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  Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Dad, Do You Know The Piano's On My Foot?
Year: 1972
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Stars: Roddy McDowall, Don Murray, Ricardo Montalban, Hari Rhodes, Natalie Trundy, Severn Darden, Lou Wagner, John Randolph, Buck Kartalian
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: The year is 1991. A plague has destroyed the dog and cat population of Earth and apes have replaced them as pets. But now apes have become slaves to their human masters, and one intelligent talking chimpanzee, Caesar (Roddy MacDowall), who is actually the son of a pair of superintelligent apes from the future is determined to set his ape brethren free from the bonds of humanity's tyranny...

The fourth episode in producer Arthur P. Jacobs' Planet of the Apes series was written by Paul Dehn, as many in this franchise were. In many ways, and in spite of its predictability, it's the best of the sequels as it returns to the political themes that gave the original its depth and resonance - you could argue Beneath the Planet of the Apes saw the concept at its nuttiest, but there's real grit here. The difference here is that the apes are the oppressed victims, and the humans are the bad guys.

There is a definite sense of class war, and more pertinently, race war in Conquest. The apes are seen to be taking menial jobs like cleaning up, shining shoes and being waiters, all in the service of mankind, much in the way that African American characters would in the earlier movies out of Hollywood. They are second class citizens, and the film deliberately draws parallels with slavery, which, while not exactly flattering, makes for a considerably edgier drama.

McDowall comes across as a chimp Spartacus rallying his troops into revolt, which takes the form of a massive brawl filling up the whole of the last half hour of the movie, with apes and humans slaughtering each other. The future we see (well, it was the future in 1972) is a concrete and glass police state controlled by jackbooted cops led by the fascistic Governor (Don Murray). There are a few concessions to sci-fi technology, such as a torture device/lie detector, and green cigarettes that don't give you cancer.

Not all the humans are villains, Ricardo Montalban (carried over from the previous film) plays Caesar's best friend, but doesn't last long, and one of the officials (Hari Rhodes) helps out the now-rising rebel leader Caesar when he sees the injustice of the apes' situation (significantly, Rhodes is an African American actor, which did not go unnoticed by audiences of the day). But the final speech, where Caesar calls for death to all humans was noticeably softened by a "Well, let's be nice to them, really" addendum which looks out of place after all we've seen.

That change was ordered by the studio who did not find the message of racial uprising sitting well in a nation that had emerged from the race riots of the sixties, though now you can see the film in its more violent original form, and if anything it's even more powerful and uncompromising. Still, considering Conquest is basically a third cash-in sequel, it's surprising it goes as far as it does with its civil rights message and pretentions to social commentary, and is none the worse for that. In its way, an extraordinary release from a major studio, even in the notoriously unsettled and tumultuous seventies. I know continuity isn't exactly this series' strong point, but how did the apes evolve so fast? Pseudo-Jerry Goldsmith music by Tom Scott.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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J. Lee Thompson  (1914 - 2002)

Veteran British director frequently in Hollywood, usually with stories featuring an adventure or thriller slant. Among his many films, including a number of Charles Bronson movies, are Yield to the Night, Ice Cold in Alex, North West Frontier, the original Cape Fear, Tiger Bay, The Guns of Navarone, What a Way To Go!, Eye of the Devil, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes and Happy Birthday to Me.

 
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