Wednesday, February 18, 2015


After a long hiatus...

HEAR YE, HEAR YE... Court is again back in session!

A controversial choice, mainly because it's so on the nose in so many ways, it'll be uncomfortable to discuss - which means that it's a perfect candidate, especially considering that 2014 was not one of the best years for The Negro.

Set in the 'future' 1991 - 18 years after the end of the previous ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES - where apes have been domesticated as pets, originally to replace dogs and cats who've been wiped out by a plague, and due to their intelligence have essentially been converted into a slave class, doing menial work and household tasks. It also appears that the government has now evolved into a police state.

Returning from ESCAPE is circus owner Armando (Ricardo Montalban) and a now-adult Caesar (Roddy McDowell), whom was hidden with Armando's circus as an infant in ESCAPE. 

Caesar is hiding in plain sight, as he would be immediately killed if discovered. It is also the first time that he is in human society, and shocked by what he sees, he slips up and draws attention; Armando attempts to cover, and they are separated - Armando taken by the police for questioning and Caesar takes cover amidst an incoming shipment of primates, and is processed into the system for training and to be sold.

Caesar is auctioned off to Governor Breck (Don Murray), which puts him in the midst of the ruling core. In the midst of an interrogation, Armando kills himself to protect Caesar and Caesar - his link with the good side of humanity now gone - begins to surreptitiously teach rebellion tactics to the enslaved apes, and they start gathering weapons.

Eventually, Caesar is discovered, and slated for execution, which is foiled by Breck's sympathetic aide, MacDonald (Hari Rhodes). Escaping, Caesar leads the apes in a revolt against their masters, which leads into a full blown riot.

The apes succeed in capturing the Governor and the command center, and with Caesar now in place, the circle is now complete, with the genesis of what will become the Planet of The Apes.
CONQUEST, the fourth in the "Apes" series, had been considered one of the series low points, mainly due to the reduced budget in comparison to the previous films and the level of violence involved; it started being critically reappraised starting in the 90's. Of all of the Apes sequels written by Paul Dehn, it's by far the most overtly political - Dehn and director J. Lee Thompson drew directly on the recent riots in the late 60's, and it's pretty strong stuff, even now some 40 years later. And looking at some of the screen grabs from the film should bring to mind recent images from Ferguson and NYC. 

In fact, if watching CONQUEST, you should pick it up on Blu-Ray, since that release is of the original version of the film - what was screened to preview audiences before their reaction caused the studio to tone down the film, which famously ends with a speech by Caesar diffusing the powder keg situation. Since there was no money to spend, the studio made cuts and brought McDowell back in for revoicings in the version released in the U.S. Overseas, the film went out in its original form.
Even in its 'compromised' form, the film packs a punch, but seeing the uncut version is a revelation - it should have half the audience raising their fists in alliance and the other half of the audience shitting their pants.

Final Verdict - GUILTY AS F&%K!!

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