Beneath the Planet of the Apes

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.


  1. says

    Jeff as you can imagine I’ve done a lot of research and watching of The Planet of the Apes films. PotA was quite simply the best science fiction film of 1968– much more enjoyable and entertaining than the overblown, over-hyped, and at times boring 2001. PotA is a beautifully realized dystopian reflection of American society in the 1960s, complete with a perfect cast, excellent script, and outstanding direction. That’s not to say it’s a perfect film, but it is the ideal model on how to make a sensational, successful Hollywood science fiction movie.

    Beneath is one of my least favorite of the sequels. I much prefer the time travel third installment, Escape to the Planet of the Apes.

    And don’t even get me started on the wretched Tim Burton film….


  2. says

    I don’t know if when and how you first see a movie helps determine what you think of its intrinsic content: I saw “2001” with my dad on the big screen (Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco — they were selling *programs*) and have loved it (and been puzzled by it) ever since.

    “Beneath” was the fist ape film I saw in theatres — a school buddy and I were dropped off for the matinee — and likewise (because it also confirmed by budding dystopian/apocalyptic sensibilities, currently being borne out in the Age of Bush) retain a soft spot for it.

    That said, nothin’ against “Planet” — quite the contrary. “2001,” however, is firmly lodged atop the celluloid sf heap for me, however…

  3. says

    Hey, Rick. Yeah, the Burton sucked. It was just…awful. I agree Beneath is pretty awful in places, but the audacity of it in places was amazing. I’ll check out the next two now. ONE of them is the one I saw as a kid. I also remember seeing, as part of the Singapore double-feature, what looked to me, at least when I later learned his name, Jon Savage in a kind of semi-tropical setting, on the lam. Never been able to figure out what that movie might’ve been.


  4. says

    Escape from the Planet of the Apes is a lot of fun, as they reverse the scenario and really engage in some scathing satire. Some willing acceptance of hand-waving is necessary at the beginning for the premise to work, but once you get past that the film moves along swimmingly.

  5. James says

    Your offhand John Savage comment is just the kind of thing to get under my skin. The Deer Hunter certainly had some tropical scenes, but it’s not quite old enough for you to have seen it in 1974. IMDb says that he was in a TV movie called “Evil in the Swamp” around the right time, but I have no idea what that might be like. Nor do I really have an interest in finding out, I have to say.

    As for PotA, my spousal equivalent peformed a masterly silent version of pretty much the whole movie during a charades-like game once. Her partner was the only one in a room of a dozen people not to know what she was doing, so it went on for about two minutes and was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

  6. GlenH says

    @ Mark L. Williams – You can be somewhat less puzzled by reading C. Clarke’s book; if you so desire. This is of course assuming you haven’t already done so. Or (still assuming you haven’t read said book) I can disambiguate here – if you’re still reading the responses.

  7. says

    Hey, Glen!

    It’s been many many moons since I read the book — my recollection is that it indeed did “disambiguate” a lot of the material, but hey — in a century whose impulse and trajectory is as opaque as the 21st’s, I’m always up for more disambiguation!

  8. GlenH says

    Alright… It’s been a little while for me too but here goes. The black boxes were placed by some unknown alien civ to facilitate the growth of intelligent life. Thus the apes learn to use tools etc. When Bowmen goes through some kind of wormhole thingy created by the box on Io he arrives in an environment that mimics a hotel room albeit imperfectly and is transformed/reborn into a superior being which is the fetus thing we see at the end.