“Tonight we have seen the birth
of the Planet of the Apes!”
(Caesar), Don Murray (Breck),
Natalie Trundy (Lisa), Hari Rhodes (MacDonald), Severn Darden (Kolp), Lou Wagner
(Busboy), Asa Maynor (Mrs Riley), H. M. Wynant (Hoskins), David Chow (Aldo),
Buck Kartalian (Frank), John Dennis (Policeman), Paul Comi (Second Policeman),
Gordon Jump (Auctioneer), Joyce Haber (Zelda), Hector Soucy (Ape with chain),
Ricardo Montalban (Armando).
Screenplay by Paul Dehn. Directed by J. Lee Thompson.
In the year 1991, part of Cornelius’s prophecy has
come to pass; apes – chimpanzees; gorillas and orangutans are slaves of the
humans who, in the USA at least, live in a fascist state.
Caesar, the son of the slain apes from the future, Cornelius
and Zira, is brought to the city by the circus owner Señor Armando, the man who
has looked after him and kept Caesar’s secret since Zira switched babies with
another chimp at Armando’s circus.
A bewildered Caesar is struck by his fellow apes’ condition.
They are trained to do the menial and dirty jobs humankind no longer does, and
are treated with contempt, cruelty, and even a little bit of fear.
Armando explains to the young chimp that a virus brought back
on a space probe killed all the household pets on the planet and as
replacements, humans started keeping small monkeys, working their way up to the
great apes. Realising the apes’ intelligence, humans started breeding them to
what they are – an enslaved underclass, that keep the cities running.
Coming upon a protest against the employment of apes, Caeser
and Armando witness the cruel beating of a chimpanzee messenger, filled with
disgust, Caeser cries out: “Lousy human bastards!”
The police at the scene break up the protest, someone says
that they heard Caeser speak, which Armando, vehemently denies. Caesar flees
from the scene, Armando chasing after him. The man catches up with the terrified
ape, telling him that if he should not come back, he should find the company of
his own kind, Armando leaves Caesar alone while he attempts to smooth things
over with the authorities.
Governor Breck, the leader of the province, has been alerted
to the report of a talking ape, and orders Armando to be detained for
questioning because Breck theorises that the child of the apes from the future
might not have been killed years ago.
When Armando does not come back, Caesar hides amongst a
shipment of orangutans and enters the world of Ape Management, the place where
apes are conditioned to serve man.
Caesar passes his training with flying colours and at an ape
auction, he is bought by Mr MacDonald the aide of Governor Breck, and Caesar
finds himself working for the man who wants to see him destroyed!
Breck makes the ape choose a name from a book, Caesar
choosing his own, which means ‘a king’. Breck order MacDonald to put Caesar to
work in the city’s main command post.
Senor Armando’s interrogation by Inspectors Kolp and Hoskins
ends fatally for the circus owner when he is subjected to a lie detector device
called the authenticator. Broken by the machine, Armando tries to escape,
falling to his death.
Caesar learns of Armando’s death while at work at the command
post, a young female chimp called Lisa comforts him. That night Caesar
encourages a gorilla called Aldo to break his broom and so Caesar starts a
campaign of ape disobedience. Meanwhile Breck has ordered every ape that has
shown signs of rebellion or above average intelligence to be rounded up.
Caesar is found out when his name appears amongst a list of a
consignment of orangutans from Borneo – chimps being not indigenous to the
country. Breck orders MacDonald to round up Caesar, but the sympathetic black
man lets Caesar go when he discovers he is the ape they are looking for.
Caesar is not free for long, captured by the police, he is
tortured via electrocution by Kolp and Hoskins under the fascinated gaze of
Governor Breck who want to hear Caesar talk, which he eventually does, asking
the humans to “Have pity’.
Triumphant, Breck orders the ape to be electrocuted to death,
a dial is turned and Caesar goes limp. As an attendant goes to remove the ape’s
body from a now deserted electrocution chamber, Caesar springs to life and kills
the man. Mr MacDonald, who cut the power to the electrocution table just in
time, saved the chimp’s life, after making his excuses and leaving the
interrogation early to find the main power grid.
Caesar goes out into the city and encourages an ape revolt
with items purchased surreptitiously by the super-intelligent chimp, items like
pistols, kerosene and knives!
The city’s security forces try to quell the ape rebellion by
firing on the massing apes, but Caesar picks up gun and kills a security
officer, triggered by Caesar, the apes overwhelm the humans, Caesar himself
charging through their ranks with a blazing machine gun.
The apes take control of the command post, bringing Governor
Breck to his knees, as Caesar orders the gorillas to kill the man, the chimp
Lisa articulates her first word: “No!”
Caesar relents, aided by the wise counsel of MacDonald. As
the city burns around them Caesar embraces his destiny and that of the planet of
COMMENT: The fourth film in the apes series, rather than being
an excuse to dot the I's and cross the T's, tells a riveting portrayal of a
slave revolt. The action is staged using good use of the then newly built
Century City development by director J. Lee Thompson.
The stark photography by Bruce Surtees is never more
effective when showing the final confrontation between ape and man, a collage of
destruction picked out by the primary colours of the apes (green and red) and
the humans (black) mixed with flames and blood.
Roddy McDowall excels again, seeming even more comfortable
playing the proactive son of his original character!
Tom Scott’s music for the film disappoints when compared to
the works of Goldsmith and Rosenman, many sequences seem under scored, but this
may have been a stylistic choice.
Conquest is definitely the most violent film in the saga, but
the violence is justified by its subject matter.
Conquest is the only film in the series that had reshoots. The finale was reshot
and recut when test audiences felt that Caesar was too unsympathetic! Breck, who
was originally clubbed to death by the apes was now spared, and Caesar’s speech
was toned down, McDowall redubbing the sequence.
Natalie Trundy, is the only actor in the series who has played an ape, a human
and a mutant. Incidentally she was married to producer Arthur P. Jacobs!
Director J. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Naverone) was originally going to direct
the first Planet of the Apes film.
- written by Peter Noble