Thursday, February 12, 2015

Escape From the Planet of the Apes Through a Kid’s Eyes

This one probably has the most depressing ending of them all.

It’s not that any of the earlier or later ones are cheery, but because this movie starts out much lighter and sillier than any of the others, its descent into a frantic chase and a horrendously violent end for the easily loveable stars is crushing.

Cornelius and Zira are clearly the heroes of this story, and easily the most likeable characters.  The studio started to realize that we were rooting for the apes!

Going forward, I will attempt to refrain from referring to them as “monkeys.” That’s because this tale clearly establishes that only the sentient apes have “M-word privileges.”

My daughter was horrified by two things during the film:

A) The terrifying Seventies outfits displayed in the fashion show sections, and pretty much throughout the film.

B) The fact that Zira kept asking for and receiving “Grape Juice Plus” even though she and others knew she was pregnant.  Nice job there, health class.

As usual with these, she took the ending pretty hard, but took some solace in Cornelius avenging himself and his family against Hasselein.

Or in her words:
“YAY! He died…he was a poopyhead.”

Hasselein and his compatriots in the government sponsored scientist and clergy are clearly playing the same part as the Orangutans played in the first movie, with the human military filling in for the unthinking gorillas.  So much for subtlety.

At least the Apes were helped by the researchers that originally studied them.  From this time period, it’s rare to get any intellectual good guys, that don’t dip into the Mad Scientist “Mwa-ha-ha” bucket once in a while.

Since it’s her last Apes film, I need to stop and recognize Kim Hunter’s accomplishments. She turned Zira into a fully realized and well-loved character through a makeup she had to figure out how to animate mostly by herself.  (Roddy McDowall deserves similar praise, but he’ll be around for two more movies, allowing us to get to him later.)

She didn’t have a Terry Notary, or any other highly trained expert as a movement coach to teach her how to inhabit the role.  She went to the Bronx Zoo on her own, and studied the Apes. (Roddy, based in California, did the same at the L.A. Zoo.)

Through layers of latex, and coming up with unique body language, she created a character that instantly, emotionally connected with viewers, and maintained that connection through triumphs and tragedies, until her final heartbreaking end in Escape.

We’ll miss you Zira.

While we’re complementing awesomeness, we can’t forget Ricardo Montalban as Armando.

My daughter didn’t recognize him at first, possibly because she needed me to clear up a misunderstanding about the identity of “Saint Francis the Sissy.”  As soon as he became indignantly outraged she said, “Oh, that’s Khan.”

His presence was commanding as the good hearted, yet still indomitable circus man, who was also quite the smoothie.  I loved the way he was completely accepting of Cornelius’s losing his temper and unleashing a fairly accurate portrayal of just how much stronger apes are than humans.

Armando’s basic response is, ‘They threatened your woman, of course you killed them…moving on.”

What a guy!

The Key surprise statement for Escape from the Planet of the Apes is NOT baby Milo’s film ending, “Ma-ma.” 
That was used as an audience shock, and a sequel set up, but was unheard in story.

The point behind the “Key Surprise Statements” is one who isn’t supposed to speak does so and alarms another character in the film.

I suppose when I have rules for these things, mentioning them instead of letting them fester in my head would be a better idea.

Therefore, the awesomely funny delivery by Kim Hunter makes the selection for the third Apes film:

Key Surprise Statement:

"Because I loathe bananas!”

Apes Index

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