Ape-praising The Apes: Escape From The Planet Of The Apes (1971) - DVD Review

Ape-praising The Apes: Film Intel looks back at all of the original Apes films in the lead up to Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

The apes arrival is played for laughs whilst being accompanied by a freestyle-feeling jazz score. There's even a moment where Cornelius and Zira are taken shopping

The third Planet Of The Apes film, Escape From The Planet Of The Apes, takes the series in a different direction entirely (not that there was much choice at the end of Beneath), transplanting the action from a future Earth run by the monkeys to the present day (well... the 1970s) where three apes have just landed in a space shuttle. The opening to Don Taylor's one and only contribution to the series riffs well on the opening to the first two films as Apes favourites Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) emerge from Taylor's spaceship to confront a shocked cohort of army officials.

From here the film takes a dubious turn into comedy. The apes arrival is played for laughs whilst being accompanied by a freestyle-feeling jazz score. There's even a moment where Cornelius and Zira are taken shopping by well-intentioned guardians Lewis (Bradford Dillman) and Stephanie (Natalie Trundy). It's easy to criticise the film for taking the easy route out and laughing at the series' own values but hey, at least there's a lot more fun in Escape than there is in the stodgy and uninteresting Beneath.

The moralising of the series doesn't get entirely left by the wayside either. Having discovered the fate of the future Earth, scientist Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden) and the President Of The United States Of America (William Windom) wrestle with whether they have the right to kill the apes and potentially avoid future calamities. It goes without saying that Escape holds its ideals in much lower esteem than the first film but at least they're here to be considered and the conversations between Hasslein and The President hold some of the scripts most developed moments.

Like Beneath before it, this is still lightweight compared to the first film but at least it feels like someone bothered to write a coherent story this time, rather than the loose excuse to return Heston to the planet the previous film felt like. The inverting of the source material is a logical development (even if some of the things the film then does are baffling) and the humour is, largely, an enjoyable touch. Credit to to the ending too, which shares the pessimistic notes of the first two films, rather than opting for a feel good finale to the initial trilogy.

Look further...

'works fairly well as the central movie of the franchise but will have little to offer non-devotees' - BBC Films, 3/5


  1. 1971...I was 1!!! But what an iconic photo you have posted. Oh the nostalgia! Just looking at it I'm surprised at how it hasn't dated as much as I thought it would. I'm really wondering if just maybe the re-boot should have used humans dressed as apes instead of CGI. They probably should have and kept the tradition of the originals, and brought them forward to modern viewers to give them a feel of what made these movies so popular.
    Certainly shows how latex special effects were as good then as they are now, and for me reinforces my argument that CGI can never really replace the qualities of real props.

  2. It's an interesting debate. As I said on the last article, I think part of the reason they didn't even really look at doing it this time is that they would have wanted to distance themselves from Burton's film as much as possible. I've seen shots of Burton's film over the last few days and I have to say the costumes, makeup, etc., do look quite good still. Would have been cool to see what they came up with had they decided to go down that route for RISE OF...

  3. I became nostalgic! So I went to my DVD collection and I looked again at the first film Planet of the Apes.What times!