That aside, "Planet of the Apes" WAS a tough act to follow. "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" cinematography does border on spectacle and alot of credit should go to director Ted Post for getting alot more out of the half baked premise and limitations he was trapped in. Many still frames and action sequences from the film are just as epic-like, colorful and bizarre that is on par with (and in many instances, exceeds) the original; but the editing in the original surpasses the sequel!(not Ted's fault). Still..."Beneath's" camera angles are far superior than any of the sequels that followed. Composer Leornard Rosenman created a very eerie, foreboding music score that touches on some semblance to Jerry Goldsmith's music from the original, while taking it into a different direction that effectively captures the mood of the film that works perfectly. It's unavoidable that both "Planet" and "Beneath..." have a flavor of their own considering all obstacles, so it's appropriate that the both scores follow suit in different scales; they're both brilliant.
Charlton Heston can't be blamed for his lack of enthusiasm, considering what he was presented with. If a more fuller and better continuation of the story was better fleshed out...who knows (after all, look at his lone survivor interpretation from "The Omega Man", not far removed from his position at the end of "Planet..."). But a more diversified storyline was necessary that needed splitting the story between Taylor and the Apes which changed the flow of what followed previously...because the first movie was presented subjectively through the eyes of Taylor. The addition of the new elements that carried the narrative forward was not going to be consistent with director Franklin Schaffner's original subjective approach to the first "Apes" that made it so successful. So it's very appropriate that James Franciscus' 'Brent' is allowed to discover Ape City because the Apes are one of the main reason people would want to return to the story anyway. The other reason is Taylor! (and Nova). And that is the main problem. Because, NO sequel was ever planned for Planet of the Apes! If a storyline was preplanned then this may have paralleled author Pierre Boulle's excellent 'Bridge on the River Kwai' more closely if additional characters were already evident, like the way the story in 'Kwai' continued after William Holden escapes from the prison camp (as Heston did from Ape City) while the events flipped back and forth between Holden's increasing dilemma and that of Alec Guiness' misguided actions. Sadly, (because it's only 1967 before sequels were recognized as obvious cash cows) 'Planet...' didn't have the luxury of foresight of the epic possibilities that could have logically continued the story forward in the same care and quality. Thus we're left with a more emphasis on action orientation, less on character growth and a more speedy presentation that's intended to camouflage the story's inadequacy.
It's almost easy to say that "Beneath..." is better appreciated on its own merit, as an almost separate entity from "Planet..." because of its radical introduction to science fiction elements new to the story. But it's not that easy! Comparison is unavoidable!
On the many plus sides are: James Gregory's scene stealing 'General Ursus' that propels the conflict between ape and man (especially his rousing call-to-arms speech); Maurice Evans' 'Dr.Zaius' who steals scenes right back; the buried underground scenes, the Ape Army on the move, Cornelius and Zira's home; Brent and Nova's underground odyssey; the steam bath; more (if brief) views of Ape City and the cages; General Ursus' helmet symbolically backed by the many more militant gorillas; and the under rated James Franciscus who took upon himself to further flesh out more of his character's heroic attributes. And ANY scene with Taylor! that is all too brief.
One thing is near certain: "Beneath..." is never boring in its breakneck pace in storytelling. but it could have been better if there weren't so many 'egos' involved in the decision-making process of delivering a quality continuation of the Apes saga. Just think of the possibility if Nova was able to retain her pregnancy scene cut from the first film, the bomb wasn't doomsday, and she survives the end of the second film.
Still kind of fun entertainment!
6 out of 10