ESCAPE FROM THE
In its own low-key way, ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES is almost as much of a classic as the original PLANET OF THE APES, and certainly features the two best performances of the series in Roddy McDowall's Cornelius and Kim Hunter's Zira. As good as these two were in the original (and Hunter by herself in BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES), they were supporting players to the human characters. In this second sequel, they are the stars, affording the pair time to explore the two chimpanzee characters in ways not previously possible. The novelty of ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES is the reversal of roles, as Cornelius and Zira travel back in time to Earth, circa 1973, a planet where apes are dumb and human are... well, not much smarter. Even all these years later, it is still astounding to see how convincing the two stars are, projecting their emotions as if the layers of makeup were no impediment at all. (In later interviews, Roddy McDowell revealed that for facial expressions to come through from behind the ape makeup, the actors essentially had to overact with their faces, doing everything big.)
The story, which evolves from light comedy to action thriller, touches on some '70s issues, waxes philosophically about the nature of time travel, gently kids the culture of instant celebrity, and features some of the series funniest dialogue. Eric Braeden, who would soon find stardom on television in the soap opera The Young and the Restless, plays the villain of the piece, a scientist who wants the apes rendered incapable of reproducing, preferably by murdering them. Ricardo Montalban has fun chewing the scenery in his patented way as a kindly circus owner who befriends the chimps. And yes, Sal Mineo is in this film, but you won't recognize him behind the ape makeup.
The writers needed to bring Zira and Cornelius back to modern-day Earth, and to do so, they had to invent a whole lot of stuff that doesn't quite fit with what we saw in the first two films. Don't ask too many questions. Just sit back, relax with a glass of wine (or, as it's called in this film, "grape juice plus") and enjoy ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES for what it is, the most worthy sequel to the classic original. ½ - JB
SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR GOOD MOVIE QUOTES
"Does the other one talk?"
"Only when she lets me."