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Conquest of the Planet of the Apes(1972)
1991. North America is a police state in which cats and dogs have been wiped out by a virus brought back from space by astronauts. Apes are imported from Africa and auctioned off as household pets and trained to perform menial tasks. A circus owner named Armando arrives in the city with a grown ape named Caesar. Eighteen years earlier, Armando had hidden the baby Caesar, whose parents were intelligent articulate apes who had traveled back from the 22nd century and were killed in an attempt to prevent future ape domination.
For more about Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray release, see Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 5, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Writer: Paul Dehn
Starring: Roddy McDowall, Don Murray, Ricardo Montalban, Natalie Trundy, Hari (Harry) Rhodes, Severn Darden
» See full cast & crew
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray Review
'Conquest' returns the 'Apes' series to a high level of excellence.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 5, 2008
This review contains spoilers for Escape From the Planet of the Apes.
After the unfulfilling entry into the Apes series that was Escape From the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes returns the series to prominence with a film that starts off somewhat slow but builds momentum and finishes off stronger than any film yet in the series, save for the original Planet of the Apes. This fourth installment is perhaps the most controversial of the series, originally filmed with a far darker and meaner finale than what was released to theaters, the original ending setting a completely different tone for the final film and certainly leaving audiences stunned by its brutality. In response to test audience's negative reactions, the studio quickly assembled a brighter, less polarizing alternate ending. Fortunately, this Blu-ray release of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes provides audiences with both editions, though the original, darker finale seems to befit the mood of the film, its themes, and the series as a whole more so than the alternative released to theaters some 36 years ago.
The year is 1991, two decades after the deaths of intelligent simians Cornelius and Zira. Their infant baby has survived under the auspices of animal philanthropist Armando (Ricardo Montalban, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Dubbed "Caesar," the simian is the only one left capable of speech; he lives in a world that sees simians not as intelligent equals, but rather as pets, dumb servants, and eventually, slaves. It is a world where the threat of intelligent simians looms large over the populace, and Caesar's abilities, not to mention his very existence as the son of intelligent simians, have been carefully guarded over the years. Caesar and Armando are forced to separate after an accidental outburst identifies Caesar as potentially more than a simple simian. He is eventually re-circulated into the populace and placed for sale on the auction block and is sold to Governor Breck (Don Murray). When he learns that Armando is dead after a particularly invasive interrogation, Caesar, with the help of the sympathetic Mr. MacDonald (Hari Rhodes), rallies the simians and sets out to overthrow their human rulers through a violent revolution.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes begins with the appearance that it may very well be another Escape; a film ripe for comedy, though perhaps on a smaller scale, but with a hint of perilousness as to what is to come in its opening act. Indeed, the film slowly but surely reveals its secrets and horrors at a steady pace through the first half of the film, though it never shows its cards too early, even if viewed in context of the American culture the film satirizes at the time of its release. Conquest reveals a far darker and more poignant plot than either of the previous two sequels, punctuated by a final act that represents arguably the finest filmmaking in the series yet. The standoff scenes between ape and police in riot gear is brilliant composed by director J. Lee Thompson (The Guns of Navarone). The scenes are borderline too intense, bloody in a 1970s fake blood sort of way, and many of the scenes feature no musical accompaniment, allowing the shots, scenes, and sequences to speak for themselves and stand on their own merits. What makes the film is its controversial and brutal original ending, restored here on the Blu-ray edition, punctuated by an inspired performance from veteran Apes actor Roddy McDowall. His impassioned delivery of Caesar's speech at the end of the film is a work of art both in his verbal and physical delivery, and it sets a horrifying tone for the remainder of the series and serves as yet another fantastic finish to an Apes film, setting the stage yet again for audiences to both ponder and crave whatever the filmmakers have in store for the final installment, Battle For the Planet of the Apes.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray, Video Quality
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes features a 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer that looks good, but appears less vibrant and rich than its predecessors, perhaps because of the darker nature of the film. The print features speckles over several parts, though they never detract from the image. Grain is retained throughout the feature, sometimes in abundance, though again, never to the detriment of the presentation. Several shots appear a bit soft, and the overall presentation is not quite as sharp and clear as the previous films. Colors are bold, reds perhaps a bit bright, particularly as seen in the uniforms worn by the worker gorillas. Black levels tend to veer towards a very dark shade of gray. Flesh tones remains consistently strong throughout. The image flattens out considerably most of the time, never popping of the screen and offering the high levels of detail as the previous three films. Nevertheless, the transfer looks very good in context, befitting of the Blu-ray monicker, and is another nice looking catalogue release from Fox.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, like its predecessors, features a front-heavy and mostly center channel-centric DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack, in addition to the film's original monaural sound mix. Here, a few more effects spread into the front left and right channels than in the previous installments. The soundtrack pours through the center channel with a nice bit of volume and clarity. Dialogue too remains strongly rendered. The rear channels find very minor ambience, such as the various clicking and clanking and noises made by the apes as they prepare for revolt in chapter 13. The shootout sequences later in the film aren't overly spectacular from a sonic perspective, but are about as good as one might expect from a track originally mastered as a mono mix.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes takes viewers inside the revolution via several bonus features. First up is an isolated score presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. Selecting this feature removes all dialogue and sound effects from the film, leaving viewers with only the score playing over the imagery. Riots and Revolutions: Confronting the Times (1080p, 20:42) looks at the film's parallels to the issue of race relations facing the United States at the time and the violent outbursts of the early 1970s. Also included is a look at the life and times of star Roddy McDowall and his contributions to the Apes series, the style and feel director J. Lee Thompson brought to the film, shooting locations, and the film's two endings. A Look Behind the 'Planet of the Apes' (1972) (480p, 13:42) is a vintage feature that looks back at the series. If nothing else, this should allow viewers to truly appreciate the wonders of 1080p and Blu-ray as the footage here looks mighty bad. J. Lee Thompson Directs 'Conquest of the Planet of the Apes' (480p, 1:11) is another vintage feature that briefly shows the application of ape make-up and the director preparing for a scene. Rounding out this set of extras is the film's theatrical trailer (480p, 2:07) and five series of galleries -- Future News, Interactive Pressbook, Advertising, Lobby Cards, and Behind-the-Scenes. This disc is also D-Box enabled.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes returns the Apes series to a relative level of excellence after the letdown that was Escape From the Planet of the Apes. Conquest is a logical extension of the story arc that was introduced in the previous film, and sets the series up nicely for what should be a fitting conclusion and full-circle closure for the series. The highlight here is Roddy McDowall's performance as Caesar, punctuated by his fervent monologue to close out the film. Once again, 20th Century Fox delivers a fine Blu-ray disc for a popular catalogue title. While the picture quality sees a slight drop-off compared to the first two films, perhaps because this film takes on a generally darker visual appearance, it is nevertheless above average and does the film proud. The soundtrack remains on par with the other discs in the series, as does the supplemental section. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is recommended without hesitation for fans of the film, or as a part of the impressive Apes box set.
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