Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Reviewed by Brian Moore
Rating: 6 Beans
hey say that if you put a thousand monkeys in from of a thousand typewriters for a thousand years, eventually one of them will randomly type out "Hamlet". The rest, I presume, come out as pointless chimp gibberish and misplaced punctuation. Pity that not one of those scripts was available to replace the one used for "Escape for the Planet of the Apes." "Escape..." is the overoptimistically-titled third installment in the PotA film series. The fact that it was not the last of them is testamant to the blinding greed of the producers, as well as fair warning as to the quality of the ouevres to come to be ignored at one's peril.
Those of you who suffered through the first two will remember that two rickety spaceships laden with incompetent astronauts crossed two millenia only to arrive back on a now ape-run Earth, they then endeavored to blow into smithereens. Fortunately for the franchise the second movie only showed the spacecraft to be only slightly horribly damaged, so it was thought that we could be convinced that three of these chimps could hop into it and, with no regard for their own personal safety, they could flee the doomed planet, unimpeded by the unavailability of liquid hydrogen, scientific and technological comprehension, and a big pulsating red button with a sign saying "Press to inexpicably escape doomed planet." Oh, I'm sure when the movie was released it was difficult to believe such a fantastically unlikely sequence of events, but luckily for the movie we live in a time that saw the election of Ronald Reagan as president. Twice. Doesn't sound so stupid now, does it?
Back to the "plot". In order to return to an Earth slightly less exploded, our intrepid space chimps travel back in time two millenia and return to Earth. (Hey, stop laughing. Maybe NASA puts a reverse gear on their spaceships. Cynics.) They splash down in the Pacific Ocean and are rescued off the coast of 20th century California. Despite the surprisingly bold move of setting a Hollywood movie in Southern CA the film loses creative steam early. The familiar PotA characters Cornelius and Zira and the never-mentioned-before-and-hence-Doomed-To-Soon-Die Milo. Soon enough, the three ape-stronauts are taken to a zoo, where a gorilla proceeds to conver Milo into The Late Milo. Sal Mineo convincingly plays the slain Milo, a role he reprised five years later when he was stabbed to death in West Hollywood.
The rest follows predictably: Humans find Cornelius and Zira are smart and can speak! C & Z tell about the destruction of Earth! C & Z enjoy the rampant consumerism of 70's America! Zira spills the beans about human vivisection in the future! Brian falls asleep! Brian awakens and debates rewinding the film to see what he missed! Brian falls asleep again!
OK, rewinding a bit, we find that Zira is pregnant, and the merry band making up the judicial committee decides to abort the fetus and sterilize the pair of them. (Must be a bi-partisan committee.) Satisfying everyone's boyhood dream, they run away and join the circus, run by a pre-PETA animal rights activist (Ricardo Montalban). After Zira craps out her little bundle of hair, the Feds catch up to them. Proving their ordained superiority to apes, all three are chased down and killed. Proving their ordained superiority to man, though, the Apes pulled a clever baby switcheroo, thereby threatening all of mankind with what turns out to be two more sequels and a TV series. I say them mangy apes got what they deserve.
A quality piece of cinema always raises a few questions. This is the only similarity between this movie and one of those films. For instance:
1) When Cornelius and Zira fled from the authorities, why did they go to the circus? If they'd gone north to San Fran, they would have blended right in Haight-Ashbury c. 1971.
2) How were they able to form a committee of three politicians to worry about the fate of the Earth 2000 years in the future. I can't even find one who gives a crap about anything past the next election cycle.
And, most distressing,
3) So the apes "escape" from PotA (i.e Earth) to the planet Earth (i.e., PotA). Is that really an "escape"? Sure, they escape the destruction of PotA (i.e., Earth), but they end up dying on Earth (i.e., PotA). Why is this movie called "Escape from PotA"? If anything, it should be titled "You CAN'T Escape from PotA". "Revenge of PotA". Maybe "PotA III: Eye of the Tiger", anything. Oh God, two more to go.
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