Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ten Statements About....ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971)

"Well, this is...awkward."
"At first they grunted their refusal. But then on a historic day which is commemorated by my species and documented in the sacred scrolls, there came Aldo. He did not grunt. He articulated. He spoke a word that had been spoken to him time without number by humans. He"

1) The strength of this film lies in Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall. These two actors are now so comfortable in the skins of Zira and Cornelius that they're capable of carrying this film on their backs effortlessly.

2) Just as the strength of Dr. Zaius is in the fact that he is never quite the villain--and in some aspects is doing things for the right reasons, the strength of Eric Braeden's Dr. Hasslien is that in some way he's doing these things for the right reasons as well. Sadly, Braeden gives up his more subtle interpretation for something more shooty in the final act, but for the bulk of the film the good doctor works.

"That's right...I'll shoot you...then your baby...and I'll be a
hero--or a dick, I haven't worked that out yet."
3) I really liked the fact that while the first act can be seen as the broadest and most satirical the series has been to date, Paul Dehn's script doesn't date--which is pretty amazing given that the film is nailed down as taking place in 1973.

4) I wish that Sal Mineo's Milo was established either earlier in the series, or given more of a part in this film. As it is, his impact on Zira and Cornelius is an informed attribute--and he's strangled to death by a gorilla after uttering only a handful of lines.

5) You got to wonder if the whole sequence where our main characters are feted as celebrities was Dehn's own slight commentary on the Ape-mania that was sweeping young America at this time.

6) It's easy to understand why everyone pretty much remembers Ricardo Montalban's Armando over Bradford Dillman's Lewis. Montalban is so alive in his few scenes here, so vital and full of energy that he threatens to steal the show with every line.

7) The opening sequence, played out with musical accompaniment, is wonderfully played out and ends with the punchline of our heroes removing their space helmets. If I didn't know I was watching a Planet of The Apes movie, I'd be suprised.

I don't care how evolved you are...early 70's fashion
never looks good.
8) I understand why Cornelius commiting murder in self-defense was neccessary--it gives Dr. Hasslien an excuse for going so militant...but it's so at odds with these characters, who emphasize in both this film and Beneath... that they're pacifists who sat out the war.

9) I think I understood that Zira switched her baby--who will become the Ape leader Caeser, played by McDowell in the last two films--with Heloise before they left Armando's Circus...but it's never made fully clear, and makes the baby's fall into the ocean a little bitter tasting.

10) Similarly, I understand why the script brought in the idea of alternate universes as an explanation for the Ape future...but it sort of muddies the water, especially when Dr. Hasslien's argument for destroying Zira and Cornelius hinges on accepting that theirs is our only future.

Overall...this was one of my favorites of the original cycle when I was a kid, and I'm surprised at how well it still holds up. Yes, there are broad moments of comedy--but the masterful acting by McDowall and Hunter conveying the pathos and tragedy of these character's deteriorating situation make for an excellent viewing experience.

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