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Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), directed by J. Lee Thompson, is the fourth film of the Planet of the Apes series. It explores mankind's future history, as established in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), and is the most violent sequel in the series. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is also a prequel to the original film since it is the rise of the ape civilization en route to their dominating planet Earth. This film marks references to African slavery as well as The Holocaust since the Apes' mistreatment at the hands of the humans are similar to the mistreatment of Africans and Jews at the hands of the slave traders and the Nazis.

Plot summary

Building upon the description given by Cornelius and Zira before the Presidential Committee in the previous film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), a disease killed the world's cats and dogs in 1983, leaving humans with no pet animals. To replace them, humans began keeping monkeys and apes as household pets. In time, humans noticed the apes' capacity to learn and adapt; thus they taught them to perform menial household tasks. Moreover, by 1991, the United States of Americamarker has turned into a nationalist socialist country and has become oppressive and fascist in culture, of uniformed classes and castes, based upon ape slave labour. A caste system even exists within the human characters, with the police dressed obviously like Nazi's (especially the Allgemeine SSmarker and the Gestapomarker) and ape trainers like civil servants, and the common folk dressed in drab tones of black and gray. These are all signs that even Mankind has devolved into a repressive state and the ape sevants are a perfect target for any antagonism levied on them.

Armando (Ricardo Montalbán) and Caesar, a young chimpanzee horseback rider in Armando's circus, visit a large city to distribute flyers advertising the circus' arrival to town. Armando warns the chimpanzee to be careful in the city; should anyone learn his identity as the child of Cornelius and Zira, it would mean their deaths. Walking the streets, they see apes cleaning streets, delivering packages, et cetera, and are shocked by what is done to disobedient apes. Seeing an ape being beaten and drugged, Caesar shouts: "Lousy human bastards!"; quickly, Armando takes responsibility for the exclamation, explaining to the policemen, who were beating the other ape, that it was he who shouted, not his chimpanzee; the surrounding crowd become agitated with disbelief, Caesar runs away; Armando follows.

Hiding in a stairway, Armando says he will go to the authorities and settle the matter, by bluffing. Meantime, Caesar must hide among his own kind (in a cage of orangutans from Borneo), and soon finds himself being trained for slavery through violent conditioning; he then is sold at auction to Governor Breck. Gov. Breck names the ape by allowing him to name himself from a Bible handed to him; the chimpanzee's finger rests upon the name Caesar. So christened, Caesar is then put to work by Gov. Breck's chief aide, Mr. MacDonald (descended from African-American slaves), who sympathizes with the apes to the thinly veiled disgust of his boss, Gov. Breck.

Meanwhile, Armando is being interrogated by Inspector Kolp, who suspects his "circus ape" is the child of the two civilized apes from the future. Kolp's assistant puts Armando under an authenticator machine that psychologically forces people to be truthful. Rather than confessing, Armando commits suicide by jumping through a window. Learning of the death of his human pater familias, the only human he loved, Caesar loses faith in human kindness and begins plotting simian rebellion.

Secretly, Caesar teaches the combat arts to the other apes, mostly gorillas and chimpanzees (orangutans are not seen fighting) and bids them gather weapons such as knives, guns, and blowtorches. Yet, Gov. Breck learns from Inspector Kolp that the manifest of the vessel that delivered Caesar lists no chimpanzees. Suspecting Caesar is the ape the police are hunting, Breck's men arrest Caesar and electrically torture him until he speaks, thus betraying his identity. Hearing the confession, Breck orders Caesar's immediate death; Caesar survives his execution; MacDonald, feigning over-sensitivity to torture, reduces the electrical power of the machine; Caesar pretends to have been electrocuted. Once Gov. Breck leaves, convinced he has eliminated the simian threat to mankind, Caesar kills the torturer who electrocuted him, and proceeds to rebel against Gov. Breck and Ape Management. Previously, MacDonald had learned that Caesar is the articulate ape whom humans thought mythical.

