Ape-praising The Apes: Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes (1972) - DVD Review

'for really the first time the series operates under a noticeably restricted budget'

Technically, Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes is the film which new series entry, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, remakes although, when you look at the detail, there seems to only be face value similarities. Following on from Escape From The Planet Of The Apes, Conquest starts a little distance in to the future with Caesar (Roddy McDowall), the son of original escapees, Cornelius and Zira, still in hiding under the stewardship of Armando (Ricardo Montalban). As Caesar becomes more and more exposed to the growing inequality which separates human and ape, he begins to lead a monkey rebellion, setting Earth on course for the situation Taylor finds in the first film (remember: there's time travel involved. If you're not confused yet you soon will be).

Director J. Lee Thompson, who also directs the final film of the original series, has some interesting ideas but, for really the first time, the series forces him to operate under a noticeably restricted budget. Most of the film takes place in the same recognisable outdoor location (a vaguely futuristic looking, monolithic, set of grey buildings) with some interiors adding a touch of variety. Key scenes, including the climatic battle, all take place here and it gives the effect not of a large metropolis where apes are widely kept as pets and servants, but of an insular society, which soon becomes impossible to identify with. Said final battle is one of the scenes dealt the harshest blows by the lack of budget and constricted location. There's no real room for anyone to move and the stand-off between apes and humans looks like it occurs over a space of merely a few metres.

Technical considerations aside, Thompson works hard to make us care about what is happening, bringing McDowall back to play his former character's son and reintroducing Montalban, a charismatic presence whose screen time was restricted in the previous film. It's a brave attempt but some of the plotting doesn't really help. Montalban is charming but quickly marginalised and Caesar's move from subservient student to violent revolutionary happens too quickly and with only a few poorly directed scenes to egg him on. There's a good story here somewhere but it quickly gets lost behind the need to get to the action.

Other good moments include a couple of nice shots of the locale at the start of the battle (particularly the bridge), which call to mind the careful framing photography in this year's Attack The Block, a film centred around a similar-looking location. In all though, despite the fact that the film is nowhere near as flat as Beneath, this doesn't have the skill or the script to make it anywhere near interesting enough and any ideas it could have explored (most notably slavery) are glossed over in pursuit of a respectable run time.

Look further...

'lead-footed and erratic, with the climactic skirmish shot way too close' - eFilmCritic


  1. Wow, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree and say that this film blew me away - far and away my favourite of the four original sequels. I felt it was powerful and unreserved in its violent execution.

    I reviewed it here if you fancy checking it out: http://crabhoward.blogspot.com/2011/08/turning-of-hide.html

    Futhermore, if budget limitations bothered you here (where I must say, they didn't for me - I loved the concrete monotonous locale and what it said about the society who lived in it) then brace yourself for "Battle" which, IMO, truly is let down by a lack of funds.

    ~ CR@BHoward

  2. I've watched battle now and yes, completely agree with you. The final battle in particular is horribly lacking in budget.

    I still prefer ESCAPE to this but I can see the argument (a couple of people have said to me that they think this is better than I give it credit for). Caesar's speech at the end is a good bit of scripting but I must say I didn't get anything powerful from it. I'd put it second, behind ESCAPE and before BATTLE and BENEATH, but I can't claim that I really enjoyed it. Glad you did!

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  4. Good review. I have to say, I found Conquest the least interesting of the first 4 POTA movies thus far (haven't quite made it to Battle yet).

    I'm interested in what you thought of Rise of The Planet of the Apes. Personally I found it a little overrated. It was good, but I was expecting more.

  5. I liked CONQUEST much more than BENEATH and BATTLE but then, as above, there are a fair few people who are willing to defend it and put it second behind PLANET. I'm very interested to see what they've done with RISE but it's looking more and more likely that I'm going to have to wait for the DVD to find out.