“Escape from the Planet of the Apes” is the best sequel of the original five Planet of the Apes films.
In the film, Cornelius (Roddy McDowell) and Zira (Kim Hunter) are thrown back in time to the 1970s when one of their fellow apes Dr Milo repurposes Taylor’s spacecraft before the destruction of Earth.
They land in the 1970s and this time they are the minority and it is the human beings who are shocked at their arrival. When Zira leaks information about the destruction of Earth and how the Apes rose up, the US Government freaks out. Cornelius and Zira, who is also pregnant, are on the run.
The movie was a clever way to undo the maniacal ending of the original film. It also saved the two best characters from the franchise and embraced just how great they are. The moving scenes between Cornelius and Zira is more like a love story in a world gone inside. Or as Chuck Heston put it in the first one, “It’s a madhouse! A madhouse!”
Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter give very touching performances as they reprise their roles. Thank goodness Roddy came back to the series. Eric Braeden is a good calculating villain very similar to the suave villain he would play in 1977’s “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo”. Ricardo Montalban’s circus ringmaster Armando is also a great character but really he is just Mr Rourke from Fantasy Island surrounded by animals.
I loved how light and touching the film was. It brought drama, magic and integrity back to the series and did a perfect job of setting up future sequels. I have to say without a doubt that this film saved the series and if it wasn’t for this film I don’t think there would have been Ape-Mania and the television series in 1974.
What is great about the film is not only do we get to revisit Cornelius and Zira but that the film builds on the fascination with the series. It tells us for the first time what happens to the human race, how apes were brought into society and eventually how they took over. These elements are at the core of the Apes mythos and were what the 2011 reboot “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” focused on when revisiting the series. Building this kind of bible and expanding on the mythos of a film is what sequels are for and that is exactly what Escape is all about.
This is a really solid sequel and it is no wonder Ape Mania kicked into high gear after it.
4 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer