Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) Director: Ted Post
The first half of Beneath the Planet of the Apes sets up a surprisingly compelling throwback to the original film. We follow a man named Brent (James Franciscus, an actor nearly identical in appearance to Chuck Heston) who crash-lands on a presumed foreign planet. He wanders through the same Forbidden Zone from the first film before he meets the mute girl from the original film, Nova (Linda Harrison). They enter the Ape City together but are quickly captured and brought to Cornelius (this time played by David Watson) and Zira (Kim Hunter). The Ape civilization announces an invasion of the Forbidden Zone, despite the objections of Dr. Zaius, and thus Brent and Nova try to quietly escape but they are tracked by a pack of ape-soldiers. Brent and Nova discover the remnants of New York City underground –and here is where the film runs off the rails in my view– they encounter a bizarre religious cult of mutant evolved humans in possession of telepathic powers (in my view they are reminiscent of the Talosians as seen in the unaired pilot of Star Trek, “The Cage”). These mutants are descendants of survivors of a nuclear holocaust and they now worship a giant atomic bomb. The mutants then imprison Brent and Nova where we suddenly meet our hero from the first film, Taylor (Charlton Heston agreed to reprise his role under the condition that he be promptly killed off). The trio stages an escape, but they witness a battle between the apes and mutants which ends in a bloody shoot-out as all parties are unceremoniously shot to pieces. With Heston’s trademark dramatic acting and with his dying breath, Taylor pushes a giant red button detonating the sacred nuclear bomb, presumably destroying all life on earth. An odd voice is suddenly heard over the backdrop of a blank screen: “In one of the countless billions of galaxies in the universe lies a medium-sized star. And one of its satellites, a green and insignificant planet, is now dead.” And the film abruptly ends. It would be a bleak and nihilistic conclusion if it weren’t for the fact that it was obviously a hastily cobbled-together script with little foresight or effort.
While the production team apparently tossed aside many creative ideas from Rod Serling and novelist Pierre Boulle, the resulting sequel Beneath The Planet of the Apes unfortunately barely lands as a B-movie. It was plagued by budgetary problems, deadline issues, reused sets and other cheap cost-cutting measures. Somewhat unsurprisingly this sequel falls far short of the original.