REVIEW: BATMAN: THE COMPLETE 60’S SERIES

CAST

Adam West (Family Guy)
Burt Ward (Legends of The Super Heroes)
Alan Napier (Marnie)
Neil Hamilton (Tarzan The Ape Man)
Stafford Repp (Plunder Road)
Madge Blake (The Long, Long Trailer)
Yvonne Craig (Olivia)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Frank Gorshin (Star Trek)
Jill St. John (Diamonds Are Forever)
Burgess Meredith (Rocky)
David Lewis (The Apartment0
Leslie Parrish (Sex and The Single Girl)
Cesar Romero (The Thin Man)
Nancy Kovack (Marooned)
George Sanders (All About Eve)
Anne Baxter (I Confess)
Susan Silo (James Bond JR)
David Wayne (The Andromeda Strain)
Malachi Throne (Catch Me If You Can)
Myma Fahey (House of Usher)
Julie Newmar (Mckenna’s Gold)
Ziva Rodann (Forty Guns)
Victor Buono (Beneath The Planet of The Apes)
Olan Soule (The Toweing Inferno)
Francine York (The Family Man)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Sherry Jackson (Brenda Starr, Reporter)
Julie Gregg (The Godfather)
Barbara Nichols (Where the Boys Are)
Art Carney (Last Action Hero)
Van Johnson (The Caine Mutiny)
Phyllis Diller (A Bug’s Life)
Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects)
Michael Pataki (Rocky 4)
Bruce Lee (Enter The Dragon)
Van Williams (Surfside 6)
Shelley Winters (Alfie)
Walter Slezak (Lifeboat)
Vincent Price (Edward Scissorhands)
Liberace (Another World)
Woodrow Parfrey (Dirty Harry)
Otto Preminger (Anatomy of Murder)
Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family)
Cliff Robertson (Spider-Man)
Ted Cassidy (Genesis II)
Maurice Evans (Rosemary’s Baby)
Michael Rennie (The Day The Earth Stood Still)
James Brolin (Hotel)
Lesley Gore (The Pied Piper of Astroworld)
Bob Hastings (batman: TAS)
Roger C. Carmel (Star Trek)
Alex Rocco (The Simpsons)
Seymour Cassel (Rushmore)
Lee Meriwether (Barnaby Jones)
Grace Lee Whitney (Star Trek)
Tallulah Bankhead (A Royal Scandal)
Eli Wallach (The Holiday)
Elisha Cook Jr. (Rosemary’s Baby)
Joan Collins (Dynasty)
Ethel Merman (Call Me Madam)
Gary Owens (That 70s Show)
Milton Berle (Hey, Abbott!)
Glynis Johns (Mary Poppins)
Rudy Vallee (Sunburst)
Eartha Kitt (Holes)
Barbara Rush (When Worlds Collide)
Dina Merrill (Caddyshack II)
Linda Harrison (Planet of The Apes)
Ida Lupino (High Sierra)
Howard Duff (Kramer vs Kramer)
Zsa Zsa Gabor (Jack of Diamonds)

