Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

escape from the planet of the apes poster 1971 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Acting: 7/10
Story: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Kim Hunter & Roddy McDowall, fun '70s retro feel

Time loop stories make me nuts

Movie Info

Movie Name: Escape from the Planet of the Apes

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): May 21, 1971

MPAA Rating: G

escape from the planet of the apes sal mineo kim hunter roddy mcdowall

I don’t think we’re in Ape-Kansas anymore

The crashing of a missing spaceship into the Pacific yields not the missing astronauts but three simian pilots.  Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), Zira (Kim Hunter), and Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo) have managed to escape the destruction of their world upon Taylor’s spaceship.  Though Milo meets with a quick fate, Cornelius and Zira find themselves as worldwide celebrities.  Dr. Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden) suspects Zira and Cornelius are hiding something about their future and the fate of man…and the announcement that Zira is pregnant could be a death sentence.

Directed by Don Taylor, Escape from the Planet of the Apes is a science-fiction adventure film.  Following Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1970, the film is the third entry in the series.

I loved Planet of the Apes movies growing up and Escape from the Planet of the Apes was always my favorite of the films as a kid.  The apes were in “our” world and having fun…but I also remember being pretty scarred by the ending.

escape from the planet of the apes rodeo drive kim hunter

You see the weirdest things in LA

The movie is probably the best of the sequels.  The story raises questions about predestination, race equality (something in most of the Planet of the Apes movies), and in general a clash of cultures that fits with a lot of stuff going on the United States in 1971.  The story has some real science-fiction moments as they debate “stopping” the apes’ future and the moral implications of killing innocents to prevent future atrocities.  This leads to Zira and Cornelius going on the run and the rather shocking ending (plus the set-up of future films).

Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter were the heart of the original Planet of the Apes in their attempts to understand humans, and here they are the heart of the movie as the situation is switched.  I wish that Sal Mineo’s character had stuck around a bit longer (he allegedly was written out for disliking the ape make-up, but even better would have been if Dr. Zaius had been able to join the group to add another layer with an orangutan who 100% believes in the superiority of apes).  It has a rather strong supporting cast with Bradford Dillman, Natalie Trundy, Eric Braeden William Windom, John Randolph, Albert Salmi, Ricardo Montalbán, and a small early role by M. Emmet Walsh.

escape from the planet of the apes chimpanzee baby kim hunter roddy mcdowall bradford dillman

What a cute little guy…he’ll enjoy performing for us. I mean, he’ll have a great life here in the US

The fun of this movie is the contrast of the apes in the modern society.  The original novel Planet of the Apes had the apes driving cars and tanks and other vehicles, but the movies scaled back the ape civilization.  Here, you get that odd contrast of the Zira trying on new clothes, taking a bubble, and speaking to a women’s club, and Cornelius trying on a suit…it is a fun contrast.  The movie also plays with the apes a bit in that Cornelius and Zira’s baby looks just like a baby chimpanzee (though the last shot of the movie where loop and reverse the film looks pretty bad).  It is also fun that the arrival point by the ship is the same beach that Taylor found the Statue of Liberty on at the end of the first film.

Escape from the Planet of the Apes kind of sets up a new timeline for the apes.  The events from this film on don’t quite mesh well with stories told in the first three films so I tend to believe that they created a tangent future (as described by the Hasslein character).  The movie also can’t be over-thought that much because the film feels like fun is the primary goal with science-fiction secondary.  Escape from the Planet of the Apes is followed by Conquest of the Planet of the Apes in 1972.

Related Links:

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

Planet of the Apes (2001)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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