BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES

(1970)
With James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison, Charlton Heston, James Gregory, David Watson, Victor Buono, Thomas Gomez
Directed by Ted Post
Reviewed by JB

Script... no make... sense     Honestly, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES is not half the movie PLANET OF THE APES is.  James Franciscus's sometimes William Shatneresque performance ("Get... out of... my HEAD!!") can make you long for the underused Charlton Heston, whose authoritarian tones tones could make even the most overwrought dialogue sound plausible. Too many things in BENEATH are done on the cheap, like using stupid ape masks on many of the extras instead of employing full makeup.  The story is a rehash of the original, with a loopy, barely coherent twist added in the film's final third.  Overall, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES is a mess.

     Yet many fans, like myself, have an overwhelming affection for it, stemming from several factors.  It is the only one of the four sequels that looks like the original, taking place only a short time after astronaut Heston's original adventure in Ape City.  Fan favorites Kim Hunter and Maurice Evans are back as Zira and Dr. Zaius, and David Watson fills in ably for the unavailable Roddy McDowell as Cornelius.  James Gregory creates one of the series most memorable characters in General Ursus, a scenery-chewing war-mongering gorilla bent on entering "The Forbidden Zone" and killing whatever or whoever lives there.  Director Ted Post seemed to understand that with a script this silly, closeups of actress Linda Harrison as Nova (with new, improved skimpy costume) was worth about a dozen minor plot points, so the returning actress gets plenty of face time.

     The film's saving grace is that it is fun.  As goofy as it is, the climax, in which Franciscus goes underground and discovers a race of mutant human beings who pray to a doomsday bomb, makes this film a campy classic. Needless to say, when you add talking apes, mutant humans and a doomsday bomb, things can get a little out of hand.  BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES also has its share of classic lines, though many of them depend on the intonation of the actors.  There's Franciscus's overcooked "My God!  It's a city of APES!" as well as Gregory's unforgettable war cry "The only good human is a DEAD human!".  And you can always get a chuckle out of any fan of this film by uttering "He bleeds!  The Lawgiver BLEEDS!".

    This was the final film for classic character actor Thomas Gomez (KEY LARGO,  FORCE OF EVIL, and other classics).  He can be seen as the ape minister who sends General Ursus' soldiers off to war with the Lawgiver's divine blessing.  

     One minor complaint:  If New York City really was the former home of astronaut Brent (Franciscus) as he states in the film, you would think he would know that Queensborough Plaza was not an underground subway station but an above-ground elevated station.  And that the New York Stock Exchange is nowhere near Radio City Music Hall. No wonder he is so eager to get the hell off this planet.  3½ - JB

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IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR GOOD MOVIE QUOTES

"If you are caught by the gorillas, you must remember one thing."
"What's that?"
"Never to speak."
"What the hell would I have to say to a gorilla?"