This is the show that set the tone for the Batman franchise for decades, good and bad, as its indelible mark is hard to erase. The power of the show is in how iconic it was, with every element so vibrant that it’s impossible to forget. Yes, it had the advantage of being the first modern-era mass-media representation of the character, and it also basically had the stage to itself forever, but there was so many memorable ingredients that made it the definitive Batman for generations. First among those were the performances of Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. Playing it completely straight–West with thoughtful gravitas, Ward with youthful enthusiasm–these actors kept the show from descending into parody. The world may be crazy, but our heroes remain vigilant defenders and detectives. The contrast makes their square-jawed heroics comedic, and the effect is enhanced when things get unusual like seeing Batman dance or surf, or when the Dynamic Duo are chilling out in the Batmobile eating burgers.
The structure of the series, which leans heavily on the style of the old serials and a well-defined formula, was also a big reason for the show’s success and long-lasting legacy. During the first two seasons, stories were split over two half-hour episodes, shown twice a week. The first episode would always end with Batman and Robin on the edge of destruction in some sort of insane death-dealing set-up, with the now classic refrain “same Bat-time, same Bat-channel” reminding viewers to come back to see the story’s weekly conclusion. These cliffhangers, along with the emphatic narration, the atmospheric music, the wonderfully detailed sets and costumes and the choreographed fight scenes, which feature the show’s famous “Pow!” and “Bam” visual sound effects, all serve to create a larger-than-life adventure series that’s great fun to watch.
Though West doesn’t appreciate the show being described as campy, it’s hard to think of a word that fits the series better. The thing is, you have to separate the ideas of bad and camp. Camp doesn’t have to be bad. It just has to be absurdly silly. So much of the show is obviously aiming for comedy, be it the way Batman solves impossible clues impossibly quick, the goofy names of the bad guys’ labeled henchmen, the villains’ strange obsession with personal branding, the overly literal signs seen all over the place, or the strangely specific gadgets Batman always has at the ready. I mean, really…an empty alphabet soup bat-container? Then there are the overtly humorous parts, like the cameos when Batman and Robin climb up the sides of buildings, which feature celebrity cameos from Sammy Davis Jr., Don Ho, Santa Claus and Lurch from The Addams Family. Elements like this earn plenty of chuckles throughout the series, but they don’t take away from the fun of the action or the crime-fighting plots. They also serve to make for what might be the most accessible Batman ever; enjoyable for young and old alike.
The show burned brightly, but only for three seasons, crashing hard considering the show’s immense popularity. Perhaps it was overexposure due to the twice-a-week schedule, with 58 episodes in season two, but the show was definitely showing signs of slowing down in the final season before cancellation, including mostly eliminating the cliffhanger, instead linking episodes via a coda at the end. Whether it was an artistic choice or otherwise, the weird way the show started to use “suggested sets,” in which parts of a set were placed in an otherwise black room to create the idea of the setting, made it seem like something had changed for the worse. Another major change in the third season also stood out somewhat negatively, as Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl (the crime-fighting alter-ego of police commissioner Gordon’s daughter Barbara) was added to the show as a regular. She didn’t bring a great deal to the party though, outside of a great costume design, as she often needed saving as much as she helped the team.
The other issue with Batgirl was she was further evidence of the show being a product of its time, as, in addition to the clothes, sets and language all being heavily dated to the ‘60s (especially in the third run), sexism is rampant throughout the series, whether display via the eye-candy molls of the villains or the drooling narration for the new distaff member of the Bat-team. The portrayal of women is pretty much entirely negative in the show, with flippant remarks about the vanity of women or their value, while one villain, Nora Clavicle, is actually a women’s rights activist, who replaces the police force with women, who are only interested in coupons and recipes. The rampant misogyny is odd considering the show was progressive enough to have an interracial flirtation between West’s Batman and Kitt’s Catwoman.
Though the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder are obviously the stars of the show, the villains are what defines the series, as has always been the case with Batman. In addition to his traditional rogues gallery, including Joker, Riddler, Penguin and Catwoman, this series introduced a number of freshly-minted felons, some of which eventually were incorporated into the comic books, like Victor Buono’s over-acted King Tut. The oft-ridiculous nature of these baddies, which were often created to give big celebrities of the day a chance to play, like Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Minerva, Milton Berle’s Louie the Lilac or Liberace’s Fingers, was a big part of why the show was viewed as campy.
As goofy as the new creation were, the originals were wonderfully evil, especially Cesar Romero’s Joker, Frank Gorshin’s Riddler and Julie Newmar’s Catwoman (though that shouldn’t take anything away from Eartha Kitt’s purr-fect turn in the cat suit in the show’s third season.) These three each brought something special to the show, be it Romero’s manic glee, Gorshin’s dark intensity or Newmar’s unrestrained sensuality. The problem with having the villains be such a focal point of the show is it makes the series uneven, as a weak villain, like Van Johnson’s Minstrel or Maurice Evans’ Puzzler, usually makes for a weak episode. The exception to that rule would have to the two-part “A Piece of the Action”/”Batman’s Satisfaction”, which had a terrible nemesis in the stamp-forging Colonel Gumm, but which is great fun because of a crossover with The Green Hornet, which meant Van Williams and Bruce Lee were on hand for twice the crime-fighting action. Just seeing Lee on Batman was great, but having two masked heroes and their rich alter-egos interacting without each other knowing made for a fun twist on the heroes.

