Retrospective: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

The huge success of Planet of the Apes in 1968 meant that sequel was inevitable. Hang 'Em High's Ted Post took on the role of director with several members of the cast from the previous film returning. Beneath the Planet of the Apes follows the only surviving astronaut from a rescue team searching for astronauts of the previous film. He soon discovers the planet is ruled by apes but also a group of telekinetic humans are living under the city.

Unfortunately Roddy McDowall was unable to reprise his role of Cornelius, due to prior directing commitments in Scotland. However, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison and Charlton Heston all return, so McDowall's absence does not have great affect on the film, even though he's a strong character. The original cast are joined by new leading man James Franciscus, who's well cast (and coincidentally bares a strong resemblance to Heston) but his performance just doesn't feel as convincing as Heston's.

Despite some incredibly similar elements to the previous film, Beneath does bring some exciting new concepts to the series. The idea of telekinetic humans can come across as a bit ridiculous at points, but in a film about a planet run by talking apes, chances are you've already suspended your belief. The film features a clever role reversal - after seeing the cruel behavior of the apes, we now see a cruel side to the humans who use their telekinetic powers torture people.

Beneath brings far more development to the original film, giving us a true glimpse as to civilization has deteriorated and been flipped upside down. Like many films in the genre, the threat of nuclear weapons is included. The telekinetic humans worship a nuclear bomb, that was eventually destroy the earth, leading to the third film, Escape From Planet of the Apes.   

Heston's appearance isn't overly necessary in the film but it's always a pleasure to see him on screen and creates a bit more continuity to the first film.
It's one of the stronger entries into the series bringing exciting new concepts, however does lack the spark and charm of the previous film. The series soon descended into a camper territory in the third film, Escape From Planet of the Apes
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