Cast & Crew
In 1973, military personnel rush to a beach in Southern California when a spacecraft is found floating in the ocean. After the craft is reeled in and its three occupants, wearing helmets and spacesuits, disembark, the waiting officers salute them. Everyone is astonished, however, when the astronauts remove their helmets and reveal that they are human-sized chimpanzees who stand upright. After hustling the chimps to a military base, the soldiers are instructed to bring the apes to the Los Angeles Zoo infirmary to be studied in secrecy. In the morning, at the zoo, the chimps are put into a cage next to a depressed gorilla, and as they wait, the chimps¿archaeologist Cornelius, his psychiatrist wife Zira and scientist Milo¿who are from Earth's future and can talk, discuss their predicament. Milo theorizes that they were thrust backward through time to Earth's past, even though they saw the Earth destroyed by a nuclear bomb, the result of a war in their own time of 3955. Milo advises his compatriots to remain silent, as apes of 1973 cannot speak. When zoologists Lewis Dixon and Stephanie "Stevie" Branton enter, the chimps act intelligently but remain quiet, and Zira easily masters the psychological tests given to her. When Stevie wonders why Zira does not grasp a banana placed before her, Zira blurts out that she loathes bananas. Overcome at hearing an ape talk, the zoologists hurriedly exit. Milo, Cornelius and Zira then quarrel over Zira's actions, and as their tempers escalate, the enraged gorilla in the adjoining cage strangles Milo to death. The sympathetic Lewis and Stevie console Cornelius and Zira, making friends with them, and caution them to reveal their ability to speak only to "the right people." Later that afternoon, the President of the United States tells a group of advisors about the arrival of the apes in a long-missing U.S. spaceship, and orders the formation of a presidential commission of inquiry. The following day, Dr. Otto Hasslein, the president's senior science advisor, joins the committee as Lewis presents Zira and Cornelius. When the two chimps speak, the committee and audience are both thrilled and horrified. Upon questioning, Cornelius and Zira reveal that where they come from, apes speak while humans are dumb, and Zira barely stops herself from saying that she dissects humans, instead correcting herself to say that she examines them. The pair skirts the question of where they come from, instead pleading that they are peaceful creatures and asking to be unchained. A standing ovation from the audience prompts the removal of their bonds, and the hearing is adjourned. In a nearby room, Zira insists to Cornelius that they must tell Lewis and Stevie the truth, and so reveals that not only are they from Earth's future, they knew Col. Taylor, the human astronaut who originally piloted the craft that they salvaged and used. They state that they helped Taylor evade the militaristic gorillas, who hunted humans for sport, and that as a zoologist herself, Zira conducted experiments on living humans. Although Lewis and Stevie are shocked, they admit that what Zira did is no different than what they currently do to "dumb" beasts. The next day, Cornelius and Zira are ensconced at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, then outfitted in the latest human fashions. At a party that night, Lewis introduces Zira to champagne, which he calls "grape juice plus." The following day, Zira speaks about women's rights while Lewis takes Cornelius to a prizefight, which Cornelius calls "beastly." Later that afternoon, Hasslein takes Zira to the Natural History Museum, where she faints upon seeing a stuffed gorilla. Hasslein assumes that her fainting spell was caused by shock, but the pragmatic Zira informs him that she is pregnant. Upon taking her back to the hotel, Hasslein deliberately gets Zira drunk on grape juice plus and secretly records her as she answers his questions about seeing the destruction of the Earth. She also reveals that the war was started by the gorillas, who were fighting an enemy never seen by the pacifist chimpanzees. Hasslein plays the recording for the level-headed president, who demands concrete proof of the apes' ill intentions before destroying them. The president reminds Hasslein that Herod also attempted to slaughter the innocents, and questions him about whether they have the right to alter the future. Hasslein insists that Cornelius and Zira's baby could be the beginning of the race of speaking apes, and persuades the president to allow him to use CIA agents to interrogate the apes. Lewis and Stevie accompany Cornelius and Zira to a secret military camp, where Cornelius caustically states that humans' downfall comes from their habit of murdering one another rather than any aggression from the apes. Assuring Cornelius that the session is