Looking at the set as a whole, it’s easy to wonder why the first 12 discs are extras-free. There’s not a commentary to be found. Considering how long the wait has been, and how influential and popular the show is, you’d think there would be plenty of people that would want to sit down and talk about this show. It’s bad enough that the lengthy delays have resulted in many of the cast and creators passing before its release, but to not have any contemporary perspectives is just doubling down on this problem.
There’s also the fact that two separate releases of bonus content that have been released in the past, “Holy Batmania!,” which offered four documentaries on the series, and “Adam West Naked,” a collection of recollections produced by West himself. Some of this contest should have been included on the third disc of season three, which has just two 30 minute episodes. What’s worse is Warner Brothers is offering “Adam West Naked” as part of an odd package online that includes the first 64 episodes, the Batman ‘60s movie and some ephemera.
Thankfully the 13th disc fills in a lot of the gaps holding all of the set’s bonus content, most of which is courtesy of master extra maker Alexander Gray, who has produced and directed this kind of material for loads of DC-related DVDs. It all starts with “Hanging with Batman” (29:56), which focuses on West, looking at his life, from his childhood to his acting career, with plenty of time on his experiences as Batman and the legacy of that performance. The piece, which is loaded with archival photos and video, isn’t fluffy in any way, touching on some of the darker moments of West’s life, including controversy that surrounded him at his peak as a star and his personal and professional struggles in the wake of the show’s cancellation and the character’s rebirth with the Tim Burton movies. An excellent profile of a charismatic man with an interesting life.
“Holy Memorabilia, Batman!” (29:59) looks at the fans, a few in particular, and the collecting that sprung up around the show, including the key pieces and the process of acquiring them. With Toy Hunter’s Jordan Hembrough providing expert (and some personal) perspective, the featurette checks out the collections of actor Ralph Garman (Family Guy, the Hollywood Babble-On podcast) and Guinness record-holder Kevin Silva, as well as the work of Mark Racop, who builds replica Batmobiles. The Garman segments also feature a visit by West to check out (and even try on) the goods, and the result is an excellent look at a side product of the series.
An odd inclusion is “Na Na Na Batman” (12:15) which features a huge roster of producers and directors from Warner Brothers-produced series talking about the Batman series, including their memories of watching the show (if they are old enough) along with the costumes and villains. The connection to the show for most of these participants, which include Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, Mike O’Malley, Stephen Amell, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins and Jensen Ackles, is beyond tangential, which coats the whole piece with a sheen of promotion, but if you’re a fan of shows like Supernatural, Arrow, The Following and The Mentalist, perhaps you’ll enjoy these worlds crashing together. Wedged in here with all these people is West and Burt Ward, bringing things back to center a bit.
The point of “Batmania Born!” (29:41) isn’t entirely clear, as it can get a bit scattered in terms of the subject matter, but it seems to mainly talk about the look of the series, and mainly features the voices of people from the world of comic books and related TV series, though some production design and costuming people sneak in as well to discuss the visuals of Batman, including the influences of the comic books, the animated opening, the tights and, most interestingly, the negative effect the show had on comic books in the larger world of entertainment. Among those sitting down to chat are Jim Lee, Bruce Timm and Julie Newmar, long with archival clips of Cesar Romero and Frank Gorshin, making this catnip for comics fans.
Lee and Garman return in “Bats of the Round Table” (45:08), joining Batman superfan Kevin Smith and actor Phil Morris (Smallville), as they sit down for a meal with West. Unsurprisingly, the chat is dominated by Smith–a natural conversationalist–but they all chime in at some point, peppering West with questions and actually getting some interesting answers, including talk about dealing with a difficult Otto Preminger, who West’s favorite guest star and favorite Catwoman was, life on the set and a fun story about Ward and Bruce Lee. One wonders how the mostly unconnected Morris got in on this group (though he does have a Batman story of his own to share), but they all interact well in a smooth-flowing get-together. The ending may be slightly cheesy, but it’s a satisfying featurette.
Though there are no commentaries in this set, there are two pseudo-commentaries, in the form of the two-part “Inventing Batman: In the Words of Adam West.” These pieces, which run a total of 59:08, feature West, in occasional picture-in-picture appearances, reading excerpts from his shooting scripts for “Hi Diddle Riddle” and “Stuck in the Middle” while the episodes play. There’s a tremendous amount of dead air (probably more than half the episodes are just the original audio), which may explain the lack of commentaries, but it’s great when West shares the notes he made on the script during the production process and his thought process for the character.
The bonuses wrap up with a quartet of rarities, which are mostly great to check out. First up is the 7:54 pilot for Batgirl. This never-aired “episode” was intended to show the character could work, in advance of her introduction in Batman’s third season. This compact adventure, which features Batgirl fighting Killer Moth and his gang alongside the Dynamic Duo in a library, feels just like the Batman series, complete with the “Pow!”s, but with a lot more sexism, courtesy of the narrator and Batman himself. Today, it’s really kind of creepy.
Also included are a pair of screen tests for the show, which are truly fascinating. First up is West and Ward (6:16), in a proto-Wayne Manor and the Batcave, doing a pair of scenes, following by a brief tumbling and karate demonstration by Ward and some silent footage of the pair in the ‘Cave. The performances were so fully formed right off the bat (no pun intended) that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the roles. That’s solidified when you see Lyle Waggoner and Peter Deyell try out for the parts (4:23), doing the same roles on the same sets, with the same sketchy costumes. Robin is more childish in Deyell’s performance, while Waggoner doesn’t bring the same measured intensity as West. Watching it though, allows you to picture an entirely different history for Batman.
The final entry is a James Blakely Tribute (2:24). The title is a bit misleading, as it’s just a clip of Blakely, post-production supervisor on the show, discussing the story of the series’ development and the idea of editing in the show’s iconic sound-effects graphics. It’s not really a tribute in the traditional manner.
 It’s only natural that waiting so long for these episodes to arrive on home video has made expectations unmeetable, but between the wonderfully silly show, the quality of the presentation and the excellent extras that actually have been included, this set is one all Batman fans will want to own.
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REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN – SEASON 1-3

