In an effort to find the missing astronaut Taylor, Brent goes on a rescue mission to the planet of the apes.
Using the information he receives from the ape village that Taylor escaped from, Brent locates him in an underground fortress in the forbidden zone guarded by telepathic humans.
James Franciscus ... Brent
Kim Hunter ... Zira
Maurice Evans ... Dr. Zaius
Linda Harrison ... Nova
Paul Richards ... Mendez
Victor Buono ... Fat Man
James Gregory ... Ursus
Jeff Corey ... Caspay
Natalie Trundy ... Albina
Thomas Gomez ... Minister
David Watson ... Cornelius
DivX3 / MP3
Beneath was the best Planet of the Apes film bar none. Everything was bigger and better this time around: bigger sets, more gorillas, the whole of New York instead of a mere Statue of Liberty, and, best of all, faceless, telepathic mutants than can kill with the mind. Yes, I was once ten years old.
Watched again with many years of hindsight, it's clear that, while entertaining, Beneath was produced without anything approaching artistry. The ultimate in sequels, it tries to tell the same story twice as big, but with only half the success. Until Battle came along and picked the flesh off Apes' rotting carcass this was the worst sequel because it did nothing new with the format. Even the working title - Planet of the Apes Revisited - betrays the lack of thought and the desire for finance that went into this one.
A virtually identical plotline rattles along at a fair pace, meaning all subtlety is jettisoned. The allegories are also confused by not really being allegories at all. Look at the metaphor for anti-war protestors by casting chimps as ... er, anti-war protestors. A look at how man often judges another man on the colour of his skin is alluded to ... er, by having an ape judging a man on the colour of his skin. (On this note, perversely for a film that purports liberal satire, the only one of the mutants to demonstrate real cruelty was Don Pedro Colley, the sole black character in the film. And despite its worthiness, I don't think I've ever seen another film where a man's credit is given as "Negro"). However, I did have to smile at the chimp that punningly complains about "gorilla brutality".
The decreased budget (a sensible studio idea to cut the finance of the sequels to a hit movie) shows with some of the ape extras having decidedly ropy masks in the crowd scenes. The opening of the picture also recaps the first, cannily highlighting the glaring difference between Roddy McDowall's and David Watson's performances as Cornelius. Watson, standing in for an absent McDowall, does reasonably well but really doesn't look anything like him, even under latex. Note too how all the ape masks give the actors lisps, something I never noticed before. Never mind apes, anyone would think James Franciscus had landed on the planet of the Pertwees. There's also some abysmal back projection work when Franciscus is wrestling on top of the horsedrawn carriage. The mutants are pretty good, though their prayers to "The Holy Fallout" are a little silly. Why do they wear human masks anyway? Where do they make them? I dunno, I don't make the rules up, do I?
Of course, the main problem is the pointless game of one-upmanship it plays with its source. There's no longer any element of surprise that this is Earth, so the ruined monuments, nice as they are, no longer have any great effect. It misses the point, also: the Statue of Liberty is not just a relic, but a symbol. New York Subway is just where people caught trains. And as impressive as the effects are, if not directed well – which they aren't, particularly – then it becomes fatuous.
It's weird how all four sequels were made within a year of each other, yet at least two of them tried something new. Beneath came two years after the original yet has a rehashed "in it for the money" feel all the way through, right down to its abrupt, slightly unsatisfactory climax. Yet despite the many, many faults I've levelled at it, Beneath the Planet of the Apes is still a very enjoyable film. Not in the sense of the first, which genuinely had something to say, but in the guise of pulp SF then this sequel is well worth seeing.
* The only film in the original series of five that does not star Roddy McDowall. Despite this, McDowall is often pictured on video and DVD packaging for this film.
* The final scene where Taylor hangs onto the detonator by his fingers is an elaborate reference to a scene from Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) where a worker collapses in the factory in a similar fashion.
* Roddy McDowall was unable to appear in this film because he was committed to another project. He can, however, be spotted briefly in the opening prologue, even though another actor plays the role later in the film.
* Burt Reynolds was considered the lead role of John Brent.
* Orson Welles was offered the role of General Ursus which he turned down.
* The original title was "Planet of the Apes Revisited".
* An early draft of the script, called "Planet of the Men", and written by Pierre Boulle in his native French, featured a messianic Taylor 14 years after the events of the 1968 original. It involved an uprising against the apes, following which they revert back to their primal states.
* James Franciscus was cast as Brent due to his resemblance to Charlton Heston.
* Due to the smaller budget of this film, many of the extras cast as apes wore masks instead of the famous ape make up.
* An alternate ending was written where Taylor, Brent and Nova escape the underground prior to the bomb's detonation (it wasn't written as a doomsday bomb yet). They return to Ape City and, along with Zira and Cornelius, release the humans from the cages and a new order is begun. The script ends hundreds of years later with the Lawgiver teaching a group of ape and human children sitting in harmony together. The "Lawgiver Scene" was resurrected as the framing structure for Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). The final shot of the script shows a mutated gorilla emerging from the underground and fatally shooting a flying dove.
* This was the first appearance of Natalie Trundy in the "Apes" series. She is the only person to play both a human and an ape in the series.
* Originally, there was going to be a scene featuring a half-human/half-ape child. However, the producers were afraid that not only would the scene be too confusing, but that they would also lose their "G" rating.
* Don Medford agreed to direct the movie, but walked out after the budget was halved.
* Final film of 'Thomas Gomez' .
* 20th-Fox Producer Irwin Allen used the tiled tubular set of subterranean New York for an episode of "Land of the Giants" (1968), and as an electrical power-duct in his TV-movie _"City Beneath the Sea" (1969)_ . In both cases, panels of red lights were inset into the tiled tube making it more useful in these later projects. The same set would be used in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) as corridors between sections of the Ape Management complex (utilizing white lights).
*SPOILER: Charlton Heston was reluctant to reprise the role of George Taylor for this movie. He eventually agreed on condition that his scenes had to be shot within a two week period. He also insisted that Taylor had to be killed.