Welcome to today’s show, my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the links to social media in the podcast show notes. So please subscribe when you are finished listening. You can also go to classicmovierev.com to read notes, bios, and other random movie thoughts.
Today’s movie is Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). It is the fifth and final of the original PoA series. And in my humble opinion, it is by far the worst.
We have a number of show veterans and a couple of big stars to report on. So, let’s get going.
Roddy McDowall continued his role as Caesar from the previous movie and was shown as Cornelius in clips from earlier movies. McDowall was first covered in Episode 118 – Planet of the Apes (1968).
Natalie Trundy reprised her role as chimp Lisa from the previous movie. Trundy was covered in Episode 119 – Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970).
Claude Akins, with his gruff voice, took on the role of Gorilla General Aldo. Akins was covered in Episode 110 – The Caine Mutiny (1954).
Severn Darden returned as Kolp, but this time he was the governor. Darden was covered in Episode 36 – Back to School (1986).
Paul Williams played super smart orangutan Virgil. Williams was born in 1940 in Nebraska. As an adult, Williams stood 5’2”. He is an amazing song writer, entertainer, and actor. Some of the songs he has written include “We’ve Only Just Begun”, “Rainy Days and Mondays”, “Evergreen”, “Just an Old Fashioned Love Song”, “Rainbow Connection”, Out in the Country” and “Family of Man”. Williams is in the American Songwriters Hall of Fame and has won an Oscar, a Grammy, and Golden Globe Awards.
Williams wrote songs for Cinderella Liberty (1973) and Phantom of the Paradise (1974). He was the Music Supervisor for A Star Is Born (1976). He won the Oscar for Best Song for “Evergreen” in 1976. He received two nominations for The Muppet Movie (1979).
Williams also wrote music for Bugsy Malone (1976), The Secret of NIMH (1982), The End (1978), Rocky IV (1985), Ishtar (1987), and The Sum of All Fears (2002).
With all that he may be best known for playing Little Enos in Smokey and the Bandit (1977), (1980), and (1983). He was in Frog (1987), Solar Crisis (1990), The Doors (1991), Frogs! (1993), and Headless Body in Topless Bar (1995). Of course, he was Virgil in Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). He has had numerous other movies and television roles, voice over work, and more music.
He has also worked extensively with drug addiction and treatment programs. Is he still active, he has a role in Baby Driver (2017), so I would say yes.
John Huston played the role of the orangutan Lawgiver and narrator. Actor and director John Huston was born in Missouri in 1906. It would not be controversial to say Huston is one of the greatest American directors. In “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” 5th edition (edited by Steven Schneider), Huston had nine movies listed as follows: The Maltese Falcon (1941), San Pietro (1945), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), Beat the Devil (1953), Fat City (1972), Prizzi’s Honor (1985), and The Dead (1987). I don’t know why Beat the Devil (1953) was on this list, whether it was serious or spoof, it’s still horrible.
Huston was the son of the legendary actor Walter Huston. It is said that John began acting in vaudeville with his father at the age of 3. John was 14 when his parents divorced. He spent his youth traveling with his actor father and reporter mother. Huston was a sickly child but by 14 he started boxing and later won the Amateur Lightweight Boxing Championship of California.
Huston appeared on Broadway in 1925. Huston, escaped to Mexico, leaving behind work and wife, where he served in the cavalry for a time. He returned to New York and worked as a journalist before skipping off Europe. As a result of screen writing, he had appeared in some films. Huston returned to the US in 1933.
He worked as a screen writer for Warner Brothers and eventually he was given the job of screenwriter and director for The Maltese Falcon (1941). This movie made Humphrey Bogart a super star and the director gave a role to his father, Walter Huston. Huston continued to screen write and directed in This Our Life (1942) and Across the Pacific (1942).
Huston served in World War II and made government films. Following the war, he married his third wife, Evelyn Keyes. Keyes was discussed in Episode 38 – 99 River Street (1953). She is the only one of John Huston’s five wives that I am mentioning because she told him she or the pet monkey would have to leave and Huston said. It’s you!
Huston knocked it out of the park again with Humphrey Bogart and his father Walter Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Walter received an Oscar for best-supporting actor and John won for both the screen play and the directing. John also cast himself in the movie. John Huston’s career was in high gear and the movies that followed included Key Largo (1948), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), The Red Badge of Courage (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), Moby Dick (1956), The Misfits (1961), The Night of the Iguana (1964), The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966), Casino Royale (1967), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Annie (1982), and Prizzi’s Honor (1985).
During this time Huston was brave enough to help form a group called the Committee for the First Amendment in 1947, which stood up to the un-American activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee.
