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RODDY MCDOWALL RULES 'CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES'

Roddy McDowall in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Year: 1972 Rating: ****1/2

Taking place twenty-years after the previous/third film of the franchise, ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES, which was set in the then-modern/groovy 1970's and hardly resembled a science-fiction film except the two talking chimps, Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter as scientist couple Cornelius and Kira, dying violently at the end but, in a surprise twist, their talking baby chimp was saved by traveling circus owner Ricardo Montalban as Armando...

Who for some reason, as CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES begins, makes a rather idiotic decision to visit the primary police-state location shot at the University of Irvine in California, resembling a sparse, steely fortress/city ruled by a firm futuristic government, casting a daunting shadow over its inhabitants...

From CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Especially any kind of ape because, as we learn from Armando talking to Roddy McDowall's Milo, soon to become the revolution-leading Caesar... because of the astronauts from the previous film, all dogs and cats had died, making humans lean on simians both as pets and low-paid workers, from hairdressers to waiters...

The best scenes occur in the middle as McDowall's Caesar (with girlfriend Natalie Trundy as a more outright alluring girl-ape version of Kim Hunter) goes undercover in plain site... like his father Cornelius, he hides his power of speech and is put through what's called Ape Processing, a boot camp meets concentration camp... before being hired to work for the main antagonist in a sinister governor played by the usually lightweight stock-handsome Don Murray, so drastically over-the-top it's more logical to center on his sympathetic black assistant Hari Rhodes...

From CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Meanwhile nefarious henchman/interrogator Severn Darden (looking almost like an ape himself) will head the villains in the next and last venture, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, that occurs after a gorilla uprising and impending nuclear war: the latter that we never actually witness but, despite the budgets dropping with each vehicle (many night scenes are hard to distinguish characters clearly), the truly remarkable action's saved for that climactic CONQUEST....

In particular one suspenseful scene where a horde of torch-carrying apes approach slowly from a distant vanishing point: overall filmed in a tight and flowing, violently brisk fashion by J. Lee Thompson as Roddy McDowall's final takeover speech could have easily led to an Oscar nomination — if only these kind of movies were taken seriously beyond the immense box-office combination of both cult and mainstream audiences.

Natalie Trundy and Roddy McDowall in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES
Ricardo Montalban in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES
Roddy McDowall in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES
Roddy McDowall in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES with Hari Rhodes
Roddy McDowall in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES with Don Murray
Natalie Trundy in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES with Asa Maynor
Roddy McDowall in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES with Asa Maynor
Asa Maynor in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES
Ricardo Montalban in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES with Roddy McDowall
Natalie Trundy in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES with Asa Maynor
Asa Maynor in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES
Natalie Trundy in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES with Asa Maynor
Don Murray in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES with Severn Darden
Don Murray in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES
Hari Rhodes and Roddy McDowall in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES
Hari Rhodes and Roddy McDowall in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES
Roddy McDowall in CONQUEST of the Planet of the APES
From CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Roddy McDowall CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

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