Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ten Statements About....CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972)

"Monkey See, Monkey Gon' BLOW YOUR FACE OFF!"
"How do you propose to gain this freedom?"
"By the only means left to us...revolution."
"But it's doomed to failure!""."
"Perhaps...this time."

1) Gotta say...I love how alien '1991 North America' looks, even though this one--like the one before it--must have been shot with existing locations and borrowed props to save money. It doesn't look too far from our world, but it does look different.

2)The script--like Escape, by Paul Dehn--displays a lot of subtlety. The way certain elements are introduced into this world is slow and almost, for example, when we see Aldo, as Zira mentioned in Escape, saying his first words, we don't even notice it at first.

3) More so than when he played Cornelius, Roddy MacDowell is very smart in his performance as Ceaser. You definitely get the sense though his facial movements and body language that this Ape is constantly thinking, taking in the horror around him and processing them until he comes up with his own philosophy.

4) Since this series has been very comfortable with its position as a metaphor for race relations, the script goes full bore for the slavery card. Whereas in other series the scenes of apes being disciplined might seem exploitative, here it just stirs our indignation...prepping us for taking Ceaser's side once the revolution comes...and the fact that so many of the guards in charge of Ape Education are black only makes for a touch of irony.

"So you're saying in two thousand years, we'll ALL be
wearing snazzy jackets like that?"
5) It's totally understandable why Richardo Montalban's Armando has to die--his death is another brick in Ceaser's road to rebellion--but it's such a shame. Even here, where Armando is older and less bombastic, he brought a great deal of zest to that first half of the film.

6) If there is one problem, it's that Don Murray's Governor is, much like Ursa, a cardboard, one-dimensional villain. His blustery, over the top performance lacks the nuance of previous baddies in the series, and we never get the sense that he genuinely believes in what he's doing. It makes the film a bit one sided in a series that has managed to be rather multi-dimensional.

7) On the other hand...Sevrin Darden's Inspector Colp is absolutely wonderful. Never raising his voice, keeping every statement conversational, and yet keeping two steps ahead in the game, he's an excellent villain...and maybe should have been the main one. I can't help but think what a stronger film it would be if Colp was manipulating a weak Governer to achieve his goals.

8) Just has the first film's world had echoes of several cultures, so does this one--although the Nazi Germany and pre-Civil War south are fairly obvious ones, the most significant one is Ancient Rome...after all, just like in Roman Times, it is a Ceaser who burns down the old world....

You just know this isn't going to end well for the humans....
9) I think it's very smart that the ape rebellion incorporates some of the tactics we saw the apes use in the first two films. It's that level of detail that creates a real sense of continuity in this series as a whole.

10) You know...I didn't realize that Natalie Trundy, who played Dr. Branton in Escape, was playing Lisa. It's a real nice echo, and as with the element cited above, helps create a real consistency between these films.

Overall...a very good entry in the series that helps cement the oroborous nature of the whole cycle, it manages to bring the whole racial metaphor to a logical conclusion, paving the way for the sheer goofiness of the final entry....

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