Caesar leads an ape revolt against Ape Management (which is a reminiscent of the Jewish uprisings in the Sobiber extermination camp and the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp during WWII). The apes are victorious after killing most of the riot police sent to kill them. After burning into Gov. Breck's command post and killing most of the personnel, Caesar has Breck marched out to be executed. MacDonald appeals to Caesar's humanity to show mercy to his former persecutor. Caesar ignores him, and in a rage declares: "Where there is fire, there is smoke. And in that smoke, from this day forward, my people will crouch, and conspire, and plot, and plan for the inevitable day of Man's downfall - the day when he finally and self-destructively turns his weapons against his own kind. The day of the writing in the sky, when your cities lie buried under radioactive rubble! When the sea is a dead sea, and the land is a wasteland out of which I will lead my people from their captivity! And we will build our own cities, in which there will be no place for humans except to serve our ends! And we shall found our own armies, our own religion, our own dynasty! And that day is upon you NOW!"

However, as the apes raise their rifles to beat Breck to death, Lisa, later Caesar's wife, voices her objection: "N— N— N— No... "; other than Caesar, she is the first ape to speak. Caesar reconsiders and orders the apes to lower their weapons, saying: "But now... now we will put away our hatred. Now we will put down our weapons. We have passed through the night of the fires, and those who were our masters are now our servants. And we, who are not human, can afford to be humane. Destiny is the will of God, and if it is man’s destiny to be dominated, it is God’s will that he be dominated with compassion, and understanding. So, cast out your vengeance. Tonight, we have seen the birth of the Planet of the Apes!"


Original opening

Of the five original films, Conquest is the only entry filmed in Todd-AO35, (the other Apes pictures were filmed in Panavision). Conquest also is the only Apes film without a pre-title sequence. The script describes a pre-title scene where police on night patrol shoot an escaped ape and discovering his body covered with welts and bruises that are evidence of severe abuse (in a later scene while Armando is being interrogated, Governor Breck refers to the ape that physically assaulted his master to which MacDonald retorts that the attack must have been the result of severe mistreatment). Why the scene was cut is unknown, although John Jakes does include it in his novelization of the movie, and it was also visualized in the Marvel Comics adaption of the film in the early 1970s (which was probably based directly on the screenplay and not on the final edit of the actual film). The Blu-Ray unrated version (which restored many other graphic scenes) does not contain the pre-credit opening. However, there is no evidence that the sequence in the script was ever included in any cut of the film.

Original ending

Caesar has Breck marched out to be executed. MacDonald appeals to Caesar's humanity to show mercy to his former persecutor. Caesar ignores him, and declares henceforth apes everywhere will repeat the revolt that happened in the Ape Management complex. The revolution will lead inevitably to mankind's fall after which the apes will dominate the Earth and enslave the few remaining humans. Breck and all the other humans are then beaten to death as the film abruptly ends.

Test audiences reacted badly to the original ending. The studio re-edited the ending with existing footage. The plot twist of the chimpanzee Lisa saying the word "No" was added to the film via dubbing a new voice-over and Roddy McDowall was brought back to record new dialogue. The new ending allowed Caesar to show some degree of mercy and to leave the audience with the hope of peaceful co-existence between apes and humans. This ending was also changed in hopes of getting a G rating from the MPAA as the previous films had, however the film was given a PG rating.

Recently, a 5-disc Blu-ray Disc set was released, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the movies, with all five films with new extras. This set release contains the original and theatrical cut of Conquest. It contains more footage of graphic violence during the climatic battle scenes and the original dark ending. This version is also released on a separate Blu-ray Disc, but it has yet to be released on regular DVD. This version also shows on the Fox Movie Channel often.Fans also cite that "Conquest", even with all the changes, was the most daring and most unique of all the " Apes" sequels.


Conquest of the Planet of the Apes implies that Caesar started the Ape rebellion; however, this is a temporal paradox, as Caesar is the child of two of the talking apes from the 40th-century future, a future that resulted from the Ape rebellion. Specifically, Caesar's existence creates a predestination paradox and an ontological paradox. In that vane then, any conflicts in the story line that Cornelius told the commision in "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" can be overlooked, as a new future is now created with the presense of their child Milo(Caesar).

Screenplay writer Paul Dehn, who wrote and co-wrote the sequels, said in interviews (quoted in The Planet of the Apes Chronicles, by Paul Woods) that the story he was writing had a circular timeline:

"The whole thing has become a very logical development in the form of a circle. I have a complete chronology of the time circle mapped out, and when I start a new script, I check every supposition I make against the chart to see if it is correct to use it."

"While I was out there [in California], Arthur Jacobs said he thought this would be the last so I fitted it together so that it fitted in with the beginning of Apes One, so that the wheel had come full circle and one could stop there quite happily, I think."


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