a fact-finding inquiry rather than "an interracial hassle," Hasslein orders Cornelius sequestered while Lewis is forced to give Zira an injection of truth serum. While drugged, Zira reveals that she often experimented on live humans, even giving them lobotomies, and that she knew Taylor. When Zira's revelations are relayed to the commission, they agree that while there is not conclusive evidence of the apes' hostility, Zira's pregnancy must be terminated, after which both apes will be sterilized. Back at the camp, Cornelius is fuming about Zira's treatment when an orderly offends him and Cornelius slams the orderly's tray into his face. Unaware that he has accidentally killed the youth, Cornelius leads Zira away and they escape. In the forest, however, Zira's labor begins, and Cornelius decides to return for help. As he creeps along the road, Cornelius is horrified to hear a soldier tell Stevie that the orderly was murdered. Stevie, who has been informed by Lewis of the committee's decree, believes Cornelius when he tells her that the killing was accidental, and takes him and Zira to a circus run by Armando, an animal lover who agrees to shelter the apes. As Zira cries in pain, Heloise, the circus' chimpanzee, holds up her own new baby, Salome, "to show an expectant mother what to expect," according to Armando. Soon Zira gives birth to a healthy boy, whom she and Cornelius name Milo. Later, Hasslein, suspecting that apes would hide among other apes, orders a search of all menageries and circuses. Lewis alerts Armando, who had hoped to take Cornelius, Zira and Milo to the circus' winter quarters in a month's time. Before they leave, Zira enters Heloise's cage to say goodbye to her and Salome. Later that night, Lewis and Stevie take the chimps to a deserted area and, giving them provisions, instruct them to hide in a deserted oil tanker at a nearby harbor until they can return to Armando. Giving their human friends a kiss goodbye, Cornelius and Zira begin their trek, but during their journey, Zira cannot carry both Milo and her suitcase, and so dumps the suitcase in an oil derrick. The suitcase is discovered the next morning, and when Hasslein spots the harbor nearby, he drives there to investigate. As Hasslein searches the tanker, the military and police arrive, followed by Lewis and Stevie. The two zoologists watch in horror as Hasslein shoots and mortally wounds Zira, then shoots baby Milo multiple times. Cornelius uses the pistol given to him by Lewis to kill Hasslein before he himself is brought down by a hail of bullets. The distraught Lewis then comforts Stevie as they watch Zira stagger to the baby and toss its body into the ocean, then crawl to Cornelius before dying. A month later, as Armando's circus prepares to move south, Armando goes to the cage of a baby chimp, which wears the St. Francis of Assisi medal that he had given to Milo. Petting the baby's hand, Armando comforts him by saying, "Intelligent creature, but then, so were your mother and father." After Armando walks away, the young chimp begins to cry out, "Mama, mama."
M. Emmet Walsh
Roy E. Glenn Sr.
James B. Sikking
Frank Capra Jr.
Arthur P. Jacobs
Stuart A. Reiss
Joseph E. Rickards
Walter M. Scott
Jack Martin Smith
Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) ends with the destruction of Earth, so screenwriter Paul Dehn was surprised to receive a telegram that read, "Apes exist, sequel required." 20th Century-Fox was eager to keep the franchise going for a third entry, though at a significantly lower budget. Thus Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) was born, one which takes place in contemporary Los Angeles after intellectual chimpanzees Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) travel back in time. Unlike the apocalyptic scenarios of the first two films, Escape from the Planet of the Apes is a light fish-out-of-water comedy for most of its running time, a charming change of pace for the at-times heavy handed series.
In Planet of the Apes Revisited, associate producer Frank Capra Jr. described the challenge that awaited the production: "We can't be in the future too much, because that costs money; we can't be too far in the past because that costs money. So we were pretty well constrained to do a few apes in the present time." So Paul Dehn came up with the scenario that Cornelius, Zira and the scientist Milo (Sal Mineo) flew away from Earth before it exploded at the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, commandeering George Taylor's (Charlton Heston) ship from the first film (previously established as being able to travel through time). A scene where the apes witness the Earth's demise from the ship was apparently shot but cut from the final release. Capra thought the sequence "just didn't seem to fit. This was not a science fiction piece as much as the others."
