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  • Rev Horror

Escape from the Planet of the Apes

Dir. Don Taylor (1971)

Three talking chimps arrive on Earth in a US spacecraft, and one man believes they are up to no good.


Hey you guys, what if the monkeys came to Earth instead! - Actual pitch meeting for Escape from the Planet of the Apes, I'm sure.


Turning the tables on the damned dirty monkeys from the first two films, three chimpanzees, Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), Zira (Kim Hunter), and Milo (Sal Mineo) find themselves crash landed on past (or present, depending on your perspective) Earth after boarding a ship to escape the destruction of their planet. After their arrival, they find themselves subject to some of the same prejudice and mistreatment as Taylor and Brent did on their own planet. After revealing their ability to talk and their advanced intellects, Cornelius and Zira find themselves international celebrities before eventually facing off against Dr. Otto Hasslein (The Young and the Restless' Eric Braeden) in a fight to change the future of the entire planet.

Whether it is the film's basis in our known world or just its self-aware, tongue-in-cheek handling of the subject matter, Escape from the Planet of the Apes is both entirely different than the previous two films in the series and also a completely different genre. It still contains the science fiction elements of the franchise, but it focuses a lot more of its runtime on comedy and heartfelt drama, and it contains just as much, if not more, social critique as the first film. Racism is on blast, of course, as is the ponderance of the God Complex of science writ large. Unlike the first film, which compared the positive aspects of science with the negatives of religion, Escape flips the script and explores the savagery of science towards those they deem less-than.


Escape from the Planet of the Apes is a fascinating film, a much more enjoyable effort from an entertainment perspective as its predecessors, and it feels like a film that could almost stand on its own. It sheds light on many of the mysteries from the previous two films, including the path that humanity took to wind up with a planet full of ape overlords. It answers all of these questions in satisfying and illuminating ways, though it hardly needs the uneven films that came before it to explore this potential future and its causes. Escape feels as much like an extended Twilight Zone episode as it does a sequel to two previous films, which is a welcome trade-off after the insanity of Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

The questions at the heart of the film, whether a future can be avoided or if present actions, no matter their cause or intent, will simply cause the future to come into the present, are typical science fiction fare, and they're handled very well. Likewise, the evolutionary discussions of who-begat-who is discussed in interesting and groundbreaking ways, The juxtaposition of evil scientists, as well as the question of whether their actions are, in present day, truly evil, with the politicians who are actually trying to do the right thing is refreshing, certainly different from what would be portrayed in any movie made today. And politicians were hardly less evil in the 70's, to be sure.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes is an excellent sequel, choosing to go in a different direction than the previous films in the franchise in a way that feels refreshing rather than pandering, seeking to truly add to the lore instead of cash-grabbing off of a popular series. This in and of itself should make it one of the better sequels in film history, and for a third film, it is heads and shoulders above its direct predecessor. I truly expected a greatly diminished return, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. McDowall and Hunter steal the show, delivering charming and thought-provoking performances that are every bit as good as anything in the series so far.


Who this movie is for: Planet of the Apes fans, Science fiction aficionados, Monkey moms


Bottom line: Escape from the Planet of the Apes feels like an especially good Disney movie, focusing much more on heartwarming drama and comedy than the previous two films. It's endearing, fascinating, and incredibly well-done, and it's almost a standalone effort that doesn't need what came before. The actors do a fine job, especially the standout roles of Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter, and Eric Braeden gives the series an excellently evil villain. Even if the first two films weren't for you, Escape is definitely one you should check out. The entire series is streaming right now on Hulu, give it a shot before checking out the upcoming reboot-sequel.

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