The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970) **

After Planet of the Apes, one of the most thought provoking and entertaining science fiction films of the 60’s, made a fortune for 20th Century Fox, the studio did what any good studio would do:  start cranking out cheap sequels left and right.  They cut the budget in half and came up with a pretty shoddy story, but that didn’t stop people from going to see it.  Charlton Heston took one look at the script and said “No way Jose, you’re not putting me back into that loincloth!”, but Fox offered him a lot of money, so he said, “Okay, but I’m only going to be in the very beginning and the very end.  Oh… and everybody’s gotta die in the end!”  The studio said “Sure Chuck, whatever you say”, not only because if they didn’t, they’d lose one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but also because Heston would take them off his NRA Christmas card list.  So they hired James (The Cat O’ Nine Tails) Franciscus to be the star, mostly because he looks like Heston’s illegitimate brother after a three day drunk and away they went. 

 

This one picks up where the first left off, with Heston finding the remains of The Statue of Liberty on Monkey Beach.  He then wanders off into “The Forbidden Zone” (presumably looking for more tarnished American landmarks) with Linda Harrison (from my hometown of Berlin, Maryland) where he abruptly disappears.  Not long after, astronaut Franciscus crash lands on the planet looking for Big Chuck.  His captain dies in the crash, so Jimmy buries him (Who knew that shovels were standard astronaut equipment?) then takes off and discovers the race of super intelligent apes from the first movie.  A warmongering gorilla general (James Gregory) wants to destroy all the humans (“The only good human is a dead human!”), but the scientist apes led by Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter) want to protect and study them.  Eventually Franciscus tracks Heston down in the Forbidden Zone (which is actually the ruins of New York City) where a race of psychic mutants led by Victor Buono live underground and worship a still ticking atomic bomb.  In the end, the apes crash the congregation’s party and Chuck gets so fed up that he triggers the bomb and blows up the entire planet.  Not to worry though, because this flick made enough green for the studio that they made three more of these suckers. 

 

Things get progressively silly as it goes along (the scene where the mutants sing a psalm to the atomic bomb is especially ludicrous), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t enough here to make this flick worth a look.  I mean where else are you going to see naked super intelligent apes in a steam bath?  Or a bunch of hippie monkey protestors?  How about albino mutants being impaled on spikes? 

 

The studio cut a lot of corners so there’s plenty of padding from the first movie and some of the ape masks are pretty weak.  Director Ted (Hang ‘Em High) Post successfully “apes” the direction of Franklin J. Schaffner from the first film and while the plot is rather flimsy, he keeps things chugging along at a steady clip.  This wildly uneven sequel is moderately entertaining, but there’s nothing here that remotely comes close to the mind blowing ending of the first film. 

 

Since Roddy McDowall was busy directing The Devil’s Widow, he didn’t return for Beneath, but he appeared in all the subsequent entries.  Screenwriter Paul (Goldfinger) Dehn would go onto write the next two chapters in the series.

 

Dr. Zira gets the best line of the movie when she says:  “You’ve been breast fed on bile!”

Tags: b, planet of the apes series, sci-fi, sequel
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