Cornelius and Zira end up in the hands of the US Army, who are amply befuddled and hand them over to the Los Angeles Zoo for safekeeping. There they come under the care of Dr. Lewis Dixon (Bradford Dillman) and Dr. Stephanie Branton (Natalie Trundy), who are immediately sympathetic to their situation. Once word gets out that the two apes can speak English, and eloquently so, they become national celebrities, having their every move tracked by the paparazzi. The majority of the film deals with their integration into society, whether it's going shopping for clothes or learning about the pleasures of alcoholic beverages. Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter bring such a frazzled charm to Cornelius' and Zira's relationship that these low-stakes scenes of cultural education are the most engaging of the movie. When Zira discovers she is pregnant, the film shifts into a different paranoid thriller tone as the duo must hide out inside abandoned ships on the outskirts of town. But Hunter and McDowall retain their chemistry, and the chimp baby is simply adorable - the baby Yoda of its day.
The reason they have to hide out is Dr. Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden), who was assigned to the presidential board to study the apes' arrival. Deeply skeptical of the apes' motives and obsessed with the future obsolescence of humanity, he sees the simian couple as threats and slowly convinces top brass that eliminating them is for the betterment of humankind. Dr. Dixon helps Cornelius and Zira escape, eventually placing them in the care of circus operator Armando (Ricardo Montalban), who will appear in future entries in the series.
Montalban is the most charismatic actor in the film, able to convey more with an eyebrow than Dillman can with a whole feature-length of screen time. Armando is a profoundly empathetic personality who forms an immediate emotional connection with Cornelius and Zira. Montalban uses his saucer eyes puddling up with tears at the thought of separating from them, even as the film's final shot twist guarantees his involvement in future generations of apes.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes was a financial success, earning $12 million on a $2 million budget, though it ended up grossing less than its predecessor, Beneath the Planet of the Apes. The reasons for this, according to producer Arthur P. Jacobs, were that, "First, there were some who were disappointed in the second picture. Second, it's really not so much science fiction as the others were, and I think that was a letdown for some kids.... It was an intimate picture, not a spectacle. Third, I think Fox took the attitude it was presold, therefore not spending too much money in selling it."
I would tend to ascribe it to his second reason, as the film, for most of its running time, seems more like a Paul Mazursky relationship drama than a dystopian science-fiction extravaganza. And that's what makes it a unique entry in the series. The filmmakers took a chance on an unusually small-scale script from Paul Dehn that focuses on the everyday struggles of being a stranger in a strange land.
By R. Emmet Sweeney
Escape from the Planet of the Apes
TCM Remembers - Kim Hunter
KIM HUNTER, 1922-2002
Kim Hunter, the versatile, distinguished actress who won the Supporting Actress Academy Award for her portrayal as the long-suffering Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and appeared as Dr. Zira in three Planet of the Apes movies, died in her Greenwich Village apartment from an apparent heart attack on September 11, 2002. She was 79.
Born Janet Cole in Detroit on November 12, 1922, where her mother was a concert pianist, she made her professional debut at 17 with a small theatre company in Miami. She gained notice immediately with her strong voice and alluring presence, and eventually studied at the Actors' Studio in New York.
She made a striking film debut in an eerie, low-budget RKO horror film, The Seventh Victim (1943), produced by Val Lewton. She played a similar ingenue role in another stylish cult flick, When Strangers Meet (1944) - a film directed by William Castle and notable for featuring Robert Mitchum in one of his first starring roles. Hunter's big break came two years later when Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger cast her in their splendid romantic fantasy, Stairway to Heaven (1946).
Despite her growing popularity as a screen actress, Hunter returned to the stage to make her Broadway debut as Stella in Tennessee Williams'A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). When Elia Kazan adapted the production for the silver screen, she continued her role as Stella opposite Marlon Brando, and won an Oscar as best supporting actress. A few more film roles followed, but sadly her screen career entered a lull in the late 1950s, after Hunter, a liberal Democrat, was listed as a communist sympathizer by Red Channels, a red-hunting booklet that influenced hiring by studios and the Television networks. Kim was blacklisted from both mediums despite never having been labeled a Communist, yet as a strong believer in civil rights she signed a lot of petitions and was a sponsor of a 1949 World Peace Conference in New York. She was widely praised in the industry for her testimony to the New York Supreme Court in 1962 against the publishers of Red Channels, and helped pave the way for clearance of many performers unjustly accused of Communist associations.
