|Conquest of the Planet of the Apes|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||J. Lee Thompson|
|Produced by||Arthur P. Jacobs|
|Written by||Paul Dehn|
by Pierre Boulle
|Music by||Tom Scott|
Alan L. Jaggs
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$9.7 million|
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is a 1972 science fiction film directed by J. Lee Thompson and written by Paul Dehn. It is the fourth of five films in the original Planet of the Apes series produced by Arthur P. Jacobs. The film stars Roddy McDowall, Don Murray and Ricardo Montalbán. It explores how the apes rebelled from humanity's ill treatment following Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971). It was followed by Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).
In the year 1991, following a pandemic from a spaceborne disease that wiped out all cats and dogs, the American government has become a series of police states that took apes as pets before establishing a culture based on ape slave labor. These events were foretold a few years earlier as testimony by Cornelius, prior to him and his wife Zira being killed. While it appeared their child was also killed, their son Milo evaded death and was secretly raised by the circus owner Armando as a young horseback rider. Armando brings a fully grown Milo to New York to distribute flyers for the circus's arrival, explaining to the curious ape the events that led to their new reality while advising him not to speak in fear for his life.
Seeing apes performing various menial tasks and shocked at the harsh discipline inflicted on disobedient apes, Milo shouts out "Lousy human bastards!" after seeing an ape messenger being beaten and drugged. Though Armando takes responsibility for the exclamation while defusing the situation, Milo runs off in the commotion. Finding Milo hiding in a stairway, Armando tells the ape that he will turn himself to the authorities and bluff his way out while instructing Milo to hide among a group of arriving apes for safety. Milo follows Armando's instruction and hides in a cage of orangutans, finding himself being trained for slavery through violent conditioning. Milo is then sold at auction to Governor Breck, allowed by his owner to name himself by randomly pointing to a word in a book handed to him. The chimpanzee's finger rests upon the name "Caesar", feigning coincidence. Caesar is then put to work by Breck's chief aide MacDonald whose African American heritage allows him to sympathize with the apes to the thinly veiled disgust of his boss.
Meanwhile, Armando is being interrogated by Inspector Kolp, who suspects his "circus ape" is the child of the two talking apes from the future. Kolp's assistant puts Armando under a machine, "The Authenticator", that psychologically forces people to be truthful. After admitting he had heard the name Cornelius before, Armando realizes he cannot fight the machine and jumps through a window to his death after a brief struggle with a guard. When Caesar learns of his foster father's death, he loses faith in human kindness and begins secretly teaching the apes combat while having them gather weapons.
By that time, through Kolp's investigation that the vessel which supposedly delivered Caesar is from a region with no native chimpanzees, Breck learns that Caesar is the ape they are hunting. Caesar reveals himself to MacDonald after he covered for the ape twice when called by Breck on Caesar's whereabouts. While MacDonald understands Caesar's intent to depose Breck, he expresses his doubts about the revolution's effectiveness along with Caesar being dismissive of all humans. Caesar is later captured by Breck's men and is electrically tortured into speaking. Hearing him speak, Breck orders Caesar's immediate death. Caesar survives his execution because MacDonald secretly lowers the machine's electrical output well below lethal levels. Once Breck leaves, Caesar kills his torturer and escapes.
Caesar begins his revolution by first taking over Ape Management to build his numbers, proceeding to the command center with the apes killing most of the riot police that attempt to stop them while setting the city on fire. After bursting into Breck's command post and killing most of the personnel, Caesar has Breck marched out to be executed. MacDonald attempts to plea Caesar not to succumb to brutality and be merciful to the former masters. Caesar ignores him and in a rage declares:
Where there is fire, there is smoke. And in that smoke, from this day forward, my people will crouch, and conspire, and plot, and plan for the inevitable day of Man's downfall. The day when he finally and self-destructively turns his weapons against his own kind. The day of the writing in the sky, when your cities lie buried under radioactive rubble! When the sea is a dead sea, and the land is a wasteland out of which I will lead my people from their captivity! And we shall build our own cities, in which there will be no place for humans except to serve our ends! And we shall found our own armies, our own religion, our own dynasty! And that day is upon you NOW!
