I first saw what I thought was Planet of the Apes in 1974 in Singapore–a French dub with some kind of Asian subtitles. It was the strangest experience of my life. And now having seen Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes, I now realize what I saw must have been the third or fourth installment…because I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen these first two before. The first Planet was pretty interesting fare–cheesy in places, but with some nice cinematography and twists to the plot.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes is another animal entirely. It shares more in common with, I dunno, Barbarella and other 1970s weirdo SF movies. The first part, set in the ape town, is pretty sucky (see clip above). But when they go into the Forbidden Zone with the Mind Controllers and the sunken subway system and all of the rest…it’s INSANE. I mean, INSANE. And although some of it is cheesy, a lot of it is pseudo-visionary and really out there. Like, it’s about three degrees away from being extraordinary. There are scenes in this film that are practically apeshit crazy. I kinda like that–and it’s a potent reminder that for all of the nonsense of some 1970s films, there’s a ton more imagination there than in most current Hollywood blockbusters. Because it’s my understanding that Planet of the Apes and the sequel(s) did very well at the box office.
Then, of course, it reverts to…I dunno what… with its extremely nihilistic and somewhat…abrupt…ending, leading, I suppose to the going-back-in-time viewpoint of the next two movies. Craaaaazy.