Now in my re-watch of the original Planet of the Apes franchise I have arrived at my favorite film of the series, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. While I love me Planet of the Apes and it is wonderful film, more often than any other in the franchise I will pull out the blu-ray of Conquest and sit back to watch it over and over. Once I did get it on Blu-ray I also stopped watching the theatrical cut and exclusively watch the unrated directors edition. When the film was released in 1972 they had hopes of getting a ‘G’ rating, but thee scene of revolution were so intense the studio feared they might get an ‘R’ and ordered the ending re-written and the footage edited to be considerably less graphic.
Conquest is set twenty years after the end of Escape from the Planet of the Apes. During the twilight years of Bush 41’s presidency (that’s snark because the film is set 1991, now more than twenty years in out past) apes have become a slave population, having progressed from pets, replacing the cats and dogs that died in a global pandemic into a servant and slaves. Armando, the kind hearted circus owner last seen saving the time-traveling apes’ baby has returned to the city, bring the circus for a need tour, and along with it the now adult intelligent ape Caesar. (Whom was named Milo as a baby in the last film but hey retcon is nothing new.) thing go badly and before long Ceasar is a slave himself, alone and friendless, subject to the same brutal treatment as his ape brothers and sisters, including the producer’s wife in appearance number 3 in the ape movies. In the end Caesar lives up to his new name and leads a revolt overthrowing the fascist power structure in a brutal, bloody, and revenge filled night. The film ends with images of the city burning and nearly all of our principle human characters dead.
It is grim, dark, and very deliberate metaphorical statement on violence generating more violence. This is an example of 70’s cinema that I truly enjoy. It is dark, it is grim, it is cynical, but it is also stuffed with ideas. This is a film that using the pretext of science-fiction and adventure tries to talk about the very real troubles and issues plaguing the United States then and today. SF films of the 70s really began to turn to adult themes and ponder serious questions, and even a film such as this one, with limited budget and an eye firmly fixed on the bottom line, did not jettison the idea for the spectacle. Today all too often SF movies are nothing more than extremely big budgeted action films devoid to content and thought. (I’m looking at you Transformers and pretty much anything from Michael Bay.) If you have not seen this film, or it has been many years, get the blu-ray and watched the uncut version. It’s quite a shocker. (next up, shudder, Battle for the Planet of the Apes.)