In 1964, Huston moved to Ireland but kept working including some great acting roles like in Otto Preminger’s The Cardinal (1963), Chinatown (1974), and my personal favorite, The Wind and the Lion (1975) where he played advisor to the president. He also starred in some real dogs like Candy (1968) and Myra Breckinridge (1970).
Huston’s personal life is often compared to men like Ernest Hemingway. Clint Eastwood starred in White Hunter Black Heart (1990), which is a semi-autobiographical story of an African elephant hunting adventure Huston took while filming The African Queen (1951).
Huston died at the age of 81 in 1987. Some of Huston’s achievements include directing a father and a daughter, Anjelica Huston, to an Oscar. He was part of the first father/son duo to win Oscars for the same film for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). He directed 15 different actors to Oscars. Finally, he was voted the 13th greatest director of all-time by Entertainment Weekly.
This movie begins with The Lawgiver (John Huston) telling the story of the Planet of the Apes. The date is A.D. 2670 and the location is North America. The Lawgiver says evil apes and men defied God and made war. He says Caesar was a savior and then they show clips from Escape where Cornelius and Zira were killed and baby Caesar escaped. Then they show how Caesar led the revolution in Conquest. Following the nuclear war, Caesar led a small group of apes and humans away from the cities to start a new life. It has been more than a decade since the group of apes and humans decided to live together.
A gorilla, General Aldo (Claude Akins) is out riding a horse when he should be in school. Aldo rides through the village where humans and apes are working, but it seems humans may be working a little harder and the gorillas treat the humans with contempt. Aldo helps with a wagon and shows his superior strength to the humans. Aldo gets snotty when anyone fails to call him General.
Young chimps, orangutans, and gorillas are at the school being taught by Abe (Noah Keen). When Aldo arrives late, the human teacher is hard on him. The star pupil is chimp Cornelius (Bobby Porter), the son of Caesar (Roddy McDowall) and Lisa (Natalie Trundy). The main message at the school is “Ape shall never kill ape.”
The situation at the school spirals downward until Abe screams “No, Aldo, No.” It is forbidden for humans to say no to apes as that is the word they were electrically taught to fear in Conquest. Orangutan Virgil (Paul Williams), is trying to teach the theory of relatively to some other apes. He sees what is happening at the school and helps Abe escape as the gorillas destroy the school and chase the teacher.
Caesar stops Aldo from locking Abe in the corral, but Aldo refuses to fix the school as he is ordered. Virgil stands up and explains that Abe was provoked. African American Bruce MacDonald (Austin Stoker), the brother of MacDonald from Conquest tells Caesar that he is worried about Aldo attacking apes as well as humans.
Aldo tries to ride Caesar down and MacDonald pulls him out of the way. Later MacDonald makes a dig that the apes are their masters. Caesar regrets that he does not remember his parents. MacDonald says there should be tapes of his parents in the bunker by the command center where his brother used to work. He believes that the future apes may tell of the Earth’s destruction. Since the city is radioactive, they will have to consult with Virgil.
Lisa is worried that Caesar is going to the city. Young Cornelius asks his father to bring him back nuts for his pet squirrel. Caesar, Virgil, and MacDonald go to Mandemus (Lew Ayres) to get weapons from the armory. They get three machine guns, a pistol, and a Giger counter. The trio heads to the forbidden city. Of course, it is in the Forbidden Zone and the three-day trip is pretty crappy. They make it to the melted city. The trio goes underground and as the counter clicks, they make it to the archives.
In another part of the city, Governor Kolp (Severn Darden) and other humans are working and suffering from the effects of radiation. Kolp was the chief of the secret police and worked for Governor Breck in Conquest. The ape/human trio activate an alarm and the humans find out that they are in the archives. Kolp recognizes Caesar when he sees them on the security cameras.
The trio finds the Presidential Commission tapes and the tape player works fine. Clips from Conquest are shown. Klop sends his men to capture or wound the trio. One mutant human mentions it will break a 12-year truce. Virgil tells Caesar that the tapes he sees are only one future and he uses the same highway lane analogy that Dr. Haselein used. When the trio sees the camera move, they shoot it out.
The humans’ search for the trio as the group looks for another way out of the underground. The humans jump the trio but they get away. There is a chase through the tunnels but finally, Caesar uses a fire hose to stop the humans. Klop screams maniacally for his people to kill the trio. All though there is a lot of gun fire, the trio escapes and heads home. Klop chews his men out for letting the trio escape. Klop sends out search parties to find out where the trio went.
Back at Ape City, Caesar has another conflict with Aldo. Lisa catches Cornelius playing war with a human and he gets chewed out. The human patrol makes it to Ape City and sees Caesar holding a council. When Abe, MacDonald, and other humans show up to the meeting, Aldo objects and takes the gorillas away.
