Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Year: 1970
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Ted Post
Writer: Pierre Boulle
Cast: James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison, Natalie Trundy
In some ways, this was a better film than the original Planet of the Apes . Not a better idea (not much could top one of the best science fiction ideas in literary or cinematic history - not even the archetypal good vs evil of Star Wars), but a better movie - in the sense that it delved deeper into the world we were still curious about after leaving Taylor with his final devastating realisation.

Because Heston was reluctant to play Taylor again and only agreed if his part could be shot quickly, the part of Brent (Franciscus) was devised as another astronaut sent in search of Taylor.

Brent arrives as Taylor and his crew did in the first film and starts searching for them. Making contact with Cornelius (David Watson - the only time the character wasn't played by Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Hunter), he learns that Taylor and Nova (Harrison) have disappeared into the Forbidden Zone.

Tracking them there, Brent discovers another awful truth about the world of the future; a race of mutated humans remains in the underground ruins of New York City; telepathic, horribly disfigured and in worship of a nuclear missile capable of destroying Earth (a masterstroke of satire in the tense, Vietnam and Cold War times the film came out as much of the world was indeed worshipping the military and the concept of absolute force and destruction).

There he finds Taylor and Harrison have been taken prisoner, but more trouble brews; having unwittingly given the position of the human civilisation away to ape society, Brent doesn't realise that the fearsome gorilla military General Ursus goads the apes into supporting an attack on the last humans and a battle rages in the Forbidden Zone for domination of the world before Taylor - in his last act against the idiocy of both mankind and apekind - activates the missile and destroys the world.

To some fans that should have been the end of it - it was a fantastic story well told. But Hollywood politics and economics came into play and it wasn't long before a subplot of Zira, Cornelius and their cohort escaping was written so they could go back in time to the origin of Brent and Taylor's missions (the United States of today) and kick off three more increasingly uninspiring sequels.

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