Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Theatrical release poster
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Produced by Arthur P. Jacobs
Screenplay by John William Corrington
Joyce Hooper Corrington
Story by Paul Dehn
Based on Characters created
by Pierre Boulle
Starring Roddy McDowall
Claude Akins
Natalie Trundy
Severn Darden
Lew Ayres
Paul Williams
John Huston
Music by Leonard Rosenman
Cinematography Richard H. Kline
Edited by Alan L. Jaggs
John C. Horger
APJAC Productions
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • June 15, 1973 (1973-06-15)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,710,000[1]
Box office $8,844,595[2]

Battle for the Planet of the Apes is a 1973 science fiction film directed by J. Lee Thompson. It is the fifth and final entry in the original Planet of the Apes series produced by Arthur P. Jacobs, following Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.[3] It stars Roddy McDowall, Claude Akins, Natalie Trundy, Severn Darden, Lew Ayres, Paul Williams and John Huston.

The 2014 sequel in the reboot series Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has a similar premise to Battle, but is not officially a remake.[4]


Told as a flashback to the early 21st century with a wraparound sequence narrated by the orangutan Lawgiver (John Huston) in "North America - 2670 A.D.", this sequel follows the ape leader Caesar (Roddy McDowall) years after a global nuclear war has destroyed civilization. In this post-nuclear society, Caesar tries to cultivate peace between the apes and the surviving humans. A gorilla general named Aldo (Claude Akins) however opposes this and plots Caesar's downfall. Caesar is married to Lisa (Natalie Trundy), the female ape of the previous film, and they have a son named Cornelius (Bobby Porter) in honor of Caesar's father.

Caesar regrets never having known his parents until his human assistant MacDonald (Austin Stoker) tells him about an archive film of his parents where he can also learn about the future. The archives are located in the Forbidden City, now a radioactive ruin. After obtaining a geiger counter and weapons from the armory, Caesar travels with MacDonald and orangutan Virgil (Paul Williams) to the Forbidden City and sneaks in to find the archives. However, there are mutants (radiation-scarred humans) still living there under the command of Governor Kolp (Severn Darden). Caesar and his party view the recordings of Cornelius and Zira and learn about the future of the world, but barely have time to study the tapes before they have to escape being captured. Caesar assembles a meeting to report his discoveries at the Forbidden City. Aldo objects when some humans show up and he leads the gorillas away.

A team of scouts sent by Governor Kolp return and tell him about the Ape City. Kolp considers this covert trip by Caesar an act of espionage. His assistant Méndez (Paul Stevens) believes they did nothing wrong and should be left alone, but Governor Kolp stubbornly declares war on Ape City, mustering the mutant humans to destroy the ape society.

Aldo is furious that Caesar wants to co-exist peacefully with humans and plots a coup d'état in order to become the Ape leader himself. Cornelius overhears this while trying to catch his escaped pet squirrel in a nearby tree. Aldo spots him and hacks the tree branch down, critically injuring Cornelius. After a gorilla scouting pair is attacked by the approaching humans (though the gorillas struck the first blow in this case by killing a human scout beforehand), Aldo orders all humans to be corralled and leads the gorillas to loot the weapons' armory much to Virgil's dismay. Cornelius eventually dies from his wounds, leaving Caesar devastated, but not without leaving him with a warning about Aldo's coup.

It is at that moment that Kolp's ragtag force launches their attack against Ape City. The initial mutant attack succeeds, forcing Caesar to order the defenders to fall back. When Kolp finds Caesar lying among dozens of apes, he threatens to kill him, but the fallen apes, who were feigning death or hiding on Caesar's orders, launch a counter-attack that captures most of the mutants. Kolp and his remaining forces are killed by Aldo's troops while attempting to retreat.

After the battle, Aldo wants to kill the penned humans, but Caesar shields them. Aldo declares that Caesar should be killed if he shields the humans. However, Virgil reveals Aldo's responsibility for Cornelius' death and the breaking of the ape community's most sacred law ("Ape shall never kill ape"). An infuriated Caesar pursues Aldo up a large tree, resulting in Aldo falling to his death during the fight. Caesar then attempts to free the humans, but they refuse to leave the pen unless humans are treated as equals. Caesar then realizes the apes are just as despicable as the former slave-owners. The apes and humans then decide to coexist with one another and begin a new society.

The Lawgiver finishes his wrap-around narration (he says it's been over 600 years since the death of Caesar). It's revealed he's talking to a group of young humans and apes; apes and humans have continued to coexist in peace. When asked by a human child "Who knows about the future?", the Lawgiver replies "Perhaps only the dead." A closeup of a statue of Caesar shows a single tear falling from one eye.