Hunter spent the next few years on the stage and didn't make a strong impression again in films until she was cast as Dr. Zira in the Planet of the Apes (1968), as a simian psychiatrist in the classic science fiction film. The success of that film encouraged her to continue playing the same character in two back-to-back sequels - Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971). Hunter spent the remainder of her career on the stage and television, but she a terrific cameo role in Clint Eastwood's Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997), one of her last films. She is survived by her daughter Kathryn, from her first marriage to William Baldwin, and her son Sean, from her marriage to actor and producer Robert Emmett.
By Michael T. Toole
TCM REMEMBERS J. LEE THOMPSON, 1914 - 2002
Oscar-nominated director J. Lee Thompson died August 30th at the age of 88. Though he worked in several genres, Thompson was best-known for his action films. Thompson was born in Bristol England on August 1, 1914. After graduating from college he became a playwright and it was the appearance of one of his plays on London's famous West End that got him noticed by the British film studio, Elstree. His first filmed script was The Pride of Folly in 1937 and others appeared sporadically until his career was side-tracked during the war when Thompson served in the RAF as a B-29 tail gunner. (He also reportedly worked as a dialogue coach on Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn, 1939.) Thompson's directorial debut came in 1950 when he adapted his own play Double Error to the screen as Murder Without Crime. Throughout the decade he directed a variety of dramas and comedies until hitting it big in 1958 with Ice Cold in Alex (released in the US minus 50 minutes under the title Desert Attack). It was nominated for three BAFTAs and was enough of a commercial success that Thompson landed the film that made his career: The Guns of Navarone (1961). This enormous international hit snagged Thompson an Oscar nomination for Best Director. He immediately followed that with the original Cape Fear (1962) and his reputation was set. Though Thompson remained active almost three more decades he didn't reach that level again. He worked on Westerns (Mackenna's Gold, 1969), horror films (Eye of the Devil, 1967), literary adaptations (Huckleberry Finn, 1974) and others. During this time, Thompson directed two Planet of the Apes sequels but was kept most busy working with Charles Bronson, for whom he directed nine films. Thompson's last film was in 1989.
KATRIN CARTLIDGE, 1961 - 2002
The news of actress Katrin Cartlidge's death at the age of 41 has come as a shock. It's not just the age but the thought that even though Cartlidge was already a major actress--despite a slender filmography--she held out the promise of even greater work, a promise that so few artists of any type can make. "Fearless" is perhaps the word most often used to describe Cartlidge but emotions are never enough for an actor; much more is required. Director Mike Leigh said she had "the objective eye of an artist" while remarking on her "her deep-seated suspicion of all forms of woolly thinking and received ideas."
Cartlidge was born in London on May 15, 1961. Her first acting work was on the stage, in tiny independent theatres before she was selected by Peter Gill for the National Theatre. Cartlidge also worked as a dresser at the Royal Court where she later made one of her final stage appearances. She began appearing in the popular British TV series Brookside before making her first film in 1985, Sacred Hearts. A small role in the Robbie Coltrane-Rik Mayall vehicle Eat the Rich (1987) followed before Cartlidge had her first leading role in Mike Leigh's scathing Naked (1993).
Cartlidge never took a safe approach in her films. She told The Guardian that "I try to work with film-makers who I feel will produce something original, revealing and provoking. If something provokes a reaction, it's well worth doing." You can see this in her choice of projects. Before the Rain (1994) dramatized violence in Macedonia in the wake of the Yugoslavian break-up and made Cartlidge something of a star in the area. She appeared in Lars Von Trier's controversial look at redemption, Breaking the Waves (1996), Leigh's sharply detailed story of aging friends Career Girls (1997), as one of Jack the Ripper's victims in From Hell (2001), as a call girl trying to leave the business in Clair Dolan (1998) and in the Oscar-winning film about Bosnia-Herzegovina, No Man's Land (2001). Her last work included a BBC adaptation of Crime and Punishment (2002), playing Salvador Dali's wife Gala in the BBC comedy-drama Surrealissimo (2002) and an appearance in Rosanna Arquette's directorial debut, Searching for Debra Winger (also 2002), a documentary about women in the film industry.
Cartlidge died September 7th from septicaemia brought on by pneumonia.