CAST

Lynda Carter (Supegirl)
Lyle Waggoner (Love me Deadly)
Beatrice Colon (Happy Days)
Richard Eastham (Toast of The Town)
Norman Burton (Valley of The Dolls)
Saundra Sharp (The Learning Tree)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Red Buttons (The Longest Day)
Stella Stevens (The Poseidon Adventure)
Cloris Leachman (American Gods)
Christine Belford (Outlaws)
Lynda Day George (Chisum)
Anne Francis (Forbidfden Planet)
Dick Van Patten (Spaceballs)
Linda Carpenter (Apoclaypse Now)
John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family 1964)
Debra Winger (Tears of Endearment)
Pamela Susan Shoop (Halloween 2)
Robert Loggia (Scarface)
Robert Reed (The Brady Bunch)
Tim O’ Connor (The Naked Gun 2 1/2)
Robert Hays (Airplane)
Harris Yulin (Ghostbusters 2)
Charles Cyphers (Halloween)
Fritz Weaver (Creepshow)
Bettye Ackerman (Rascal)
Jessica Walter (Arrested Development)
Brooke Bundy (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3/4)
Barry Dennen (The Shining)
James Hong (Agents of Shield)
Beatrice Straight (Poltergeist)
Bob Hastings (Batman: TAS)
Eve Plumb (Fudge)
Denny Miller (Wagon Train)
John Colicos (The Changeling)
Celeste Holm (High Society)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
Dick Rambo (Another World)
Earl Boen (The Terminator)
Anne Ramsey (The Goonies)
Frank Gorshin (Batman 60s)
John Rubenstein (Angel)
Ed Begley Jr. (Veronica Mars)
Hal Englund (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)
Leif Garrett (The Outsides)
Martin Mull (Sabrina: TTW)
Lance LeGault (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation)
Craig T. Nelson (My Name Is Earl)
Mako (Conan The Barbarian)
Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek: DS9)
George Cheung (Rambo: First Blood)
Sheryl Lee Ralph (Moesha)
Judge Reinhold (Beverly Hills Cop)
Donnelly Rhodes (Tron Legacy)
Marc Alaimo (Total Recall)
Joan Van Ark (Knotts Landing)

Wonder Woman is a somewhat forgotten show, it’s not on syndication much, but it’s gotten a boost from a successful release on DVD. The first season takes place in the 1940s with Wonder Woman constantly fighting to dismantle the Nazi’s schemes. The following two seasons take place in the 1970s, and they will be released on DVD soon.

The show is always bordering on the level of high camp, but like most every show from the 1970s, it tells its’ story in a very plain straightforward fashion. Wonder Woman comes to the aid of Steve Trevor, who can never seem to help himself (the male in distress). Someone they know turns out to be an undercover Nazi spy, who is trying to steal valuable information or hurt many Americans.

Lynda Carter, first of all was amazing. She seemed to hit her stride in the part as the series continued and she is often so charming and innocent that you can’t help but like her. Her values and strength of character are idealistic, but they’re also missing in today’s female heroes, who are so dark sometimes, they lose their charm. In many ways, watching Lynda as Wonder Woman is a breath of fresh air and of course, there still doesn’t seem to be a woman other than her who could wear that outfit and pull it off. When Wonder Woman first walks on the city streets in the pilot, you don’t know what to think, but Lynda plays her so innocently she’s fantastic.

She is the driving force, but the innocent quality of the show (good vs. bad) is unique from today’s perspective. The comic book captions at the leads of scenes give it a tie to the comics. The guest stars are often interesting and have good roles and Lyle Waggoner is consistent in a rather thankless role as Steve Trevor.  It may not hold up perfectly today, but it’s a nice time capsule series and Lynda Carter does hold up well in a role she was born to play. And along with the Hulk, this was the best of the slew of comic book hero shows from the 1970s-early 80s.

REVIEW: BEHIND THE PLANET OF THE APES

CAST
Roddy McDowall (Batman: The Animated Series)
Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur)
Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire)
Linda Harrison (Batman: The Series 1966)
Ricardo Montalban (Star Trek II)
James Naughton (Hostages)
 


This release was first broadcast by American Movie Classics (AMC) and is hosted by the late Roddy McDowell who played “Cornelius”. Included here is three plus hours of footage (in addition to the main documentary) that will be most welcome to fans of the series and a pleasant surprise to those like myself who are not that familiar with “Apes”. All five films in the series are covered and trailers included for all. Also here is the 1967 North American Theatre Owners (NATO) presentation as well as a fascinating screen test featuring Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson, who was originally tapped to play Heston’s ape nemesis, but later bowed out due to health concerns.


All in all, this will appeal to two groups of DVD fans-those that love the “Apes” series and those who love behind the scenes and “the making of” type documentaries.

