Escape from the Planet of the Apes  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes is a 1971 science fiction film starring Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, and Bradford Dillman. It is the second sequel to the Planet of the Apes movie of 1968, the first sequel being Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). This sequel is generally considered by critics to be the best of the four sequels made. Its plot centers around many social issues of the day including race, social status, scientific experimentation on animals, nuclear war and government intrusion as well as women's rights.

In this film, actor Roddy McDowall returns to recreate the character of Cornelius which he created but did not portray in its entirety in the previous film. A new character of Dr. Milo is introduced played by actor Sal Mineo, who hoped his career would gain from the new project much as McDowall's career had from participating in the first film. Charlton Heston, star of the first film and supporting actor in the second, appears in this third installment only in two brief flashback sequences.

Plot summary

The preceding film, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, ends with a nuclear weapon's destruction of the apes' future Earth itself and everything on it.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes begins by establishing that three apes (Cornelius, Zira, and Dr. Milo, played respectively by Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, and Sal Mineo) escaped the Earth's destruction. They have managed this by salvaging and repairing the astronaut Taylor's spaceship (which sank in the first movie) and piloting it through the shock wave of Earth's destruction, sending the ship through a time warp back to 1973.

The apes arrive on Earth, splashing down on the Pacific coast. They are transported to a secluded area of the Los Angeles Zoo, under the observation of two scientists, Stephanie (Natalie Trundy) and Lewis (Bradford Dillman). The apes' power of speech is revealed when Zira's impatience gets the better of her during an experiment. Soon after this, Milo is killed by a gorilla who was agitated by an argument amongst the three chimpanzees. (Kim Hunter later said that Sal Mineo was happy to be killed off so early in the film because he hated the makeup process and was glad to be done with it.)

Meanwhile, a Presidential Commission has been formed to investigate the return of Taylor's spaceship and how the apes, which they already are aware are atypically intelligent, came to be aboard it. The apes are brought before the Presidential Commission, where they publicly reveal their ability to speak, and are welcomed as guests.

The apes become celebrities, being lavished with presents and media attention. They come to the attention of the President's Science Advisor Dr. Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden), who discovers Zira is pregnant and fears for the future of the human race. Determined to force the issue, he gets her drunk on wine (which he assures her is harmless, calling it "grape juice plus"). The resulting interrogation enables him to convince the Commission that Cornelius and Zira must be subjected to more rigorous questioning.

Both are questioned using various means of interrogation; during this time, one of Hasslein's assistants refers to the apes as "monkeys", stirring Cornelius' anger. Hasslein defuses it, saying they simply want to know how apes rose in dominance over men. Cornelius reveals that the human race will eventually meet its downfall and be dominated by simians, which will later lead to Earth's destruction. However, there are still suspicions about how humans are treated by the future apes.

Suspicion had already been aroused by Zira letting slip, during her first appearance before the presidential commission, that she had dissected humans in the course of her work. Hasslein orders Lewis to administer a truth serum to her, while Cornelius is taken to confinement quarters. Lewis warns Zira that the serum will have the same effect as the wine Hasslein convinced her to drink earlier. As a result of the serum, Hasslein learns for himself that Zira examined and operated on humans in the future.

Zira is taken to join Cornelius in confinement while Hasslein takes his findings to the U.S. President (William Windom). An orderly bringing food refers to the unborn child as a "little monkey"; Cornelius has heard enough of the epithet and knocks the tray out of the orderly's hands, thinking he has only knocked the orderly unconscious; he is stunned later to overhear that the boy died. Hasslein uses it as an illustration of the future danger the apes present and calls for the apes' execution. The president reluctantly orders that the unborn child's birth be terminated and that both be sterilized. Running for their lives, Cornelius and Zira (assisted by Stephanie and Lewis) find shelter in a circus run by Señor Armando (Ricardo Montalbán), where an ape named Heloise has just had a baby. There Zira gives birth to a son, whom she names Milo (later known as Caesar).

Hasslein, knowing Zira will imminently give birth, orders a search of all circuses and zoos. As a result, Armando must send the apes away; Lewis gives Cornelius a pistol to use as a last resort. Hasslein tracks the apes down to an abandoned ship, and finds Zira resting with her infant. Hasslein shoots Zira in cold blood after she refuses to hand over her infant and then proceeds to fire several shots into the infant; he is immediately shot to death by Cornelius, and falls overboard. After Cornelius kills Hasslein, he is shot by an unseen Marine Corps sniper and, as Stephanie and Lewis watch, falls to the deck of the ship. Zira tosses her dead baby over the side of the ship before crawling to lie with her husband and dying by his side.

The survivors are unaware of the real fate of the infant ape; Cornelius, Zira, and Armando switched babies with Heloise before their escape. Armando now watches over the infant Milo. The film ends by showing the baby ape Milo sitting in a cage, plaintively speaking the words "Mama? Mama?" with the voice of a human child.

Several elements of the plot are attempts to reconnect with the original book, Planet of the Apes, with human and ape roles switched. In the original book, the protagonist Ulysse Mérou came to the planet of the apes, was experimented on, and proved his intelligence. He then became a celebrity among the apes, and fathered an intelligent human child.

Cast

Continuity

The story of the plague epidemic that killed off most, if not all of the world's dogs and cats, as well as that of Ape slavery and subsequent uprising, is a retcon of both prior movies, wherein the apes do not know of their true past. Cornelius's claim that he had read history scrolls (kept secret from the masses) that detail the human downfall could be a way to rationalize the change, but fails to explain why he is as clueless as the rest of Ape society in the previous movies. He may have had access to them, off screen, during the period between "Planet" and Beneath, when Zaius made Cornelius his proxy, or while he and Zira were traveling in the spaceship. Another conflict is that, according to Cornelius, the day of Aldo speaking the word "No" is an annual observance in their society.

Cornelius and Zira's account of the future itself conflicts with the events depicted in the sequels and what was established in the two previous films. The first two films in the series show that mankind's civilization fell in the 20th century; however, according to Cornelius, it takes apes two centuries to make the transition from pets to servants. Zira adds that it takes another three centuries for the apes to "turn the tables on their masters," by beginning to revolt. Cornelius continues that after the revolt began an ape named Aldo articulated his refusal by saying, "No." These discontinuities may be explained as having been based upon ancient religious or quasi-religious texts which, in the human experience, are notoriously fallible.

In this movie, news commentators note that the craft that brought the apes was one of two that disappeared two years earlier, it is specified that it is Taylor's ship. The timeline of the movies' history suggests that American spacecraft were considerably more developed than in real life, given that the two ships were capable of achieving relativistic speeds.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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