The world is shocked by the appearance of three talking chimpanzees, who arrived mysteriously in a U.S. spacecraft. They become the toast of society; but one man believes them to be a threat to the human race.
In a futuristic world that has embraced ape slavery, Caesar, the son of the late simians Cornelius and Zira, surfaces after almost twenty years of hiding out from the authorities, and prepares for a slave revolt against humanity.
J. Lee Thompson
Ten years after conquering the Earth, ape leader Caesar wants the ruling apes and enslaved humans to live in peace. But warring factions of apes led by a militant gorilla general as well as various human groups threaten the stability.
J. Lee Thompson
Brent is an American astronaut, part of a team sent to locate missing fellow American astronaut, George Taylor. Following Taylor's known flight trajectory, the search and rescue team crash lands on an unknown planet much like Earth in the year 3955, with Brent being the only survivor of the team. What Brent initially does not know, much like Taylor didn't initially know when he landed here before Brent, is that he has landed back on Earth in the future, in the vicinity of what was New York City. Brent finds evidence that Taylor has been on the planet. In Brent's search for Taylor, he finds that the planet is run by a barbaric race of English speaking apes, whose mission is in part to annihilate the human race. Brent eventually locates some of those humans, who communicate telepathically and who live underground to prevent detection by the apes. These humans, who are in their own way as barbaric as the apes, want in turn to protect their species. Brent has to figure out a way to save ... Written by
"We were following Taylor's trajectory, so whatever happened to us must have happened to him."
Beneath was the best Planet of the Apes film bar none. Everything was bigger and better this time around: bigger sets, more gorillas, the whole of New York instead of a mere Statue of Liberty, and, best of all, faceless, telepathic mutants than can kill with the mind. Yes, I was once ten years old.
Watched again with many years of hindsight, it's clear that, while entertaining, Beneath was produced without anything approaching artistry. The ultimate in sequels, it tries to tell the same story twice as big, but with only half the success. Until Battle came along and picked the flesh off Apes' rotting carcass this was the worst sequel because it did nothing new with the format. Even the working title - Planet of the Apes Revisited - betrays the lack of thought and the desire for finance that went into this one.
A virtually identical plotline rattles along at a fair pace, meaning all subtlety is jettisoned. The allegories are also confused by not really being allegories at all. Look at the metaphor for anti-war protestors by casting chimps as ... er, anti-war protestors. A look at how man often judges another man on the colour of his skin is alluded to ... er, by having an ape judging a man on the colour of his skin. (On this note, perversely for a film that purports liberal satire, the only one of the mutants to demonstrate real cruelty was Don Pedro Colley, the sole black character in the film. And despite its worthiness, I don't think I've ever seen another film where a man's credit is given as "Negro"). However, I did have to smile at the chimp that punningly complains about "gorilla brutality".
The decreased budget (a sensible studio idea to cut the finance of the sequels to a hit movie) shows with some of the ape extras having decidedly ropy masks in the crowd scenes. The opening of the picture also recaps the first, cannily highlighting the glaring difference between Roddy McDowall's and David Watson's performances as Cornelius. Watson, standing in for an absent McDowall, does reasonably well but really doesn't look anything like him, even under latex. Note too how all the ape masks give the actors lisps, something I never noticed before. Never mind apes, anyone would think James Franciscus had landed on the planet of the Pertwees. There's also some abysmal back projection work when Franciscus is wrestling on top of the horsedrawn carriage. The mutants are pretty good, though their prayers to "The Holy Fallout" are a little silly. Why do they wear human masks anyway? Where do they make them? I dunno, I don't make the rules up, do I?
Of course, the main problem is the pointless game of one-upmanship it plays with its source. There's no longer any element of surprise that this is Earth, so the ruined monuments, nice as they are, no longer have any great effect. It misses the point, also: the Statue of Liberty is not just a relic, but a symbol. New York Subway is just where people caught trains. And as impressive as the effects are, if not directed well which they aren't, particularly then it becomes fatuous.
It's weird how all four sequels were made within a year of each other, yet at least two of them tried something new. Beneath came two years after the original yet has a rehashed "in it for the money" feel all the way through, right down to its abrupt, slightly unsatisfactory climax. Yet despite the many, many faults I've levelled at it, Beneath the Planet of the Apes is still a very enjoyable film. Not in the sense of the first, which genuinely had something to say, but in the guise of pulp SF then this sequel is well worth seeing. In fact, despite the slating I've given it, I still awarded it 6/10.
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