REVIEW: BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

CAST
Roddy McDowall (Batman: The Animated Series)
Claude Akins (Murder She Wrote)
Natalie Trundy (Huckaberry Finn)
Severn Darden (Beyond Westworld)
Lew Ayres (Johnny Belinda)
Paul Williams (Smokey and The Bandit)
Austin Stoker (Assault on Precint 13)
Told as a flashback to the early 21st century with a wraparound sequence narrated by the orangutan Lawgiver (John Huston) in “North America – 2670 A.D.”, this sequel follows the ape leader Caesar (Roddy McDowall) years after a global nuclear war has destroyed civilization. In this post-nuclear society, Caesar tries to cultivate peace between the apes and the surviving humans. A gorilla general named Aldo (Claude Akins) however opposes this and plots Caesar’s downfall. Caesar is married to Lisa (Natalie Trundy), the female ape of the previous film, and they have a son named Cornelius (Bobby Porter) in honor of Caesar’s father. Caesar regrets never having known his parents until his human assistant MacDonald (Austin Stoker) tells him about film archives of his parents where he can also learn about the future. The archives are located in the Forbidden City, now a radioactive ruin. After obtaining a geiger counter and weapons from the armory, Caesar travels with MacDonald and orangutan Virgil (Paul Williams) to the Forbidden City and sneaks in to find the archives. However, there are mutants (radiation-scarred humans) still living there under the command of Governor Kolp (Severn Darden). Caesar and his party view the recordings of Cornelius and Zira and learn about the future of the world, but barely have time to study the tapes before they have to escape being captured. Caesar assembles a meeting to report his discoveries at the Forbidden City. Aldo objects when some humans show up and he leads the gorillas away. A team of scouts sent by Governor Kolp return and tell him about the Ape City. Kolp considers this covert trip by Caesar an act of espionage. His assistant Méndez (Paul Stevens) believes they did nothing wrong and should be left alone, but Governor Kolp stubbornly declares war on Ape City, mustering the humans to destroy the ape society.
Aldo is furious that Caesar wants to co-exist peacefully with humans and plots a coup d’état in order to become the Ape leader himself. Cornelius overhears this while trying to catch his escaped pet squirrel in a nearby tree. Aldo spots him and hacks the tree branch down, critically injuring Cornelius. After a gorilla scouting pair is attacked by the approaching humans (though the gorillas struck the first blow in this case by killing a human scout beforehand), Aldo orders all humans to be corralled and leads the gorillas to loot the weapons’ armory much to Virgil’s dismay. Cornelius eventually dies from his wounds, leaving Caesar devastated, but not without leaving him with a warning about Aldo’s coup.
It is at that moment that Kolp’s ragtag force launches their attack against Ape City. The initial mutant attack succeeds, forcing Caesar to order the defenders to fall back. When Kolp finds Caesar lying among dozens of apes, he threatens to kill him, but the fallen apes, who were feigning death or hiding on Caesar’s orders, launch a counter-attack that captures most of the mutants. Kolp and his remaining forces are killed by Aldo’s troops while attempting to retreat. After the battle, Aldo wants to kill the penned humans, but Caesar shields them. Aldo declares that Caesar should be killed if he shields the humans. However, Virgil reveals Aldo’s responsibility for Cornelius’ death and the breaking of the ape community’s most sacred law (“Ape shall never kill ape”). An infuriated Caesar pursues Aldo up a large tree, resulting in Aldo falling to his death during the fight. Caesar then attempts to free the humans, but they refuse to leave the pen unless humans are treated as equals. Caesar then realizes the apes are just as despicable as the former slave-owners. The apes and humans then decide to coexist with one another and begin a new society.
The Lawgiver finishes his wrap-around narration (he says it’s been over 600 years since the death of Caesar). It’s revealed he’s talking to a group of young humans and apes; apes and humans have continued to coexist in peace. When asked by a human child “Who knows about the future?”, the Lawgiver replies “Perhaps only the dead.” A closeup of a statue of Caesar shows a single tear falling from one eye.
Although the weakest of the five original films, it’s still great entertainment. The wonderfully comic script-writing in the armament scene with Mandemus is worthy of note.

