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What The Apes Did on Their Holidays... The Sequels.

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Posted 26th April 2009 at 09:50 AM by Sam@Cult Labs

Beneath The Planet Of The Apes

The stella success of the original Planet of the Apes movie spawned a franchise that encompassed live action TV, a kids cartoon and four sequels. All the follow up films are entertaining, although diminishing budgets mean that some of the films are fun to watch for the wrong reasons! Beneath the Planet of the Apes is the first sequel and relates to a new crew, sent to rescue Taylor, the astronaut from the first movie. This new group crash land on the Ape planet as well, with no hope of escape. Crawling out of the wreckage, only Brent survives. He meets Taylor's mute human friend from the first movie, who takes him back to the ape city. Pursued by apes, he hides in a cave that turns out to be an underground train station...

Exploring the buried remnant of human society, he discovers a telepathic cult who worship an old nuclear warhead. Angry apes behind him and psychotic religious nuts ahead...Will Brent save himself or is the Ape Planet about to be destroyed?

Although not an all out classic like it's forerunner, Beneath the Planet of the Apes is a worthy sequel with the ape make up holding up to a modern viewers scrutiny. Heston turns up for a cameo, but with these movies the franchise is the star and the loss of the main actor from the first film doesn't impact on the movie, which is a small classic of 70s sci-fi.

Escape From The Planet of the Apes

In this, the second sequel to the timeless Sci-Fi classic The Planet of the Apes, we find ape scientists Cornelius (Roddy McDowell) and Zira (Kim Hunter) travelling back in time to Earth in the late 20th Century. They become instant celebrities and media darlings when it is discovered that they can speak. But a high level plot to destroy the apes is being formed by a certain Dr. Hasslein, who discovers that Zira is pregnant and fears for the future of humanity.

He gets Zira drunk and finds out about the ape dominated future of the planet and the experiments carried out on humans. The government decrees that the baby ape must be "prevented" and the parents be sterilized. Things take a turn for the worse when Cornelius accidentally kills an orderly while in prison. Zira and Cornelius are now running for their lives. Can they save their baby from the human government?

Probably the best of the sequels, Escape From the Planet of the Apes successfully expands the franchise and reverses the central premise of the first movie by bringing talking apes into a world of humans. The media frenzy and opened armed greeting by the president near the start of the film sets up a sinister downturn of events later on and the whole movie grips from start to finish. Good 70s Sci-Fi has the ability to entertain and thrill while presenting downbeat themes and a cynical world view. a great example of this.

Conquest Of The Planet of The Apes

The Planet of the Apes series is a classic example of the movie franchise, with it's dwindling budgets and diminishing returns. Although no Apes movie is without merit, each successive one is slightly less gripping, a little more desperate and more prone to unintentional giggles. I love each one though, despite any flaws and Conquest... is fun from start to finish. The darkest and most violent of the series, Conquest... upped the ante to keep audiences coming back to the series with riots and blood on the streets.

It's 1991 and a space virus has killed off our household pets. Apes are now our domestic slaves. Milo, the talking son of Cornelius the ape from the previous movies, is being cared for by a circus owner who keeps Milo's language skills a secret for fear of trouble. But Milo cries out at mans inhumanity to ape and must go underground. Changing his name to Caesar, he starts a bloody rebellion and the apes rise against their hated masters...

A deliberate echo of the civil rights struggle in American, Conquest... dispenses with any goofy humour found in previous instalments and goes for tough social commentary and visceral thrills, although some violence was trimmed to secure an 'R' rating at the time of release. Conquest is a good movie, which makes great use of what were then new buildings to create a future on a budget and the civil uprising of the apes makes for loads of exciting action. Flawed like all of the sequels but never dull!

Battle For The Planet Of The Apes

The 'Apes' franchise was one of the great cash cows of the 70s. In the pre-Star Wars days of toy manufacturing, the series was making money from action figures and lunch boxes in a way that was only outdone when George Lucas' monster hit gripped a generation. Most money spinning sequels face the problem of diminishing returns and by this final entry in the five film saga, quality control and budget were out the window, resulting in a more B picture look and some dodgy ape make ups. This movie is franchised film making by numbers but still has enough action and retains just enough of the original atmosphere found in the first movie to keep ape fans happy.

Following on from 4th movie, 'Conquest of...', it finds ape revolt leader, Caesar, existing in a post-apocalyptic world where he is trying to create an uneasy peace between simian society and the few remaining humans. This of course will lead us full circle to the start of the series, in which we find out Charlton Heston was on Earth all along* and that mankind had destroyed itself.

Caesar must face ape led plots against him and human survivors who want him dead. Can humans and apes coexist? It's not a perfect film by any stretch and budget constraints bring it closer to the abortive TV series than the blockbusting first film, however, as popcorn entertainment, all of these, taken as a whole, are classics and 'Battle for...' fits in just fine.

And remember: 'Ape shall never kill Ape!'

* "I hate every apes I see... From Chimpan-A to Chimpan-z..."
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