So if I am to be completely honest, this movie is actually what led to my buying the box set of these movies a couple of years ago, though not so much for the movie itself. See, about 5-6 years ago, there happened to be a marathon of these movies showing on one of the TV stations (I am pretty sure it was because of Rise Of The Planet OF The Apes was hitting theaters or had just come out). Anyways, I had spent the night at a friends house after a party and when I woke up, I was channel surfing and the third movie in the series was on so I started watching it. When some of my other friends woke up and started watching with me, we started talking about today’s movie. Anyways, I decided to go looking online and they had the boxset available on Blu-Ray for $20. Well, that was basically a no-brainer for me so I obviously bought it and that brings us to today, where I am able to sit down and watch Beneath The Planet Of The Apes.
The plot: Following the events of the first movie, Taylor and Nova continue riding through the Forbidden Zone, making their way further into the desert. Meanwhile, a second spaceship, on a rescue mission to locate Taylor and his crew, has crash landed on the planet. One of the astronauts, Brent, tends to his injured companion but after he dies, he buries him and contemplates his next move when he hears the sound of a horse approaching. Hiding behind the wreckage of his ship, Brent spies Nova riding up and attempts to speak with her but she is unable to answer him. Noticing her staring at his dog tags while fiddling with a pair she is wearing, Brent grabs the tags and sees they are Taylor’s. Asking Nova where Taylor is causes Nova to have a flashback, to her and Taylor riding in the Forbidden Zone when they are confronted by a wall of fire and chasms opening up in the ground. Noticing a strange cliff face in front of them, Taylor tells Nova to go get Zira if something happens to him and then goes to investigate the cliff only to suddenly disappear from view. Back in the present, Brent climbs onto the horse and tells Nova to take him to Taylor. Nova leads Brent to Ape City and he is shocked by what he sees. The two witness an assembly, where a gorilla general named Ursus is declaring that all humans should be killed and they should invade the Forbidden Zone and reclaim it to use as a food source for the apes. The majority of the assembled apes are in favor of the plan except for Zira, who is reluctantly forced to stand lest she get in more trouble. Brent decides he needs to leave and drags Nova away but as they attempt to leave, a sentry hears the rushing of the bushes and shoots into them, wounding Brent while scaring off a bird, which the sentry believes to have made the noise. Back in Ape City, Ursus and Dr. Zaius are discussing the forbidden zone and Ursus comments on how 11 scouts went missing while the 12th came back with fantastic tales of things happening there and Ursus convinces Zaius to accompany his soldiers into the Forbidden Zone. Meanwhile, Nova takes Brent to the house of Zira and Cornelius, who are surprised to see Nova and ask about Taylor. When Brent appears, they are shocked to find another talking human and tell him about their encounter with Taylor while Zira tends to Brent’s wounds. When Zaius shows up at their house, they are forced to hide Brent and Nova and after he leaves, the two quickly tell the humans to leave, warning Brent not to talk if he encounters any of the gorillas. Brent and Nova attempt to leave but captured by a group of gorillas outside of the city. The two are taken to a military training ground, where Ursus is having his gorilla soldiers practice their attacks on the captured humans. When Brent and Nova are lead inside the building, Zira, who is working there, notices them and attempts to have them brought into her department for study but Ursus says they are to be used for target practice and has them taken away. As they are loaded onto a cart, Zira manages to get the key and unlock the cage, then whispers good luck to Brent as the cart heads off. As the cart makes its way along the road, Brent sneaks out of the cage and fights with the driver, who gets the upperhand but is knocked off the cart by a low hanging tree branch. Brent quickly releases the horses from the cart, then he and Nova climb on the horses and take off but they are spotted by a gorilla patrol, who quickly give chase. Brent and Nova elude the gorillas and hide in a cave, which Brent discovers is the remains of the Queensboro Plaza station in New York and that he is in the Earth’s future. Back and Ape City, Zaius, Ursus, and the gorilla army are marching out towards the Forbidden Zone but find their path blocked by a group of chimpanzee protesters. Ursus wants to shoot them and move on but Zaius refuses to allow ape on ape killing and convinces Ursus to have some of his men place them in cages until after they leave. Back in the subway, Brent wakes up and checks outside to see the gorillas still searching for them so he wakes Nova and they start