 

REVIEW: CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

CAST
Roddy McDowall (Batman: The Animated Series)
Don Murray (Endless Love)
Natalie Trundy (Huckaberry Finn)
Hari Rhodes (Daktari)
Severn Darden (Beyond Westworld)
Lou Wagner (Chips)
John Randolph (Serpico)
Asa Maynor (Man Beast)
Ricardo Montalban (Star Trek II)
The opening titles set the film in “North America – 1991.” Armando (Ricardo Montalbán) explains that in 1983 (ten years after the end of Escape from the Planet of the Apes, which was set two years ahead of its theatrical release date), a disease killed the world’s cats and dogs, leaving humans with no pets. To replace them, humans began keeping apes as household pets. Realizing the apes’ capacity to learn and adapt, humans train them to perform household tasks. By 1991, American culture is based on ape slave labor (just as Cornelius described would happen in the previous film). It is also suggested that the North America of the 1990s is at least partly a police state, as apes and humans are being watched at all times. Armando and Caesar (Roddy McDowall), a young chimpanzee horseback rider in Armando’s circus, distribute flyers around a large city to advertise the circus’ arrival. Armando warns the chimpanzee to be careful….should anyone learn his identity as the son of Cornelius and Zira, it would mean their deaths. They see apes performing various menial tasks, and are shocked at the harsh discipline on disobedient apes. Seeing an ape being beaten and drugged, Caesar shouts “Lousy human bastards!” Quickly, Armando takes responsibility for the exclamation, explaining to the policemen that it was he who shouted, not his chimpanzee. The surrounding crowd becomes agitated, and Caesar flees.
Hiding in a stairway, Armando tells Caesar he will go to the authorities and bluff his way out of the situation. Meantime, Caesar has to hide among his own kind (in a cage of orangutans) and soon finds himself being trained for slavery through violent conditioning. He is then sold at auction to Governor Breck (Don Murray). Breck allows the ape to name himself by randomly pointing to a word in a book handed to him and the chimpanzee’s finger rests upon the name “Caesar”, feigning coincidence. Caesar is then put to work by Breck’s chief aide MacDonald (Hari Rhodes) who sympathizes with the apes to the thinly veiled disgust of his boss.
Meanwhile, Armando is being interrogated by Inspector Kolp (Severn Darden), 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. A guard comes in to force him to continue the interrogation, but Armando struggles and jumps through a window falling to his death. Learning of the death of his foster father, the only human that cared for him, Caesar loses faith in human kindness and begins plotting a rebellion.
Secretly, Caesar teaches combat to the other apes and has them gather weapons. While doing an errand with Ceasar, MacDonald expresses concern for the rising problems and wished he could communicate with Caesar. Caesar exposes himself as the lost circus ape and tells MacDonald of his plans to depose Breck. MacDonald, while understanding of Caesar’s intent, has his doubts about the effectiveness of revolution, as well as Caesar being dismissive of all humans. Meanwhile, Breck learns from Kolp that the vessel which supposedly delivered Caesar is from a region with no native chimpanzees. Suspecting Caesar is the ape the police are hunting, Breck’s men arrest Caesar and electrically torture him until he speaks. Hearing him speak, Breck orders Caesar’s immediate death. Caesar survives his execution because MacDonald lowers the machine’s electrical output well below lethal levels. Once Breck leaves, Caesar kills his torturer and escapes.
Caesar begins his revolution with the first objective to capture Ape Management. The apes are victorious after killing most of the riot police. After bursting into Breck’s command post and killing most of the personnel, Caesar has Breck marched out to be executed. MacDonald, whose ancestors had been slaves, begs Caesar not to succumb to brutality and show mercy to one’s 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 love interest Lisa (Natalie Trundy) 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!
The stirring speech given by Caesar at the end of the film is one of the best moments in the “Planet…” series of films. The film certainly gets you to think, and the points raised have never subdued in their relevance since the films release in ’72.

 

REVIEW: ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES

CAST

Roddy McDowall (Batman: The Animated Series)
Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire)
Bradford Dillman (Piranha)
Natalie Trundy (Huckaberry Finn)
Eric Braeden (Titanic)
William Windom (Murder She Wrote)
Sal Mineo (Giant)
M. Emmet Walsh (Blade Runner)
Norman Burton (Wonder Woman 1977)
Richardo Montalban (Star Trek II)

The preceding film, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, ends with the apes’ future Earth being destroyed by a nuclear weapon. Escape from the Planet of the Apes begins by establishing that three apes—Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), Zira (Kim Hunter), and Dr. Milo (Sal Mineo)—escaped the Earth’s destruction by salvaging and repairing Taylor’s spaceship and piloting it through the shock wave of Earth’s destruction, sending the ship through a time warp. The salvage, repair and launch all happen off-camera during the final act of the previous film.

The apes arrive on Earth in 1973, splashing down off the Pacific coast of the United States. They are transported to a secluded ward of the Los Angeles Zoo, under the observation of scientists Dr. Stephanie Branton (Natalie Trundy) and Dr. Lewis Dixon (Bradford Dillman). The apes decide not to let the humans know that they can speak. They also agree not to let them know that Earth will be destroyed because of the Ape War. Later, the apes’ power of speech is revealed when Zira becomes impatient during an experiment. Soon after, Dr. Milo is killed by a zoo gorilla who becomes agitated during an argument amongst the three chimpanzees. Lewis tries to communicate with the apes that he is peaceful and he wishes to treat them as equals, and Cornelius and Zira form a friendship with him and Dr. Branton.

