Beneath the Planet of the Apes is a 1970 American science fiction film directed by Ted Post and written by Paul Dehn. It is the second of five films in the original Planet of the Apes series produced by Arthur P. Jacobs. The film stars James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, and Linda Harrison, and features Charlton Heston in a supporting role. Another spacecraft crashes on the planet ruled by apes, carrying astronaut Brent who searches for Taylor and discovers an underground city inhabited by mutated humans with advanced telekinetic abilities. Beneath the Planet of the Apes was a success at the box office but met with mixed reviews from critics. It was followed by Escape from the Planet of the Apes.
|Beneath the Planet of the Apes|
|Directed by||Ted Post|
|Screenplay by||Paul Dehn|
|Story by||Paul Dehn|
|Based on||Characters created|
by Pierre Boulle
|Produced by||Arthur P. Jacobs|
|Cinematography||Milton R. Krasner|
|Edited by||Marion Rothman|
|Music by||Leonard Rosenman|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$19 million|
Following the events of Planet of the Apes, time-displaced astronaut Taylor and the mute Nova ride horseback through the desert of the Forbidden Zone in search of a new life far away from Ape City. Without warning, fire shoots up from the ground and deep chasms open. Confused by the strange phenomenon, Taylor investigates a cliff wall and disappears through it before Nova's eyes. The phenomenon disappears, leaving Nova alone.
Elsewhere in the Forbidden Zone, a second Earth spaceship has crash-landed after being sent to search for Taylor and his crew. Brent and his Skipper are the only survivors, though the Skipper dies shortly after crashing. Brent, while noting he is in the year 3955, assumes he has travelled to another planet. After burying his Skipper, he encounters Nova and notices she is wearing Taylor's dog tags. Hoping Taylor is still alive, he rides with her to Ape City, where he is shocked to discover the simian civilization. He observes the gorilla General Ursus leading a rally for the apes to conquer the Forbidden Zone and use it as a potential food source, against the objections of the orangutan Dr. Zaius. Brent is wounded by a gorilla soldier and taken by Nova to the home of the chimpanzees Cornelius and Zira, who treat his wound and tell him of their time with Taylor. The humans hide when Dr. Zaius arrives and announces that he will accompany Ursus on the invasion of the Forbidden Zone.
Attempting to flee the city, Brent and Nova are captured by gorillas. Ursus orders they be used for target practice, but Zira helps them escape. They hide in a cave which Brent soon discovers is the ruins of the Queensboro Plaza station of the New York City Subway, realizing he traveled through time to Earth's post-apocalyptic future. After following a humming sound deeper into the tunnels, Brent becomes agitated and erratic and attempts to drown Nova as she drinks, quickly stopping and backing away to another room. Entering the remains of St. Patrick's Cathedral, he finds a population of telepathic humans who worship an ancient nuclear bomb.
Brent and Nova are captured and telepathically interrogated by the telepaths' leadership under Mendez. They explain themselves to be the descendants of humans who survived nuclear holocaust and mutated over generations. While claiming to be a peaceful society despite using mind-control and illusion on their enemies, the mutants force Brent into revealing the apes' march on the Forbidden Zone; but their attempts to repel the invaders with illusions of fire and other horrors ultimately fail when Zaius sees through it. With the apes closing in, the telepaths plan to detonate their "Divine Bomb" as a last resort, holding a religious ritual during which they remove their human-skinned masks to reveal their mutated pale skin with prominent large veins due to generations of radiation exposure.
Brent is separated from Nova and taken to a cell where he finds Taylor. One mutant, explaining that they cannot let them leave the city alive, uses his telepathic powers to force Brent and Taylor to fight each other. Nova escapes her guard and runs to the cell, screaming her first word: "Taylor!" This breaks the mutant's concentration, freeing Brent and Taylor from his control long enough for them to overpower and kill the mutant. Brent describes the bomb the mutants worship to have Greek letters Alpha and Omega on its casing, Taylor recognizing it as a "doomsday bomb" capable of destroying the entire planet.