Klop’s men beg for peace. They report that there is food and the apes were making a plan for war. Lisa asks Caesar why he plans to make war on humans. Caesar thanks all the mutant humans are mad. Naturally, Klop feels the same about the apes.
Governor Klop mobilizes his semi-mechanized army, including a school bus, and heads to Ape City. Kolp is rocking a skull cap and red goggles. This could be all the rage in Austin. Cornelius’ pet squirrel makes a break and the young chimp follows trying to catch him. Cornelius stumbles into a gorilla rally where they are talking about getting guns and taking power. Cornelius climbs a tree to get a better view. He hears that they plan on making war against all humans then they will take on Caesar. The apes see Cornelius in the tree and Aldo hacks the branch he is on until the young chimp falls to the ground. Lisa finds her young son injured and unconscious on the ground. Aldo and the gorillas have already fled.
In the morning, MacDonald finds the gorillas’ fire pit and sees that the branch has been hacked. The ape and human medical staff cannot help Cornelius.
On the edge of the Forbidden Zone, a gorilla scouting party attacks and kills one of Governor Kolp’s men. Kolp’s men fire a recoilless rifle at the gorillas, killing one. MacDonald tells Virgil about how Cornelius was injured. About that time, the surviving gorilla from the scouting party reports to Aldo. Aldo calls for a council and says the attack was unprovoked.
Aldo orders all humans locked in the corral and the gorillas roughly round them up. The gorillas raid Mandemus’ armory and take all of the guns. Cornelius is standing over his injured son. Virgil final makes it to Caesar’s house and warns him about the gorilla activity. Just before he dies, Caesar tells his father that “they” hurt him.
Kolp deploys his forces outside of Ape City and gets ready to attack the barricade built by the gorillas. Virgil tells Caesar what he knows and they head to the corral and see the imprisoned humans being guarded by armed gorillas. Caesar confronts the gorillas and orders them to release the humans. However, the first shots from Kolp’s army hit the city.
The mutant army attacks as mortars fire heavy explosives (HE) while the main body fires recoilless rifles and heavy machine guns. The gorillas mount horses for a cavalry attack. Caesar orders all of the apes to MAN? the barricade. The HE mortar fire is taking a heavy toll on the apes. Both Virgil and Caesar are firing rifles from behind the barricade although neither species usually fights. The mortars start laying down a smoke screen as the mutants make their assault into the city.
With no sign of Aldo and the cavalry, Caesar orders the defenders of the barricade to fall back. The apes do a great job of falling back under fire. Very professional. The mutants drive their vehicles through the barricade.
When the mutants make it to the center of Ape City all of the apes appear to be dead. Caesar groans and is captured. Kolp recognizes him as Caesar and gives a long speech about re-enslaving the apes. Classic James Bond villain mistake. Kolp should have just shot him in the face.
Lisa screams “no Kolp” from her house and Virgil throws a hand grenade as does another chimp. Caesar yells “Now, fight like apes!” What appeared to be dead apes jump up and start fighting the mutant humans. The mutants are quickly subdued in the paw to hand fighting that takes place. Caesar orders no killing, only capture.
Kolp and a few of his men escape in a school bus. Having watched the battle from a hilltop, Aldo and his cavalry ride down and kill the escaping humans.
Back in the village, Caesar is being hailed by apes of all species that fought on the barricade. He orders that all the humans released. Aldo rides in and says he is in charge and orders his group of gorillas to kill the humans. Caesar steps between the gorillas and the humans. Virgil says ape has never killed ape, let alone an ape child. He further tells how Aldo murdered the child. This turns the entire ape crowd against Aldo. All the apes start chanting ape has killed ape. To get away, Aldo climbs a tree and as everyone knows, gorillas do brachiate. Caesar climbs after Aldo. The two begin to fight on a branch and Aldo falls to his death.
They free the human’s but MacDonald demands that they are given complete freedom. Caesar says the human way is death. However, Virgil reminds him that Aldo wasn’t human. The humans and apes decide to rebuild together, as equals. Mandamus gets all of the guns returned to the armory.
Speaking 600 years in the future, 2670, the Lawgiver tells of the peace humans and apes have had for that time. A small black girl asks what the future holds, the lawgiver replies perhaps only the dead know the future. They pull back to a statue of Caesar and he has a single tear coming out of one eye. In the 1970s, there was a lot of one-eyed crying.
This movie changed the future that was seen in the Planet of the Apes (1968). A little more of a Kumbaya ending for evolving senses.
The main issue I have with this movie is that the previous four movies dealt with the issues of racism and other issues of the time. This final movie was made to make everyone feel good and that is why the humans and the apes were living together.
World-Famous Short Summary – Don’t tell them your plan. Get a gun and shoot them in the face.
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Beware the moors
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)