Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)


release date: 21 May 1971
run time: 98 mins
rated: G
considered: Action, Sci-Fi
director: Don Taylor
starring: Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Bradford Dillman, Natalie Trundy, Eric Braeden, William Windom, Sal Mineo, Albert Salmi, Jason Evers, John Randolph, Harry Lauter, M. Emmet Walsh, Roy Glenn, Peter Forster, Norman Burton

movie summary: If you have been following my Planet of the Apes movie reviews, or have seen the original movies, you should know by now how the second movie ended. In Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the Earth was destroyed when apes and humans had a gun battle to decide which race was superior. With one push of a button, the war and everything we knew came to an end. After helping the humans Taylor and Brent escape captivity, apes Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), his wife Zira (Kim Hunter), and their friend Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo) expected bad things to come from the impending war so they boarded a space ship and went into outer space.

The ship is sent into a time warp, thanks to the nuclear explosion, back to the United States in the 1970s. When the ship crash lands in the ocean somewhere near present day Los Angeles, the US Government shows up to rescue the astronauts only to be shocked and surprised when three walking apes get out of the shuttle. Considering the hairy beasts aliens, the government escorts them to the zoo where they will undergo scientific observations. After playing a few mind games with doctors Stephanie (Natalie Trundy) and Lewis (Bradford Dillman), the apes agree to not let humans know who they are, where they came from, and that they can speak. Zira grows tired of the games and decides to speak out blowing their cover. Shocked just like the other government officials, both Stephanie and Lewis have a meeting outside the lab. While they are away Dr. Milo is killed by a gorilla from another cage. Cornelius and Zira are left alone with no one else to trust. They are informed that the President of the United States would like to meet them and hear about their story. No one really believes the story Cornelius has told, that they are from the future place where apes are the rulers and humans are slaves. They warn that if humans don’t smarten up now they will end their own destiny. Curious about their story, a senior advisor named Dr. Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden) begins to question every detail in their story in hopes of making them slip up and tell him the truth about who they really are.

After a special meeting in front of a scientific panel and the national media, Cornelius and Zira are turned into celebrities over night. They are put up in fancy hotels, treated to grand dinners, meet with other celebrities, all while continuously being questioned by the government. When Dr. Hasslein doesn’t get any answers out of the now famous apes, he decides to split them up and drug Zira to get every detail of what their life was like and how they plan to threaten and take over the human race. When Dr. Hasslein takes his case to the President himself, they come an agreement that both apes need to be killed to save the human race. Cornelius decides to break Zira out of the clinic and escape away from the humans who now want them dead.

Thanks to some help from Stephanie and Lewis, Cornelius and Zira are able to collect enough supplies to go on the run. Zira has revealed she is pregnant and they must find a safe haven so she can give birth. If the humans find them they will kill all of three of them which could mean that the future of apes is in jeopardy. When the couple sets up camp on an abandoned naval ship, Zira gives birth to a baby male ape, named Milo, while Cornelius prepares to protect his family when Dr. Hasslein and the cops show up to kill them all.


my thoughts: Most of you know by now that I love the two new Planet of the Apes movies, and set out to watch the original series for my Throwback Thursdays. This time around I am reviewing my favourite movie of the original five, Escape from the Planet of the Apes. I felt that the sequel to the original movie was absolutely brutal and was no way to end such a promising franchise. The writers, producers, and actors were given another chance with a third installment, Escape, and didn’t disappoint. If anyone watching the new releases wonder what the connection was between Caesar and the original movies, then you’ll be happy to know that Cornelius and Zira’s baby boy was named Milo and when he grew up changed his name to Caesar.

I loved this movie the most because it was thoughtful, entertaining, and set the course for future movies and stories. After the way the last one ended no one in their right mind would have imagined someone survived, but the writers threw us a curveball and in order to make more movies, they somehow had three apes survive the apocolypse. Much like one of my favourite episodes of Star Trek, I love the time travel aspect in this movie because the apes travel to modern-day America and try to blend in. (In case you were wondering, the Star Trek episode I was talking about was when Spock, Kirk, and McCoy head back to 1960 America to intercept the space shuttle launch) Anyways back to the point, the story features all the classic parts like the US government scared of anything that isn’t human, aliens, space travel, atomic bombs, and the national media going mainstream. Officials start to lose their minds when they get word about how the world is going to end in 2000 years, and will do anything to prevent it.

Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter do a fantastic job as apes in a strange new world. They try their best to blend in but understand they are living targets and must be always on alert. They sense that their baby is in danger because the scientists and high government officials question them a thousand times over hoping to crack a code and put them down. I love how they were smart to escape, smart enough to hide the future of their ape civilization, and then smart to fight to the bitter end. Their story for survival amongst a race that has zero tolerance for games is compelling drama. I feel bad for the way they are treated, but understand the heighten sense of uncertainty and why the government acted the way they did.

One of my favourite parts of the movies is gun battle on the naval ship and the ending. The ending is great because just when the government thinks they have won, they have ultimately lost and only sets us up future movies!

my final thoughts: I’ve gotten some mixed feedback so far on my Planet of the Apes franchise reviews. As good as the original movie is, I love Escape from the Planet of the Apes the best out of the original five. I’d recommend it anyone interested in past, present, or future Apes movies. It was a great reboot after a horrible second movie that nearly killed the franchise. Despite its lack of action sequences (like all the other films) Escape gives us a solid story with great acting and a future worth waiting for.

my star rating: 8 out 10 6.2/10
metascore: n/a 78% out 100% n/a

5 thoughts on “Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

    1. This is the second week in a row you’ve pointed out something about the original Apes movies that I never thought of and you’ve blown my mind again. Never ever would have I ever thought of Moses and that epic story in comparsion to the birth of Caesar and the future of the Apes. I can’t wait for your comments next week. Btw did you comment on the original Apes movie review? I did it a while ago.

  1. Good review!
    Two of the reasons why I love th original 1968 movie: th performances by Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall. It was really great to see them in this – by far th best sequel.
    Thank you for concentrating on this neglected classic!

    1. Thanks for the comment! Like I mentioned before I had never seen the originals and was impressed with one and three. I was disappointed with two, four, and five. I know it’s tough to compare CGI apes to real customed apes from the 1970s but both are truely amazing. Hope you had a chance to check out my other apes reviews!

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