‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ Blu-ray Review
‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ continues right after the events of ‘Planet of the Apes’. The prologue of the sequel begins with the final sequence from the original film, but with limited dialogue. This is a rather unique approach which helps branch the two films together. ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ upon initial viewing comes as a remake of the original. This is a distinction that has been made over the years, but view the film in its entirety and this is a whole different beast. With a total US box office gross of $17 million dollars, the film was rather successful at the theaters.
Once the opening prologue of the ‘Planet of the Apes’ ending finishes, we are taken to September 1971. Another ship is sent on the same course of Taylor’s ship. The ship crash lands in very similar fashion to how Taylor’s did with the only survivor this time being astronaut Brent (James Franciscus). As soon as Brent gets out of the ship, an amazon looking woman with no speech comes along riding on her horse. Nova (Linda Harrison), the love interest of Taylor is the amazon looking woman that helps Brent. Nova takes Brent to show him a camp overrun by apes. Brent sees firsthand that there are apes ruling the planet speaking the English language, at this point his jaw drops to the floor as if he just saw a ghost.
Nova takes Brent to meet Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Malcolm McDowall) which they lead him to a cave in the Forbidden Zone. We had a glimpse of the Forbidden Zone back in the original ‘Planet of the Apes’. Once at the Forbidden Zone, they enter a cave which leads to a race of humans that have telepathic powers that controls their victims. They take over Brent a few times making him do some evil things. This is the only part of the film that bothers me a tad bit. If they had such powers, they should have been able to stop the apes upon invasion of the cave, yet all the years that they were alone under ground. It is a few aspects of the story like this that made me scratch my head in the direction that was taken with this advanced race of humans. I fully understand that the approach was done for religious connotations in the story. Delivery could have been refined a bit more to make sense of the story.
The beauty of films like this is the use of socio-economic/political status and the infusion of religion into the message of the story. This isn’t something that is done in films anymore, unless you are George A. Romero or a young Hollywood director trying to make a name for yourself. ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ takes religion in the series to a higher level. With these human mutant like race worshiping a missile as their saving grace, it leaves you to think what a strong message that the screenwriters were pushing with the film. When the apes first enter the cave and they see the statue with its eyes bleeding, it even stunned them for a moment. Then we also have apes that are protesting against war. I was left at awe after watching this film since it takes the socio-economic/political aspects of the first film to a whole different level.
Charlton Heston refused to be the lead in the sequel and even be involved in the film in a secondary role. The production team was able to convince him to reprise Taylor, if only for a mere few scenes. That is the reason why the production team went with the rescue plot. I think that this works better as it gives the film some legs to stand on its own, but also borrows many elements from the original to make this an enjoyable sequel.
From an effects standpoint, ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ looks good even though there was a smaller budget used for this film compared to the original. The special effects which are almost 37 years ago show their age today. Most of the actors did well with their acting in their costumes not coming off as being fake. The costumes and role reversal are used as a prop to something bigger focusing on socio-economic/political and religion status.
The print is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I was rather surprised that the opening prologue actually starts off looking rather horrible for a film released on Blu-ray. The first sequence where the ending of the original film is cut doesn’t look good and even worse than some transfers seen on DVD. There is a lot of grain and out of focus camera work. It baffles me because the ending sequence in ‘Planet of the Apes’ did not look like this on Blu-ray. When the sequence of Brent crashing to the planet begins, things start looking much better for the film. Colors are rather strong, but do not have pop. There is some dirt in the print, but not anything that detracts from the overall enjoyment of the film. Details are good after the opening prologue.
Audio is presented in DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 mix. I found the mix to be very similar to ‘Planet of the Apes’ which I reviewed several weeks ago. The soundtrack doesn’t take full advantage of the complete surround as the original audio track was mono. We get a much more front heavy audio experience with the film as expected. The rears encompass a few sound effects and music from the soundtrack, but are rather light most of the film. Dialogue comes through very clear and clean as everything is well placed through the center channel.
I found ‘Alpha to Omega’ very informative on what it took to make ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’. It was rather interesting to hear about Heston’s qualms with the sequel and how they had to fit him into the storyline because he didn’t want a part of it. This release is very skimpy on special features, which is a rather shame that more featurettes or commentary tracks weren’t added.
- From Alpha to Omega: Hatching a Sequel Featurette [HD] (22:00)
- Photo Gallery [HD]
- Theatrical Trailer [SD]
‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ receives a lot of criticism even to this day for the film giving the perception that it is a remake and the socio-economic/political tones. The further you dive into the film the more you notice it is different and has a very strong message. I was a bit disappointed in the special features and even more so with the opening prologue looking as bad as it did on this Blu-ray disc. With these minor complaints aside, upgrading to the Blu-ray version from the previous DVD versions is a no-brainer for fans of the film to enjoy high definition video and audio transfers.