By Lang Thompson
TCM Remembers - Kim Hunter
You're the second human I have kissed....- Dr. Zira
And you are the first.- Cornelius
Can you read a map?- Dr. Milo
I'm an archaeologist. I can even draw one!- Cornelius
May I measure your inside leg, sir?- Tailor
The film's villain, Dr. Hasslein, is briefly mentioned at the beginning of the first film, Planet of the Apes.
The plague that killed all the dogs and cats and lead to the enslavement of all the apes is first mentioned in this film.
Sal Mineo found the make-up uncomfortable, so the script was re-written to kill his character off earlier than planned.
The working title of this film was The Secret of the Planet of the Apes. The beginning of the film features only the titles "Twentieth Century-Fox presents an Arthur P. Jacobs Production," after which the sequence of the spacecraft being towed to the beach and its occupants disembarking is shown. The rest of the credits then follow, with Roddy McDowall's and Kim Hunter's names appearing beside shots of them. The opening and ending cast credits differ slightly in order.
According to a modern source, directors Gene Kelly, Gordon Douglas, Noel Black and Paul Wendkos were considered for the project before Don Taylor was hired. Modern sources also note that producer Arthur Jacobs initially wanted to cast Henry Fonda as the president, but Taylor disagreed with him, fearing that Fonda was too well-known and would overshadow the other actors. Character actor William Windom was cast instead. In a December 1970 LAHExam article about the film's shooting, Hollywood columnist James Bacon, who had a one-line speaking role in the film as "General Faulkner," stated that Jack Berle, brother of Milton Berle, appeared in the same scene. His appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed, however. About Bacon's performance, the May 1971 LAHExam review stated: "The face is his but the voice isn't." Hollywood Reporter production charts include Moishe Guss and Sandy Kevin in the cast, but their appearance in the released film also has not been confirmed.
According to studio publicity, exteriors for the film were shot on locations around Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, including the Beverly Wilshire Hotel; several upscale shops in the Wilshire District and Beverly Hills, including Carroll & Co. men's shop and Giorgio's women's shop; the Los Angeles Zoo; and the L.A. County Museum of Natural History. The splashdown of the spaceship at the beginning of the picture was filmed off the Malibu coast. A modern source adds that the harbor sequences were shot in San Pedro and other scenes were shot in Rancho Park, near the Twentieth Century-Fox lot.
Modern sources report that a sequence in which the apes are in their spacecraft and witness the destruction of the Earth was filmed but not included in the completed picture. Modern sources add Paul Bradly, Joe Gray and Robert Nichols to the cast.
When "Zira" is drugged and answering the questions of "E-1" and "E-2", her CIA interrogators, brief footage from Planet of the Apes, the first movie in the series, is shown to illustrate her answers, including a shot of actor Robert Gunner as astronaut "Landon," upon whom a lobotomy had been performed, and the scene in which Zira kisses "Col. Taylor," played by Charlton Heston. Actress Natalie Trundy, who played "Dr. Stephanie `Stevie' Branton," was the wife of producer Arthur Jacobs and appeared in different roles in four films in the "Planet of the Apes" series.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes was a box-office success and garnered many favorable reviews. Several reviewers applauded the picture's humor and social commentary, as well as the performances of Hunter and McDowall. The picture was the third in Twentieth Century-Fox's "Planet of the Apes" series and continued the story line of the second picture, the 1970 release Beneath the Planet of the Apes, in which the gorillas battle a race of mutant humans living in the underground ruins of New York City. At the end of that movie, a nuclear bomb is exploded, destroying the planet. In the next film in the series, the 1972 film ^Conquest of the Planet of the Apes , Cornelius and Zira's baby, now named Caesar and portrayed by McDowall, is grown and leads the revolt of domesticated apes against their human oppressors. For more information about the series, please see the entry below for the 1968 production Planet of the Apes.
Released in USA on video.
Selected in 2001 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best English-language Films by the 1968 National Board of Review.
Released in United States Spring May 1, 1971
1998 Video re-release is restored, remastered, and THX certified.
Re-released on video in USA August 11, 1998.
Released in United States Spring May 1, 1971
Third installment to PLANET OF THE APES (1968) directed by Franklin J Schaffner; 2nd installment BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970) directed by Ted Post.