Escape from the Planet of the Apes (review by Doug Smith)

“Escape from the Planet Apes,” the third in the Apes line of movies, features three of the overly-intelligent monkeys landing on present day Earth. Well, I guess early-1970s Earth would be more appropriate, seeing as how the film was made in 1971 and set in the oh-so-distant-future of 1973. Unless, of course, the filmmakers intended it to be a timeless kind of thing. Then I suppose “present day” would work. Or not. I don’t know. Let’s just say the apes land on a place where the population is made up of humans, unlike from where they came. In other words, it’s a switcheroo! Got it? Good. Oh, and they got there because, in the last movie, a nuclear explosion devastated their planet (which is actually Earth’s future), just as they took off in a spaceship, which resulted in them being blown through a wormhole or some such thing. I’d explain it further, but that would take intricate flowcharts and diagrams and probably Carl Sagan, but he’s dead, so I guess we’re out of luck.
Roddy McDowall, who’s perhaps best known for doing the voice of Nuggit in “GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords,” plays leader ape, Cornelius. Kim Hunter, who hunts Kims in their natural habitat, plays Dr. Zira, Cornelius’ wife. Dr. Lewis Dixon is played by Bradford Dillman, who’s so entirely groovy it’s not even funny. Wait, yes it is. Natalie Trundy plays his assistant, Dr. Stephanie Branton, who stole Sally Jesse Raphael’s glasses. And, finally, the very smug Eric Braeden plays Dr. Otto Hasslein. Hey, he’s got a right to be smug, especially after appearing in the made-for-TV classic, “Code Name: Diamond Head.” Also, be sure to look for Ricardo Montalban in his touching performance as Armando. Hey, any movie with Ricardo Montalban in it has got to be good.
The movie opens with an army chopper discovering a spaceship, that looks like it was made with the very tip of the Empire State Building, has crash-landed in the ocean. One of the soldiers on the helicopter says something about Red Baron pizza and some guy who looks like George Hamilton responds. The helicopter flies along the shore for a bit and, for a split second, it looks as though we’re going to be watching an episode of “Magnum P.I.” It isn’t too long before a whole troop of troops is pulling the vessel to shore. Sgt. Bilko and his commanding officers arrive on the scene as the space-suited beings inside the ship get out. They prepare to give them a hero’s welcome but they’re a little surprised when the things they thought they were people take their helmets off and turn out to be apes. The soldiers immediately duck in fear of having crap flung at them, but, thankfully, the apes are of an intellectual variety.
The army ships the apes off to the Los Angeles Zoo’s infirmary to run some tests on them, which surprisingly don’t include making the apes wear diapers, smoke cigars and ride tricycles. Doctors Dixon and Branton and their assistant, Steve, the long lost fourth Stooge, quickly discover that the apes are extremely intelligent. They’re clued in to that with the fact that the apes can talk. Immediately after they reveal their ability of speech to the scientists, Dr. Milo, the ape that somewhat knows how they got to Earth’s past, is killed by a gorilla from the next cage over. Damn neighbors.
A little while later, the president announces a presidential inquiry which the press is invited to attend but not participate. A good choice on his part, since about the only questions the press would be able to come up with would be things like, “Hey, have you killed anyone yet?” and “By the way, how do you feel about the loss of your dear, beloved friend, Dr. Milo?” See, because the press always asks really stupid questions like that and it’s just like, “How the hell do you think a person would feel, you blooming morons?!” and it just steams my beans, is all. I mean, they’re just so incredibly stupid that it’s pathetic and I’d just like to take Sam Donaldson and rip his wig off and beat him with it and … sorry … I’ll go lay down for a while.
Okay, I’m better. The committee performing the presidential inquiry is naturally astounded by the apes’ ability to talk, as is the public as a whole. Pretty soon, the apes are bigger than Hanson and start to make appearances at elite social get-togethers. Everyone seems to love them, except Dr. Otto Hasslein, one of the president’s chief science advisors. He would rather they be locked up, so they wouldn’t be a threat to the human race. His suspicions only double after the little slime bag finds out Zira is pregnant and then gets her drunk in order to tell him a little more. He makes a suggestion that they kill the apes, but the president isn’t quite up for that. He does, however, order them to be kept in captivity at a military base, where they interrogate them like a couple of common criminals. After Dr. Hasslein finds out some things he doesn’t like and after the apes escape, the order is given to kill them, once again solidifying the fact that if humans don’t understand something, the only answer is to destroy it.
This movie was pretty good, as are the other POA movies. Plus, the absence of Charlton Heston makes it even better. Seeing the apes interacting in a human world is rather entertaining, although it does get a little tiresome towards the end when the apes end up staying in a circus for a while. I give it 4 yaks.