Battle For The Planet Of The Apes

1973, Movie, G, 86 mins

Review

BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
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BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, episode number five of the APES series, is the last and least of the bunch, with a juvenile script and parsimonious production values more befitting the various APES merchandising tie-ins (including toys, comic books, and action figures) than the fourth sequel to one of the finest science-fiction films in history.

In the year 2670, an orangutan called the Lawgiver (John Huston) tells a story to a group of human and ape children about an early 21st century ape leader named Caesar (Roddy McDowall): Following a nuclear war, a new society dominated by apes emerged, with Caesar leading a small group of apes and friendly humans who live together in the wilderness. When Caesar learns that a tape of his mother and father, who were killed when he was an infant, exists in the subterranean urban archives, he ventures into the destroyed, radioactive city accompanied by the human MacDonald (Austin Stoker) and the orangutan Virgil (Paul Williams). The three sneak into the archives and watch the tape, but are observed by a group of radiation-scarred mutants, led by Kolp (Severn Darden), who engage them in a shootout.

The trio escape, but are followed back to their encampment by the mutants. When Caesar and the others return, they find that militant gorilla leader Aldo (Claude Akins) is urging an attack on the human city, and when Caesar's son Cornelius (Bobby Porter) later overhears Aldo plotting to overthrow Caesar, Aldo murders him. Aldo then declares martial law and defeats the mutants when they attack, but he's killed during a fight with Caesar after the truth comes out about Cornelius's death. Caesar vows to rebuild the city and strive for a peaceful future with mankind. Back to 2670, as the Lawgiver finishes his story, a teardrop falls from the eye of a commemorative statue of Caesar.

Sporting a sterile, backlot look and thrifty special effects, and fleshed out with flashbacks to previous films in the series, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES bears all the signs of being a half-hearted rush job that was quickly concocted in an attempt to recapture the series' (dubious) family audience following the apocalyptic and ultra-violent CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972). For this entry, Fox hired new writers to replace Paul Dehn (who had scripted the previous three) and the result is innocuous and nondescript, lacking the series' customary allegorical resonance and social significance. Returning director J. Lee Thompson manages to stage some exciting desert battle scenes, cutting on motion from one rapid horizontal tracking shot to another (reminiscent of his excellent 1958 WWII film ICE COLD IN ALEX, aka DESERT ATTACK), but the story is simply a routine action-adventure yarn that fails to explore the culture clash between man and the simians.

Aside from Severn Darden, who relishes his lip-smacking heavy character, the cast seems disinterested; even series stalwart Roddy McDowall looks bored, perhaps depressed over the fluffy script and realizing that the sequels peaked with CONQUEST. As for the rest, John Huston is wasted in the framing segments, which last for a total of about three minutes (although his amusing ape make up actually resembles his real face), the diminutive singer-songwriter-actor Paul Williams is given an erroneous "Introducing" tag in the opening credits (he had previously appeared in THE LOVED ONE and THE CHASE among others), and although director John Landis is credited as "Jake's Friend" (a human role), he's not visible in the film. BATTLE was the last of the cinematic APES adventures, but it did lead to a CBS TV-series in 1974, also starring Roddy McDowall, and a Saturday morning cartoon, both of which showed more style and imagination than this. (Violence.) leave a comment --Michael Scheinfeld

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