As the apes raise their rifles to beat Breck to death, Caesar's girlfriend Lisa voices her objection, "NO!" She is the first ape to speak other than Caesar. Caesar reconsiders and orders the apes to lower their weapons, saying:
But now... now we will put away our hatred. Now we will put down our weapons. We have passed through the night of the fires, and those who were our masters are now our servants. And we, who are not human, can afford to be humane. Destiny is the will of God, and if it is Man's destiny to be dominated, it is God's will that he be dominated with compassion, and understanding. So, cast out your vengeance. Tonight, we have seen the birth of the Planet of the Apes!
J. Lee Thompson, who had maintained an interest in the franchise ever since producer Arthur P. Jacobs invited him for the original Planet of the Apes, was hired to direct Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Thompson had worked with Jacobs on two earlier films, What a Way to Go! and The Chairman, as well as during the initial stages of Planet, but scheduling conflicts had made him unavailable during its long development process.
Thompson staged every scene with attention to detail, such as highlighting the conflicts with color: the humans wear black and other muted colors, while the apes' suits are colorful. Don Murray suggested to Thompson his wardrobe with a black turtleneck sweater, and rehearsed his scenes after translating his dialogue into German "to get this kind of severe feeling of the Nazis". Screenwriter Paul Dehn wrote the film incorporating references to the racial conflicts in North America during the early 1970s, and Thompson further highlighted by shooting some scenes in a manner similar to a news broadcast. The primary location was Century City, Los Angeles, that had previously been part of the 20th Century Fox backlot and translated well the bleak future with monochromatic buildings in a sterile ultramodern style. Also used as a shooting location was the University of California, Irvine, in Orange County. In addition, TV producer Irwin Allen contributed props and clothes to the film: he let the makers of 'Conquest' borrow his Seaview jumpsuits from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, brown clothes and computers and cabinets for Ape Management that were used first on The Time Tunnel and other sets and props from other Allen productions.
Of the five original films, Conquest is the only entry filmed in Todd-AO 35 using Arriflex ARRI 35IIC cameras with lenses provided by the Carl Zeiss Group; the other Apes pictures were filmed in Panavision.
The original cut of Conquest ended with the brutal killing of Governor Breck, with an implicit message that this circle of hatred would never end. After a preview screening in Phoenix on June 1, 1972, the impact of the graphic content caused the producers to rework the film, even though they did not have the budget to do so. Roddy McDowall recorded a complement to Caesar's final speech, which was portrayed through editing tricks - Caesar being mostly shown through close-ups of his eyes, the gorillas hitting Breck with his rifles played backwards to imply they were giving up - and assured a lower rating. The film's Blu-ray version adds an unrated version, restoring the original ending and many other graphic scenes.
Conquest is the only Apes film without a pre-title sequence. The film's script and novelization describes a nighttime pre-title scene where police on night patrol shoot an escaping ape and discover that his body is covered with welts and bruises as evidence of severe abuse (in a later scene Governor Breck refers to the "ape that physically assaulted his master," thereby prompting MacDonald to report that the escape must have been the result of severe mistreatment). The scene appears in the first chapter of John Jakes' novelization of the movie, and in the Marvel Comics adaption of the film in the early 1970s, both of which were probably based directly on the screenplay and not on the final edit of the actual film. An article in the Summer 1972 issue of Cinefantastique (volume 2, issue 2) by Dale Winogura shows and describes the scene being shot, but it is unknown why it was cut. The Blu-ray extended cut does not contain the pre-credit opening.
Screenplay writer Paul Dehn, who wrote and co-wrote the sequels, said in interviews with Cinefantastique (quoted in The Planet of the Apes Chronicles, by Paul Woods) that the story he was writing had a circular timeline:
The whole thing has become a very logical development in the form of a circle. I have a complete chronology of the time circle mapped out, and when I start a new script, I check every supposition I make against the chart to see if it is correct to use it...While I was out there [in California], Arthur Jacobs said he thought this would be the last so I fitted it together so that it fitted in with the beginning of Apes One, so that the wheel had come full circle and one could stop there quite happily, I think?-- January 1972
The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics at the time of its release. It currently holds a 44% 'rotten' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, from 18 reviews, all published from 2000 to 2008.
The film earned $4.5 million in theatrical rentals at the North American box office.