A Presidential Commission is formed to investigate the return of Taylor’s spaceship and determine how atypically intelligent apes came to be aboard it. The apes are brought before the Commission, where they publicly reveal their ability to speak. The council asks them about Taylor, but Cornelius and Zira tell them that they know nothing about him. They reveal that they came from the future and escaped Earth when war broke out. They are welcomed as guests of the government. Cornelius and Zira secretly tell Stephanie and Lewis that they did know about Taylor, explain how humans are treated in the ape-dominated future, and about the Earth’s destruction. Stephanie and Lewis are shocked but still sympathetic. They tell Cornelius and Zira to keep this information secret until they can gauge the potential reaction of their hosts. The apes become celebrities, and are lavished with gifts and media attention. They come to the attention of the President’s Science Advisor Dr. Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden), who discovers Zira is pregnant. Fearing for the future of the human race, he offers her champagne (which she has developed a taste for) to loosen her inhibitions and questions her further. Her candid responses enable him to convince the Commission that Cornelius and Zira must be subjected to more rigorous questioning.

Hasslein insists that he simply wants to know how apes became dominant over men. Cornelius reveals that the human race will cause its own downfall and become dominated by simians, and that simian aggression against humans will lead to Earth’s destruction by a weapon made by humans. Zira explains that the gorillas started the war, and the orangutans supported the gorillas, but the chimpanzees had nothing to do with it. Hasslein suspects that the apes are not speaking the whole truth. During the original hearing, Zira had accidentally revealed that she dissected humans in the course of her work. Hasslein orders Lewis to administer a truth serum to her while Cornelius is confined elsewhere. Lewis assures Zira that the serum will have the same effect as champagne. As a result of the serum, Hasslein learns details about Zira’s examination and experimentation on humans.

Zira joins Cornelius in confinement while Hasslein takes his findings to the President (William Windom). Cornelius labels Hasslein and the others savages for their treatment of Zira. Zira reminds Cornelius that she did the same thing to humans and Taylor called them savages. Zira is relieved to have revealed the truth because she was tired of lying. Cornelius fears that the truth will get them killed. An orderly refers to their unborn child as a “little monkey”; Cornelius, having previously expressed his disgust at that term, loses his temper and knocks a food tray out of the orderly’s hands. The orderly falls to the floor; Cornelius believes that the man is only unconscious, but he is actually dead. Hasslein uses the tragedy in support of his claim that the apes are dangerous to humanity, and he calls for their execution. The President reluctantly orders that Zira’s pregnancy be terminated and that both apes be sterilized, but will not endorse punishment for the orderly’s death until due process has been served. Branton and Dixon help the apes to escape, and find them shelter in a circus run by Señor Armando (Ricardo Montalbán), where an ape named Heloise has just given birth. Zira gives birth to a son, whom she names Milo, in honor of their deceased friend.

Hasslein, knowing that Zira’s labor was imminent, orders a search of all circuses and zoos. Armando insists that for their own safety the apes must not stay. Lewis gives Cornelius a pistol. Cornelius, formerly a pacifist, accepts the pistol knowing he may have to use it as a last resort. The apes take refuge on an abandoned ship in Los Angeles Harbor. Hasslein tracks them there, and finds Zira resting with an infant. Hasslein shoots Zira after she refuses to hand over the infant, and then fires several shots into the infant. Cornelius returns fire and kills Hasslein. Cornelius is shot by an unseen sniper and falls. Zira tosses the dead baby over the side and crawls to die with her husband, witnessed by a grieving Lewis and Stephanie. Armando reveals that Zira and Cornelius switched babies with the common ape Heloise before their escape. Armando watches as the infant Milo plaintively asks for his mother.

I quite enjoyed this film having seen it last as a kid i found it quite charming at times and interesting to watch.  A great way to inject new life in the franchise.