The apes invade the subterranean city, making their way to the cathedral; many of the mutants are either captured, killed, or found to have died by suicide. After Nova is killed in the midst of the chaos, Taylor and Brent reach the cathedral as Méndez is shot dead after raising the bomb into activation position. The humans attempt to stop Ursus from accidentally setting off the weapon, but Taylor is shot as his pleas to Zaius fall on deaf ears. When Brent is gunned down after killing Ursus, the mortally wounded Taylor curses Zaius as he collapses and dies bringing his hand down on the activation switch triggering the bomb. The scene whites out, and voiceover narration states: "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".
Soon after Planet of the Apes became a hit, a sequel started being considered by 20th Century Fox. Screenwriter Rod Serling was consulted, but his ideas did not interest the studio. Then the producers turned to the author of the original novel, Pierre Boulle, who wrote a draft for a sequel called Planet of the Men, where protagonist George Taylor would lead an uprising of the enslaved men to take back control from the apes as the gorilla general Ursus wants to fight humans. Boulle's script was rejected as it was felt that it lacked the "visual shock and the surprise" of the original. Associate producer Mort Abrahams then wrote story elements, and British writer Paul Dehn was hired to develop them into a script, tentatively called Planet of the Apes Revisited. Dehn implemented his trauma of the 1945 atomic bombings and the fear of nuclear warfare on the story. One of the elements thought up by Abrahams and Dehn was a half-human, half-ape child, but despite even going through make-up tests this was dropped due to the implication of bestiality. According to screenwriter Dehn the idea for Beneath the Planet of the Apes came about from the end of the first movie which suggested that New York City was buried underground.
Although Charlton Heston showed little interest in reprising his role as Taylor, studio head Richard D. Zanuck thought the actor was essential to the sequel. After some disagreement with the actor's agents, Heston agreed to briefly appear with the provision that his character be killed and that his pay go to charity. The writers decided to have Taylor disappear at the story's start and only return by the film's ending, and have a new protagonist for the major part of the story. James Franciscus accepted the role of Brent as a break from his usual TV fare.
Director Franklin J. Schaffner was invited to return to the series, but declined due to a commitment to Patton. Television and film director Ted Post was approached, and while objecting to the script for "not making a point at all", the producers asked what he did not like. Post then wrote a letter saying that "the loss of a planet is the loss of all hope". Post tried to get the other writer of the original, Michael Wilson, but a budget cut prevented him from doing so. Post and Franciscus – who wanted to help clarify the actions of and give depth to the character of Brent – spent a week rewriting the script, leading to over fifty pages of notes suggesting story ideas to fix some of the narrative problems in Paul Dehn's script.
Roddy McDowall could not return for his role in this sequel, because he was in Scotland directing Tam Lin. Actor David Watson portrayed Cornelius in this film with McDowall only appearing briefly in clips from the first film used during Beneath's pre-title sequence. Along with the animated series Return to the Planet of the Apes, this film is one of only two 1970s Planet of the Apes productions in which McDowall does not appear. Orson Welles was offered the role of General Ursus, but he turned it down objecting against spending all his screentime in a mask and make-up. The part ultimately went to James Gregory.
Before Zanuck was fired as studio president during production, he suggested that Post add an element suggested by Heston, the Alpha Omega doomsday bomb, to end the series. However, before the film's release, the producers were considering ideas for another sequel.
Production began in February 1969. The sequel, now titled Beneath the Planet of the Apes, had its budget reduced from $5 million to $2.5 million because Fox had suffered recently from several underperforming big-budget films, like Star!, Hello, Dolly! and Tora! Tora! Tora! Nonetheless, the studio expected the film to return Fox to profitability. Heston's parts were filmed in just eight days. The sets of the mutants' council chamber and the temple of the bomb were redresses of the Grand Central – 42nd Street station and hotel lobby sets from the film Hello, Dolly!