moving down the tunnels when they start to hear a strange humming sound. Continuing through the tunnels, they soon come to the remains of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. As they stop to drink some water, Brent hears voices in his head telling him to kill Nova and he attempts to drown her but is able to fight off the voices and shuts himself inside the church. Inside, he discovers a civilization made of telepathic humans that worship an old atomic bomb. Brent is captured and brought before the human’s leaders, who begin to telepathically interrogate him before they finally begin speaking with him. When they bring in Nova and force Brent to attack her again, he finally tells them that the apes are marching on their city. On the surface, the apes have reached the area where Brent and Nova disappeared and they are stopped by a vision of groups of apes being burned alive, while a statue of the Law-Giver is seen to be bleeding. The soldiers start to panic but Zaius calls out that it is a false vision, then rides out into the flames to prove it. The apes continue on and soon come to the ruins of New York City. Underground, the human leaders are dismayed that their illusions fail to halt the apes’ advance and they realize that their only defense is the atomic bomb and get it ready to be detonated. As Brent and Nova watch, the leaders remove the masks they are wearing, revealing that they have lost several layers of skin after their ancestors survived the fallout from the nuclear war. Brent is separated from Nova and placed in a cell, where he finds Taylor and the two are able to briefly talk before one of the leaders, Ongaro, has them start fighting each other. As they are fighting, Nova is being led elsewhere but when she hears Taylor’s name, she heads towards the cell and calls out Taylor’s name, distracting Ongaro long enough for Taylor and Brent to kill him. As Taylor goes to tend to Brent’s wounds, Brent tells him about the bomb and Taylor realizes it is a doomsday device capable of destroying the planet. Back on the surface, the apes find the underground passage and begin to invade the city, killing all of the humans they find. As Taylor, Brent, and Nova escape their cell, a gorilla spots them and kills Nova before Taylor kills it. Zaius, Ursus, and the soldiers storm the citadel and kill the human leader before he can activate the bomb but while Zaius says they should leave it alone, Ursus orders his men to destroy it. When the lower the bomb onto it’s side, smoke starts pouring out from the bomb. As Zaius and Ursus head for the controls to try and stop the smoke, Taylor and Brent try to stop them and Taylor is shot by Ursus. Brent kills Ursus and shoots several more gorillas before he is finally shot and killed. A mortally wounded Taylor tries to beg Zaius to help but Zaius refuses, saying that man is only capable of destruction. Taylor curses Zaius before he dies, and his falling hand lands on the button that activates the bomb. As the scene whites out, a narrator says “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.”
Beneath The Planet Of The Apes met with mixed reviews from the critics, currently holding a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, many critics sited that the social commentary that was predominant in the first movie was discarded in the second in exchange for more of a “shoot-em up” action style. Though his character was in it, this would be the only movie in the original series that Roddy McDowall would not be featured in, as he was directing Tam Lin at the time. The movie would be a success at the box office, earning over $18.9 million off of a debated budget of between $2.5-$4.7 million.
There are worse follow-ups to successful movies out there but while this was a good movie, it did have it’s faults. The acting was ok, with James Franciscus (Brent) doing a good job in his role but I felt like Kim Hunter (Zira) and Maurice Evans (Zaius) characters seemed to be more subdued. I also didn’t like David Watson’s portrayal of Cornelius as he hardly seemed to put any character into it. The story was interesting but there were a number of things I just had a problem with continuity wise. For instance, in the previous movie, the apes all had single shot rifles but in this movie, which takes place almost immediately afterwards, they have semi-auto machine guns. Also, there was the simple matter of Brent’s rescue mission, which honestly didn’t make much sense in the first place as they never said when Brent left but he somehow exactly followed Taylor’s flight path and landed just a few days after he did. As for the special effects, the facial make-up was really good, both with the apes and the mutated humans. However, some of the props, primarily the guns, looked really fake. I also didn’t like the whole “sauna” scene between Zaius and Ursus, as the fake orangutan and gorilla suits they wore just made them look completely fake. My faults with the movie aside, it is still an enjoyable movie and worth watching.
Rating: 3 out of 5