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April 18, 2018

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) --- "What Lies Beneath This Ape Planet May Be The End. Find Out What Happens."

Plot Summary
The second installment in "The Planet of the Apes" series. Here, an earthling sent to find the astronauts of the original film discovers not only a world of intelligent, talking apes, but an underground cult of grotesque "humans" who are the survivors of a nuclear blast years ago. (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     Following the events of Planet of the Apes (1968), Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) is the second film in the POTA series and highlights the best and worst aspects of a sequel following a masterpiece. Until the midway point, it appears that this film is going to be a rehash of the first film, perhaps even in an alternate reality. But after the first 20 - 40 minutes the film starts to take off on its own path, especially once Brent and Nova find themselves in the Forbidden Zone and discover the ruins of a ravaged city and the community of radiation-scarred psychic humans within.

     Writers Paul Dehn (Planet of the Apes) and Mort Abraham (Planet of the Apes) with inspiration from Pierre Boulle’s novel, developed a sci-fi film filled with metaphysical significance and thoughtful reflection about the origin of human being and the consequences of a nuclear catastrophe. Despite being a replay of the first film, the story is action-packed, adventurous, intriguing, and filled with suspense until the very end. At the time Charlton Heston (as Taylor) believed that sequel films were not very challenging for an actor, so at first, he refused to reappear in this film but eventually agreed to an extended cameo as a favor to Richard Zanuck, who took a gamble on producing the first film as a favor to Heston. The other reason why Heston agreed to do this film was that he wanted to single-handedly make sure that he never did another Apes film again. These feelings we see in the shockingly abrupt ending, and it’s a pity that Heston never realized the potential success a sequel film could have had if it had explored what happened to Taylor and Nova. What would Taylor do upon realizing that he was in a ‘futuristic’ Earth? Are all the humans like speechless animals or is it possible that there are other talking humans? What else is there to discover in this strange reality? But because of Heston’s decision and the film’s imposed plot, the rest of the series follows a somewhat disjointed storyline that focuses on the Apes and their rise to power. Rather than following Taylor and Nova, and what could have been.
      Personally, I think that Beneath could have focused on Taylor and Nova after the events of the first film. While the third film could have been a mash-up of the last 30 minutes of this film and the entirety of Escape from Planet of the Apes (1971). This film’s ending could have been an almost mid-point finale which would allow for the beginning of Escape to flow better. The Planet of the Apes series is one of my all time favorites but it’s obvious that the second, Beneath, and third, Escape, films are disjointed in their beginning and ending, there are some plot holes that don’t make much sense even when you have seen all the films. But Beneath is still a great film to watch, especially since the psychic human's storyline with their unexpected introduction and mysterious end goal makes for an intriguing story addition. The visuals are lavishly produced by Arthur P. Jacobs (Planet of the Apes) and Milton R. Krasner (All About Eve), Walter Scott (Sound of Music) creates some subtlety spectacular set designs, John Chambers (Planet of the Apes films) once again provides magnificent first-rate make-up prosthetics, and Leonard Rosenman (La La Land) develops a sensational music score that carries the presences of Jerry Goldsmith (Planet of the Apes) through some reminiscent sounds.
     The cast is great despite a character change and new additions. James Franciscus (The Cat o’ Nine Tails) plays astronaut Brent, who is sent to rescue Taylor and his crew, pretty good. Many critics think he is a weak Heston, and while this is a valid complaint, I never had a problem with his performance; in some instances I thought he was better than Heston. Think of it like this, Heston is Batman and Franciscus is Robin. Batman is missing and now Robin with some help from Batman’s love interest (Nova) must go find him. Heston was good for what little screen time he had, Linda Harrison (Cocoon) is more beautiful as Nova this time around, and Maurice Evans (Rosemary’s Baby) reprises his role as ever-skeptical orangutan scientist Dr. Zaius. David Watson (The Legend of Robin Hood) fills in for Roddy McDowall (who was directing The Devil’s Widow) as Cornelius and Kim Hunter (Escape from Planet of the Apes) returns as Zira, together they are the two pacifistic simians who try to help their human friends along their journey.

     Overall, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) is a mandatory must watch film. The beginning at first feels like a rehash of the first film and ending is unexpectedly shocking but once you figure out what exactly is going on then the film becomes rather enjoyable. The visuals are lavish, the music score is sensationally reminiscent, the set designs are subtlety spectacular, the make-up prosthetics are first-class, and the cast provides great performances. The next entry was Escape From The Planet Of The Apes (1971) and if you don’t watch this film then the beginning of Escape and scenes following will not make sense. 

"In one of the countless billions of galaxies in the universe, lies a medium-sized star, and one of its satellites, a green and insignificant planet, is now dead."
- Ending Voiceover

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  8 of 10 stars
Worth Buying:  8 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar 
Legened of Tarzan (2016)
John Carter (2012)
Jurassic Park (1993)
Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World (1997)
Jurassic Park 3 (2001)
Jurassic World (2015)    
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) 
King Kong (2005)
King Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Planet of the Apes 3, Escape from (1971)
Planet of the Apes 4, Conquest of the (1972)
Planet of the Apes 5, Battle for the (1973) 
Planet of the Apes 6 (2001)
Planet of the Apes 7, Rise of the  (2011)
Planet of the Apes 8, Dawn of the  (2014)
Planet of the Apes 9, War for  (2017)
Rampage (2018)

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