Initially writer Paul Dehn who had provided the script for every previous sequel was hired to provide a story treatment for the fifth film in the series. Dehn withdrew from the project prior to completing the screenplay due to health reasons. Screenwriters John William Corrington and Joyce Hooper Corrington were brought in after the success of their film The Omega Man, although prior to that neither one of them had written any science fiction films and, indeed, Joyce Carrington later admitted they had never seen any of the Apes films prior to being hired to write the script for "Battle".[5] Dehn was unavailable for the initial rewrites but was hired to come in and do a final polish on the script making minor changes to the script that the Corringtons had written. Dehn was given a story credit despite an appeal to the Writer's Guild of America for shared credit on the screenplay. Dehn claimed to have rewritten 90% of the dialogue and he altered the ending. The original script by the Corringtons ended on a playground with ape and human children fighting. Dehn chose to go with a close up of a statue of Caesar with a tear falling from its eye which Joyce Corrington characterized as "...stupid. It turned our stomachs when we saw it."[6] The Writer's Guild of America ruled in favor of the Corringtons for sole screenplay credit.


Principal photography took place on the Fox Movie Ranch for an estimated budget of $1.7 million. Heading into filming, director J. Lee Thompson was unhappy with both the script and the scope of the production, which he felt could have used a bigger budget to assist in the portrayal of the "Battle". Thompson had agreed to direct without a script in place and regretted that Paul Dehn couldn't have been on the project throughout the writing process.[5]

Battle for the Planet of the Apes was the second-to-last film produced by Arthur P. Jacobs. He died June 27, 1973 at age 51, less than two weeks after its release.[7]

Extended cut

The syndicated television version adds a few scenes cut from the theatrical release. One scene takes place after Aldo chases teacher Abe, where MacDonald reminds him why humans should not say "no" to an ape.

Another scene towards the end of the film shows the beginnings of the House of Mendez cult, as the humans in the city are about to fire off the doomsday bomb (as seen in Beneath the Planet of the Apes), but decide not to, as it would threaten the world. In Beneath, one can see many signs of Mendez in the Forbidden Zone, a hymnal on the pipe organ reading "Mendez II", busts of past leaders of the mutant society (such as Mendez XIV), and the mutant leader in Beneath is also named Mendez. It is clear that Governor Mendez is a different leader than his predecessors, Breck and Kolp, since he is more sympathetic to the apes; so long as they do not invade their territory.

In 2006, the Planet of the Apes movies were re-released separately and in a new box set. This version was earlier released as a bootleg and has been widely acknowledged by Apes fans as the definitive version. Listed are the additional scenes:


Battle for the Planet of the Apes grossed a domestic total of $8.8 million, making it the lowest-grossing film in the series.[2] However, the film went on to earn an estimated $4 million in North American theatrical rentals in 1973.[8]

The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics. The film holds a 38% "Rotten" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 24 critical reviews.[9] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a negative review, stating, "Battle looks like the last gasp of a dying series, a movie made simply to wring the dollars out of any remaining ape fans."[10]


In the 2012 film Argo, based on the 1980 "Canadian Caper" rescue from Iran of U.S. diplomats hiding at the Canadian ambassador's residence, Tony Mendez gets the idea for the fictitious Argo cover story from watching Battle for the Planet of the Apes on television. This was a nod to the role of Planet of the Apes make-up artist John Chambers in the Canadian Caper.[11]

See also


  1. Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p. 257.
  2. 1 2 "Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-05-27.
  3. "Those Damned Dirty Apes!". Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-03.
  4. Scott Mendelson (May 8, 2014). "'Dawn Of The Planet Of the Apes' Gets Plot-Heavy Trailer". Forbes.
  5. 1 2 Russo, Joe; Landsman, Larry and Gross, Edwards. Planet of the Apes Revisited. St. Martins' Griffin. August 2001.
  6. Russo, Joe; Planet of the Apes Revisited.
  7. "Family Film Producer Found Dead". The Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. June 28, 1973. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  8. "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, January 9, 1974, p. 19.
  9. "Battle for the Planet of the Apes – Rotten Tomatoes". Flixster. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  10. Ebert, Roger (July 10, 1973). "Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) | Roger Ebert". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  11. Hruby, Patrick (October 10, 2012). "Tony Mendez, clandestine CIA hero of Ben Affleck's 'Argo,' reveals the real story behind film smash -". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2015-12-02.

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