The monkey business continues in this fifth and final installment of the original Planet of the Apes movies. In the opening scene, The Lawgiver (John Huston) gives us a rundown of what happened in the previous entries which utilizes a lot of cost cutting flashbacks. Once the audience is up to speed, The Lawgiver tells us what happened after the events of the last film. Now even though the humans are considered inferior to the apes, they still live alongside the apes in harmony. Except whenever Claude Atkins’ monkey suit gets too hot for him and he starts trashing the place that is. The ape Caesar (again played by Roddy McDowall) rules over both man and simian and when he learns that videotape footage of his ancestors Cornelius and Zira exists in the Forbidden City, he enlists a couple of his buddies to accompany him to find it. Unfortunately the city is inhabited by ancestors of the mutants from Beneath… who start a war with the monkeys. Ape relations aren’t improved much when Atkins breaks “Ape Law” and murders Caesar’s son. In the end, the mutants are defeated and Caesar proclaims equal rights for apes and humans.
I’m not sure how this ties in with the other flicks in the series. Even though it establishes the subterranean mutants of the second film, this one leaves a lot to be desired in the continuity department. I mean the last film ended with Caesar coming to overpower the humans and the first film began with humans already enslaved by the apes. This one is supposed to take place in between those films, but it still leaves a pretty big time gap full of unexplained questions, the biggest being how did humans devolve from being the apes’ intellectual equals to being speechless slaves? Also, we never even get to see the explosion that left the Statue of Liberty in ruins. How can you make a movie that’s supposed to bridge the gap between the films then go ahead and deny Apes fans the pleasure of seeing how Lady Liberty got blown up?
The lackluster shortcomings of the plot, make-up effects and action (all victims of a greatly reduced budget) are painfully evident, but like all the films in the series, it has it’s moments. I mean Jesus; some of the ape casting is downright hilarious. Seeing John Huston, Claude Atkins and Paul Williams in ape make-up alone almost makes this flick worthwhile. Besides, any movie featuring this many monkeys toting semi-automatic machine guns can’t be all bad. (Talk about gorilla warfare!)
The next stop for the sagging franchise was the lame television show.