STARRING: Roddy McDowall, Don Murray, Ricardo Montalban, Natalie Trundy, Hari Rhodes, Severn Darden, Lou Wagner, John Randolph

1972, 87 Minutes, Directed by: J. Lee Thompson

apes_4.jpg (7331 bytes)Description: Roddy McDowall returns in the fourth Planet of the Apes film as Caesar, the son of Cornelius, leading an ape revolution that bridges the historical gap of the previous films.

At the end of Escape from the Planet of the Apes we saw the offspring of the two time-traveling apes safely hidden from hostile authorities at a zoo run by the character played by Ricardo Montalban (perhaps best known as his portrayal as Khan in Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan). We also had a pretty good idea what would happen afterwards: the ape offspring will lead a rebellion of apes in which they will gain the upper hand and become the dominant species on Earth.

Predictably the fourth movie in the series, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, merely fills in the minor details of what we know will happen, which makes the movie a rather superfluous experience. Someone once called the original Planet of the Apes film a "hysterical race parable", but this description suits Conquest better than any of the other movies.

After a plague brought from an astronaut from outer space has wiped out all the cats and dogs on Earth, humanity started domesticating apes for household pets. Realizing how smart they are, the apes are soon turned into slaves to perform menial tasks such as waitering and mopping up the floors with black leather-clad Gestapo types (like in The Empire Strikes Back and Barbwire later on) to watch over them.

The only person who happens to be sympathetic to the plight of the apes also happens to be the only Black character in the movie, who actually says something to the effect of "as the descendent of emancipated slaves" at some point in the movie. This much obviousness doesn’t help Conquest at all. Nor that it is a largely humorless affair (the best entries in the series thus far - the 1968 original and the 1971 Escape from the Planet of the Apes – both displayed unexpected humor that pretty much saved them). In the end we are merely going round and round as the Apes series becomes the serpent devouring its own tail.

Conquest isn’t bad (a good performance by Roddy McDowall, who starred in all the Apes films except for the second Beneath the Planet of the Apes entry and plays his own son in this film helps), but it isn’t really good either . . .

(Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was followed by one last big screen sequel, namely Battle for the Planet of the Apes in 1973. Then there are the two television series - one of them animated.)


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