Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

Article #1660 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-30-2005
Posting Date: 2-27-2006
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Featuring Roddy McDowall, Claude Akins, Natalie Trundy

After nuclear war has destroyed human civilization, apes try to build a new society based on not killing each other, but find themselves dealing with internal dissension, mutants from a destroyed city, and humans who have only a second-class status in ape society.

This was the last of the “Planet of the Apes” movies, and it is generally considered the weakest. My memory of having seen it years ago was somewhat kinder; though I considered it a weaker entry, I had fond memories of the way it closed up the series, and I felt rather warm towards it in much the same way I would feel about sending in the last payment of a long-standing loan. If anything, I liked it better than BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES.

However, on re-viewing, I do believe this one goes on the bottom of the heap. It has some good ideas, but the problems overwhelm it. The acting is uneven; probably the best performance comes from Lew Ayres as Mandemus, the keeper of the armory, whose questioning of Caesar’s motives for requesting armaments is the highlight of the movie. Roddy McDowall is also quite good, but he’s had plenty of experience with these roles as well. Paul Williams does a serviceable job as well as Virgil. However, the villains are particularly weak; Claude Akins never conjures up the aggressive sense of authority he needs to pull off the role of General Aldo, and the mutants of the underground city are never convincing, though this is less to do with the acting and more to do with the fact that the script develops them as nothing more than symbols of man’s violent nature and then gives them the most horrible dialogue of the movie. I don’t think anyone could have pulled off these roles. Furthermore, the direction is listless and unimaginative, and sometimes downright poor; in particular, the final confrontation between Caesar and Aldo is weakly handled. The cast also includes John Huston as The Lawgiver (he narrates the movie) and an early screen appearance from director John Landis. All in all, it’s a tired and uninspired end to the series.

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