The original Apes composer, Jerry Goldsmith, was invited to write the score for the sequel, but Schaffner was using Goldsmith for Patton. Leonard Rosenman was hired to compose the score. Rosenman tried to blend Goldsmith's distinctive score with his own style, showcased in productions such as Fantastic Voyage. An official soundtrack LP was issued on the Amos Records label soon after the film's debut in 1970. For the LP, Rosenman was asked to rearrange his score for a smaller orchestra, adding contemporary elements such as electric guitar and rock percussion. These re-recorded pieces were interspersed with dialogue taken from the film. The soundtrack featured some of the leading Los Angeles studio musicians of the time, including bassist Carol Kaye and Moog pioneer Paul Beaver.
A short sequence of diegetic music features in the scene set in the ruins of St. Patrick's Cathedral, in which the telepaths are heard singing a dystopian hymn in praise of the atom bomb. For this scene, Rosenman composed a discordant setting of Cecil Frances Alexander's 1848 Christian hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful", with the lyrics altered to pay homage to the "Bomb Almighty".
The novelization of the film by Michael Avallone retained the original scripted ending. Brent does not kill General Ursus. Taylor confronts him and Dr. Zaius. As Taylor tries to reason with Zaius, Zaius condemns him and Ursus repeatedly shoots Taylor with his pistol; Brent's rifle empties and the gorillas kill him. Ursus is horrified, telling Zaius that he has emptied the pistol into Taylor; he should be dead, but he still lives. Knowing he is dying, Taylor (after Zaius refuses to help him) decides to stop the violence by detonating the bomb. This he does, destroying the Earth itself.
Gold Key Comics produced an adaptation of Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1970. This was the first comics publication in the Planet of the Apes franchise. Later, Marvel Comics published a different version in two series (b/w magazine 1974-77, color comic book 1975-76). Malibu Comics reprinted the Marvel adaptations when they had the license in the early 1990s.
In 2015 IDW Publishing produced a mini series call Planet of the Apes - The Primate Directive where the crew of the TOS Enterprise followed a Klingon ship into the universe of Beneath the Planet of the Apes which the Klingons are trying to use as a way to get around the Organian Treaty by expanding their empire into another universe. Both crews of the Enterprise and Klingon ship become behind the scenes characters in the events of Beneath the Planet of the Apes. A tricorder with the sling-shot effect is left behind and is used by Dr. Milo to allow the spaceship he, Cornelius, and Zira are in to travel back through time.
The film opened May 26, 1970 at Loew's Beverly Theatre in Los Angeles and opened two days later at Loew's State II and Orpheum theatres in New York and a day later at the Roosevelt Theatre in Chicago. The film was a surprise runaway success and a sequel was rushed into production. The film grossed $250,000 in its opening week from 4 theaters finishing 9th at the US box office. It reached number one in its sixth week of release with a gross of $863,500. It grossed $19 million at the U.S. and Canadian box office. According to Fox records the film required $8,100,000 in theatrical rentals to break even and by 11 December 1970 had made worldwide rentals of $13,825,000 so made a profit to the studio.
A. H. Weiler of The New York Times wrote that the film was "proof, in living color, that Heston is vulnerable and that a sequel to striking science fiction can be pretty juvenile." Variety panned the film as "hokey and slapdash," adding, "The dialog, acting and direction are substandard." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two stars out of four:
Missing from the sequel is much of the droll humor of the original as well as the adventure. It was a gross error to try to give the series a moral.
Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called it a "striking, imaginative picture," adding, "Director Ted Post, writers Mort Abrahams and Paul Dehn are to be congratulated for sounding so timely a toll of doom in such an entertaining context." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote that the film was:
...inferior in every respect to its predecessor—a condition common to virtually every sequel in movie history—but it's reasonably entertaining and fast-moving, a good enough Saturday matinee kind of movie.
The Monthly Film Bulletin declared:
Certainly it's nice to see some of the magnificent settings again, and most of the acting is of a high standard; but this isn't enough to transcend the script's limitations or the virtual annihilation of the original's deftly constructed atmosphere.
The film holds a 38% rating at the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes based on 32 reviews, with an average grade of 5.1 out of 10. The consensus states: "Beneath the Planet of the Apes offers more action than its predecessor -- unfortunately, at the expense of the social subtext that elevates the franchise's best entries."
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