Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

50th anniversary of Beneath the Planet of the Apes

by Rob - May 26th, 2020.
Filed under: Anniversaries, PotA, Reviews.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the release of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the second film in the series. I gain more respect for that film on each viewing.

There were production choices, dictated by budget I suppose, that bothered me when I first saw it as a kid:

  • the use of so many extras in masks instead of full make-up appliances, especially in the Ursus “Invade” speech scene
  • the ridiculous ape body suits Zaius and Ursus wore in the steambath
  • the terrible matte work when Taylor disappears into the illusory cliff face
  • the fairly crappy looking crash site (even as a kid, I recognized the Jupiter 2’s landing gear)
  • the pretty unimpressive looking Alpha-Omega bomb.

And, even as a kid, the continuity errors bothered me:

  • Brent on a rescue mission for Taylor — why? As far as Earth knows, Taylor is doing just fine, thanks.
  • Zaius calling both Zira and Cornelius “animal psychologists,” when Cornelius is, of course, an archaeologist.
  • Nobody in all the time they were making the film bothering to slap the first reel of the original onto a projector to check what the date meter said in Taylor’s ship so that the year in Beneath is 3955 instead of 3978.

And, of course, I keenly felt the lack of Roddy McDowall and was pissed off that they cut a line out of his resued reading from the Sacred Scrolls before the opening credits.

But I’ve come to appreciate the film more and more:

  • James Gregory is absolutely wonderful as Ursus
  • David Watson’s take on Cornelius is actually fine
  • Of course, Paul Dehn’s dialog is terrific
  • And the mutants and their ceremonies have grown on me over time.

It’s not a magnificent film, but it is a good, thoughtful, and ambitious one, and probably the best they could do given that Heston refused to appear in any more than just a cameo. And, given how graphically violent it is, it’s satisfyingly pacifist in its messaging.

And, as one reviewer noted, it still stands as “the most batshit insane G-rated movie of all time.”

Robert J. Sawyer online:

Leave a Reply