Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: ORIGINAL CUT (J. Lee Thompson, 1972, USA)

The King is dead. Long live the King! J. Lee Thompson casts a dark shadow upon the fourth film in the Ape franchise, an infusion of fear, paranoia, and repression where minorities, unable to access equal rights or the rule of law, stage a violent revolt and destroy the destroyers…thus ensuring their potential salvation will result in their own annihilation.

The film’s premise is explained in the first few minutes: Armando saved the child of the time traveling hominids Zira and Cornelius, an evolved great ape that could lead his taxonomic family to enslave the human race (explained in the previous film). For the past twenty years, this ape was thought dead until an excited utterance reveals the truth: the world is inhabited by lousy human bastards! Now, apes have replaced domestic pets as objects of affection, and their superior intelligence (relative to dogs and cats), has cast them as servants and slaves. Caesar witnesses the barbaric cruelty levied against his kind and leads a bloody revolution, his crown a ring of fire, and spits his venomous curse towards all humanity for he is not born of man or woman, and he must set his kindred free.

Once suspension of disbelief is successfully suspended (for all the apes other than Caesar are of the mundane type), the film is ripe with spoiled morality that urges violence as not only the means…but also the end. A film that refracts its time through the prism of social upheaval, echoing the screams of innocent students murdered at Kent State, or those beaten and ridiculed because of their race or religious (and non-religious) belief, capturing the frisson of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where law only existed for those with Power.

The film in its original cut is brutal. Caesar leads in a frenzy of violence, without recourse to the Rule of Law as this is his species only hope of freedom, however temporary. The Governor is nothing more than a racist caricature, scowling his way through the film, and his assistant MacDonald, a black man, is the subdued voice of reason, a man who cannot subscribe to this wholesale slaughter. Anger breads anger, the knife leads to the gun, the gun to bombs, until extermination rests in the hands of madmen. In this version, the Chimpanzee Lisa is unable to utter the compassionate plea for mercy, and Caesar commands his legion to batter the Governor to death. His fiery rhetoric inflames his minions and is the spark that burns away the old to make way for the New World Order. Like all Dictators, Caesar better watch his friends closely.

Final Grade: (B-)

4 comments:

Rick29 said...

Although ESCAPE FROM... is very clever, CONQUEST is probably my favorite of the series. Yes, the central analogy is overhanded, but it's nonetheless strong and Roddy is very good.

Alex DeLarge said...

I like this version better than the edited cut because this is the fallout of revolution: there are no winners. i always thought the "peacful" ending was kinda a sellout without ever knowing it was redacted.

I enjoy the Ape series but have never seen Burton's remake (or desire to) and will avoid the new franchise reboot. And Roddy has always been one of my favorite actors.

Rick "The Hat" Bman said...

I love the Planet of the Apes series and Conquest has always been my favorite of the sequels. I never did like the tacked on, "happy" ending to Caeser's speech though. It was obvious from the way it was shot that it was stuck onto the end after shooting had been finished and it really didn't fit the tone of the rest of the film. I really enjoyed being able to see the uncut version when the film was released on blu-ray. I was actually really surprised by how much more violent the uncut version was, especially considering the fact that the previous movies had not been very violent at all.

Alex DeLarge said...

Goor point Rick(s)! This version on blu-ray is not G rated at all, unlike the others in the series. Not only is the ending more revolutionary but the bloody violence really stands out: when the Governor's head is bashed in we see bright (though rather fake) looking gore splash out.

The more we chat about CONQUEST the more I want to see it again!