REVIEW: PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

CAST
Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur)
Roddy McDowall (Batman: The Animated Series)
Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire)
Maurice Evans (Rosemary’s Baby)
James Whitmore (Them!)
Linda Harrison (Batman: The Series 1966)
Lou Wagner (Chips)
Woodrow Parfrey (Dirty Harry)
Norman Burton (Wonder Woman 1977)
Billy Curtis (Adventures of Superman)
Astronauts Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunner), Dodge (Jeff Burton) and Stewart are in deep hibernation when their spaceship crashes in a lake on an unknown planet after a long near-light speed voyage, during which, due to time dilation, the crew ages only 18 months. As the ship sinks, Taylor finds Stewart dead and her body desiccated. They throw an inflatable raft from the ship and climb down into it; before departing the ship, Taylor notes that the date is November 25, AD 3978, approximately two millennia after their departure in 1972. Once ashore, Dodge performs a soil test and pronounces the soil incapable of sustaining life. After abandoning their raft, the astronauts set off through a desolate wasteland in hopes of finding food and water before their provisions run out. Eventually, they encounter plant life. They find an oasis at the edge of the desert and go swimming, ignoring strange and eerie scarecrow-like figures. While they are swimming, their clothes are stolen. Pursuing the thieves, the astronauts find their clothes torn to shreds, their supplies pillaged and the perpetrators — a group of mute, primitive humans dressed in torn clothes — raiding a cornfield. Taylor is attracted to one of the humans, whom he later names Nova (Linda Harrison).
Suddenly, armed, uniformed gorillas on horseback charge through the cornfield, brandishing firearms, snares, and nets. They capture some humans and kill the rest. Dodge is shot in the back and killed. Landon is wounded and rendered unconscious. Taylor is shot in the throat and taken prisoner. The gorillas take Taylor to Ape City, where his life is saved after a blood transfusion administered by two chimpanzees, an animal psychologist Zira (Kim Hunter) and surgeon Galen (Wright King). While his wound is healing, he is unable to speak. Taylor discovers that the various apes, who can talk and are in control, are in a strict caste system: gorillas are the police, military, hunters and workers; orangutans are administrators, politicians, lawyers and priests; and chimpanzees are intellectuals and scientists. The apes have developed a primitive society based on the beginnings of the human Industrial Era. They ride horses and have carts, rifles, and even primitive photography. Humans, who are believed by the apes to be unable to talk, are considered vermin and are hunted: either killed outright, enslaved, or used in scientific experiments.
Zira and her fiancé, Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), an archaeologist, take an interest in Taylor, whom Zira has named “Bright Eyes”. Taylor attempts to communicate by writing in the dirt, but Nova, who has been following him around, attempts to destroy his writing with her hands. The letters she doesn’t destroy are obliterated by Zira’s and Cornelius’s superior, an orangutan named Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans). Back in his cage, Taylor steals Zira’s pencil and notebook and uses it to write the message My name is Taylor. Zira and Cornelius become convinced that Taylor is intelligent, but upon learning of this, Dr. Zaius orders that Taylor be castrated. Taylor escapes and during his desperate flight through Ape City finds himself in a museum, where Dodge’s stuffed and eyeless corpse is now on display. When Taylor is recaptured by gorillas, his voice has recovered enough to growl, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”
A tribunal to determine Taylor’s origins is convened by the president of the Assembly (James Whitmore), Dr. Zaius, and Maximus (Woodrow Parfrey). Dr. Honorious (James Daly) is the prosecutor. Taylor mentions his two comrades. The court produces Landon, who has been subjected to a lobotomy that has rendered him catatonic and unable to speak. After the tribunal, Dr. Zaius privately threatens to castrate and lobotomize Taylor if he does not tell the truth about where he came from. With help from Zira’s socially rebellious nephew Lucius (Lou Wagner), Zira and Cornelius free Taylor and Nova and take them to the Forbidden Zone, a taboo region outside Ape City that has been out of bounds for centuries by Ape law. A year earlier, Cornelius led an expedition into the Forbidden Zone that found a cave containing artifacts of an earlier non-simian (believed to be human) civilization. The group sets out for the cave to answer questions Taylor has about the evolution of the ape world and to prove he is not of that world.
Arriving at the cave, Cornelius is intercepted by Dr. Zaius and his soldiers. Taylor, now armed, holds them off, threatening to shoot them if necessary. Zaius agrees to enter the cave to disprove their theories and to avoid physical harm to Cornelius and Zira. Cornelius displays the remnants of a technologically advanced human society pre-dating simian history. Taylor identifies artifacts such as dentures, eyeglasses, a heart valve and, to the apes’ astonishment, a talking children’s doll. More soldiers appear and Lucius is overpowered, but Taylor again fends them off.
Dr. Zaius is held hostage so Taylor can escape, but he admits to Taylor that he has always known that a human civilization existed long before apes ruled the planet and that “the Forbidden Zone was once a paradise, your breed made a desert of it… ages ago!” Taylor nonetheless prepares to search for answers, but Dr. Zaius warns him that he may not like what he finds. Once Taylor and Nova have ridden off, Dr. Zaius has the gorillas lay explosives to seal off the cave and destroy the remaining evidence of the human society. He has Zira, Cornelius and Lucius charged with heresy. Taylor and Nova, at last free, follow the shoreline and discover the beach-covered remains of the Statue of Liberty, revealing that this “alien” planet is actually Earth long after a global thermonuclear war. Taylor falls to his knees in despair and anger, condemning humanity for destroying the world.
After all this time it still holds up as a quality slice of science fiction. The ever so slightly ropey special effects of the astronauts in space quickly gives way to the fantastic looking creepy landscape of the planet of the apes and its full steam ahead from there. The ape effects themselves are still good as well.