Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

“Good god — they’re armed!”

In 1991, after a virus has wiped out all cats and dogs on Earth, apes have become non-speaking slaves to humans, with the lone speaking ape (Roddy McDowell) secretly cared for by a kind circus owner (Ricardo Montalban) who hides his skills. However, when “Caesar” (McDowall) is adopted by a local governor (Don Murray), his English fluency is discovered and Montalban is lethally tortured, leading Caesar to start a secret rebellion against the humans with his fellow apes.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Don Murray Films
  • Primates
  • Rebellion
  • Ricardo Montalban Films
  • Roddy McDowall Films
  • Science Fiction
  • Slavery

Peary only lists the first and fourth entry in the Planet of the Apes (1968) series in his GFTFF, skipping the two middle movies — Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971) — and moving straight towards the scenario on display here. (He also omits the fifth and final title — Battle for the Planet of the Apes [1973] — from GFTFF.) It’s possible Peary chose to include this particular follow-up in his book given its strong parallels with the Civil Rights movement in America at the time; to cite the late Graeme Clark in his review for The Spinning Image:

There is a definite sense of class war, and more pertinently, race war in Conquest. The apes are seen to be taking menial jobs like cleaning up, shining shoes and being waiters, all in the service of mankind, much in the way that African American characters would in the earlier movies out of Hollywood. They are second class citizens, and the film deliberately draws parallels with slavery, which… makes for a considerably edgier drama.

Indeed, the persistently abysmal treatment of apes in this film is deeply disturbing:

… and we’re grateful for kind Montalban’s support.

Murray is given most of the film’s laughably if memorably melodramatic lines:

“My god – there’s more!”
“Shoot them – shoot them all!”
“This will be the end of human civilization – and the world will belong to a planet of apes!”
“Man was born of the ape. And there’s still an ape curled up inside of every man – the beast that must be whipped into submission, the savage that has to be shackled in chains. You are that beast, Caesar. You taint us. You poison our guts!”

He effectively depicts a bigoted man terrified of the takeover of his planet.

As it turns out, of course, he’s right to be afraid.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Roddy McDowall as Caesar
  • Effective use of location shooting at UC Irvine

Must See?
No, though of course fans of the series will want to check it out. Listed as a Sleeper and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

  1. Agreed. Not must-see – though it’s generally (thanks in part to director J. Lee Thompson’s handling of the material) placed after the original ‘POTA’ in terms of worth. Those who opt for seeing ‘POTA’ may therefore want to check it out.

    After the 5th in the series of theatrical ‘Apes’ movies was released, one of the theaters near me did something special: they offered all 5 films on a single Saturday. A friend of mine wanted to see the whole series, so off we went. I believe we were among the few who actually made it through to the end of the screenings. 😉

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