no personality, no character arc, no purpose in the film other than to stumble from one set-piece to another with Nova in tow until he finds Taylor. Once Brent finds Taylor, Heston takes over by dint of charisma only long enough to get his ass shot.

3) Wow...there's a character in this movie actually called Negro, and called so unironically. It's still a shock when you realize how far perceptions have come.

4) I do appreciate how Maurice Evans continues to keep Dr. Zaius true to his conception in the original film. His motivations are still thoroughly understandable if not exactly virtuous, and there are moments where he is honestly in the right. It's a rare moment of grace from the previous film....

I find it amusing that The Forbidden my hometown..
5) That is drowned in acid by the one-sided villainy of General Ursus, who is the engine that so hamfistedly drives the film's Vietnam metaphor. Granted, James Gregory is wonderfully vigorous in playing the General, but the character is so unbalancing it's not even funny.

6) It also doesn't help that the mutants, well, are dicks. I know that Paul Dehn's screenplay must've been in love with the idea of them being the sort of 'Military Industrial Complex' side of Ape World, but they're just so loathsome in the way they'd rather torture Brent than learn about his culture.

7) You know, for all the awfulness of this movie, that one sequence with Brent and Nova walking their way around the Matte Paintings Of New York is really cool. The fact that these sequences are done with the alternating blasts of total silence and noise make them a fascinating tableau.

"I want you to go in there...and OVERACT as if your SAG
Card depended on it!"
8) That 'ping' noise we get before the mutants deign to talk normally reaaaaally gets on my nerves.

9) So, ummmm, apparently the mutants are masters of vulcanizing rubber...I mean, what was the whole point of hiding their multi-colored veiny-faces when they usually don't see anyone besides other vieny-faces? And they're not as scary as I remembered them being back in the days.

10) I wonder if the film would have been affected at all if the script just forewent that lil' sidetrip to visit Zira and Cornelius entirely. It's not like anything gets advanced save for a couple of laugh lines..

Overall...this is one of the first films I saw as a child--my parents took me to see it at the old Sunrise Drive-In during its first run--and man, does this suffer. This film's heavy-handedness and clumsy script writing obliterates the entertainment factor of what is, at its core, two groups of pricks taking aim at our astronauts (oh, and Nova The Dopey-Faced Tribal Gal)

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