CONQUEST OF THE
PLANET OF THE APES

(1972)
With Roddy McDowall, Ricardo Montalban, Don Murray, Natalie Trundy, Harry Rhodes, Severn Darden
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Reviewed by JB

"Occupy Hollywood!"     CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES wants to be an epic like the first two films of the series but is hampered by a relatively small budget that doesn't allow the kind of scope and scale those movies had.  As silly as much of BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES is, it had some awe-inspiring underground sets in its second half, where a devastated New York City was recreated in full if sometimes geographically inaccurate detail.  In contrast, the story of CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, in which apes revolt and overthrow humanity, seems to take place in the same three or four block radius of Los Angeles.  The big kick in the otherwise ridiculous end-of-the-world sequence in BENEATH was it taking place in familiar locations such as Grand Central Station and St. Patrick's Cathedral.  In CONQUEST, everything takes place in a bland, boring streets and buildings.  The goofy looking masks for many of the ape extras, one of the more laughable elements of BENEATH, sadly return in CONQUEST, although clever editing and low lighting help disguise the phoniness in many shots.  It's an Apes film that is more impressive in its ideas than it is in actual execution.

    CONQUEST takes place in 1991, with the son of Cornelius and Zero from ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES now grown to adulthood.  In between movies, a virus from outer space has wiped out all dogs and cats, so apes are now the pet of choice.  You would think people could have started with hamsters, but PLANET OF THE HAMSTERS just doesn't have the same ring to it.  Anyhoo, when circus owner Armando, played again by the always watchable Ricardo Montalban, arrives in Los Angeles with Caesar in tow, both are horrified at the mistreatment of the apes, who have moved from pets to servants to slaves.  Eventually, the situation becomes so intolerable, Caesar leads a revolt against the humans.

    I don't think any of this would work if they had chosen anybody but Roddy McDowall to play his own ape son.  It was his third ape film (he was not in BENEATH, where Cornelius was played by David Watson doing his best McDowall impression) and his first time playing a character other than Cornelius.  As great as he was in the previous ape film, this is arguably his best performance in the film series.  Of course, he's Roddy Frakking McDowall so he's able to do anything any script might throw at him, but throughout the whole series its hard not to be impressed by how much personality he can bring to a role in which he is severely hampered by complex ape makeup.  He's asked to display, through that makeup, just about every emotional state you can think of, and he does it brilliantly every time.

    The film originally had a much darker ending than the one released to theaters.  The first ending made the apes no better than the humans, but previews showed that audiences didn't care for it, so the producers had McDowall extend his already massive ending speech to include a little sympathy for the humans, while some not-so-fancy editing covered the fact that they couldn't be bothered to film new footage to cover McDowall's additional dialogue.

    In retrospect, while CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES has its flaws, it would still have made a better ending to the series than BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES.  3 - JB

Previous Film: Escape from the Planet of the Apes     Next Film: Battle for the Planet of the Apes

The "Apes" Films     The Secret Vortex


ONE MORNING I SHOT AN APE IN MY PAJAMAS

Erin Fleming, the woman who ran the aging Groucho Marx's life and career in his final years, has a bit part as a woman at a restaurant.  Character actor Gordon Jump, most famous for his role in the TV series WKRP In Cincinnati and as The Maytag Repairman in commercials, plays an auctioneer in the scene where Caesar is sold as a servant.


AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO MISSED THE PREVIOUS FILM,
HERE'S RICARDO MONTALBAN AND THE RECAP

"Listen to me, Caesar.  There can only be one talking chimpanzee on Earth, the child of the two talking apes, Cornelius and Zira, who came to us years ago from the future and were brutally murdered for fear that, one very distant day, apes might dominate the human race."