released: 30 June 1972 (USA)
run time: 88 mins
considered: Action, Sci-Fi
director: J. Lee Thompson
starring: Roddy McDowall, Don Murray, Natalie Trundy, Hari Rhodes, Severn Darden, Lou Wagner, John Randolph, Asa Maynor, H.M. Wynant, David Chow, Buck Kartalian, John Dennis, Paul Comi, Gordon Jump, Dick Spangler, Ricardo Montalban
movie summary: The last time any of us on earth had heard about the talking apes, they were gunned down on a naval ship outside of Los Angeles, California. The United States Government did their best to put an end to all future ape threats by killing Cornelius, Zira, and their baby Milo. Little did anyone know that Zira was able to switch Milo with another ape baby allowing her young pride and joy to live in the circus.
Fast forward about a decade later and Milo is all grown up. He lives with the traveling circus, run by Armando (Ricardo Montalban), and they travel from city to city to promote their coming attractions. By this time in history, humans had lost all their pets due to some virus that wiped out every living cat or dog. Humans turned to apes and now keep them as pets, training them to do household chores and other human like activities. Milo witnesses first hand how the humans treat apes and acts out at a protest causing Armando to get arrested and Milo thrown in with the rest of apes to be sold at auction.
Armando is questioned by top-level cops who try to get the truth out of him in regards to Milo the talking ape. When the cops don’t get the answers they are looking for they pressure him even more before he decides to take his own life instead of telling the truth. Milo meanwhile is sold off at auction to the Governor named Beck (Don Murray). Beck takes a personal interest in Milo and pays top dollar for him before sending him off to training. Once Milo reaches the below ground training facilities, he witnesses all the cruel punishments the apes are put through when they don’t get something right. He can see that apes are not treated fairly and is not sure that his parents stories are true, that apes will one day rule the world.
Beck summons Milo to be his personal slave at his residence. First thing he does is instruct Milo to pick a new name out of a book, so Milo flips the pages until he settles on Caesar. When Caesar is paired up with Beck’s personal assistant MacDonald (Hari Rhodes), the pair form a tight friendship because MacDonald doesn’t hate apes like everyone else. He works closely with Caesar and treats him like an equal. Everything is running smoothly between humans and apes until Caesar gets word that Armando has died.
Upset with the way the world has treated apes and his best friend, Caesar begins to make friends with apes in captivity. He plans to gain their trust and friendship in hopes of starting a rebellion against the humans. Over the next few weeks he trains the apes how to fight with fists, tools, and guns. He holds secret meetings in the dark tunnels of the city’s sewer system. Each ape that attends the meeting must bring a weapon to build up a stock pile of them for the impending war.
The Governor gets word that Caesar is building an army of apes to rebel against humans so he orders him to be arrested and executed. MacDonald figures out Caesar’s true identity, that he is the baby of the talking apes, and tries to block the execution but Beck’s men have everything covered. The Governor believes that by killing Caesar the rest of the apes will know better than to revolt and enjoy the lifestyle they currently have. Little did he know the kind of firestorm he was about to bring down on the human race by attempting to kill off the new ape leader.
my thoughts: So far in my reviews of the original Planet of the Apes movies we have learnt a lot about what happens when human invade a world run by apes. When humans learn of their doomed fate in the future, they go to great lengths to prevent it from happening until they dropped the ball once again. Milo the baby ape survived their assassination attempt and has turned ordinary apes into an army of angry slaves who want their freedom.
When the original movie hit theatres it was a success, the second movie was a disaster, while the third movie was a breath of fresh air. After getting a new lease on life, the writers, producers, and actors let this one get away from them yet again. Conquest of the Planet of Apes was supposed to be the movie that showcased how the apes came to power. After years and years of abuse and neglect, this was supposed to be their time to shine, their moment to climb the top of the mountain and be king. The may achieve it in this film and in the next film but the acting, costumes, and fight scenes were horribly executed.
There are hundreds of apes in this movie, which means hundreds of costumes and extras. The majority of them look the exact same and it’s hard to tell any of them apart especially when the battles begin. Humans seem to control every facet of life in this version of the 1990s yet are too stupid to stop their pets from uprising. It appears humans, living in a 1984 kind of world, can’t stop tripping over their own two feet and allow for uneducated pets to grab up hundreds of weapons to have a revolt. What kind of governor or president, let along police chief would allow such things? It’s great storytelling and compelling drama but it just shows how weak humans actually are.
Roddy MacDowell is great as Caesar but was better as Cornelius. He doesn’t have a lot of material to work with here like in the previous three movies. Even though he is smart and can talk, he is the exact opposite of his father. He has morals and a conscious, but when his trust is broken he finally decides to fight back. He believes in a world of peace between apes and humans and actually doesn’t mean any harm to anyone. He’s not afraid to show force, within reason, to get his point across. He’s a solid leader but is a few steps behind the Caesar character from the 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes. That Caesar led an amazing uprising of apes across San Francisco and to freedom away from the humans. The Conquest Caesar will make the grave mistake of working with the humans, to help establish boundaries and peace. His efforts to build trust could be his greatest problem moving forward into Battle of the Planet of the Apes.
my final thoughts: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is a solid continuing of the original franchise but fails to inspire us to root for the apes in their rebellion, like a future movie would. The franchise could have gone in a more horrible direction but chose to play it safe and gave us this story and characters. It won’t be the best movie out of the original five, but is not the worse.
my star rating: 5 out 10
rottentomatoes.com: 44% out 100%