Match Cuts: “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes”

Match Cuts: “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (photo)

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In Match Cuts, we examine every available version of a film, and decide once and for all which is the one, definitive cut worth watching. This week, in honor of the new “Planet of the Apes” movie “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” we’re looking at fourth film in the original series, J. Lee Thompson’s “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.”

-Theatrical Cut (1972): 86 minutes
-Unrated Cut (2008): 87 minutes

At the end of the second “Apes,” “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” the Earth of the far future is destroyed. In the third film, “Escape From the the Planet of the Such and Such,” two surviving talking chimps and their baby are thrown back in time to the 1970s. At first, they’re hailed as celebrities, but later they’re considered portends of a future where man is enslaved by beast. Humanity hunts and kills the chimps, but their baby is saved by a kindly circus man with a death wish named Armando (Ricardo Montalban).

Ten years later, every dog and cat on Earth is wiped out by a virus. Lonely, stupid humans replace them with apes, then make the apes slaves when they turn out to be highly intelligent and easily trainable. Eight years after that — holy lord, the premise of this movie is complicated — Armando and the grown baby chimp Caesar (Roddy McDowell) take their travelling circus to the capital city of the totalitarian military state of the future. Caesar is horrified to discover that his ape brethren are treated like slaves, and after he lets fly some angry words (“Lousy human bastards!”), Armando is arrested. Hiding out amongst the ordinary gorillas and chimps at “Ape Management” where slaves are trained (i.e. tortured and conditioned), he forments plans to strike back the cruel men who took his adopted father away from him.

All of the “Planet of the Apes” films are major bummers but “Conquest” is bleak even by the downbeat standards of the rest of the series. The entire conflict between man and ape works as a thinly veiled metaphor for the racial strife of the late 1960s, as the predominantly white skinned forces of the government repress and mistreat a class of slaves. Loaded imagery abounds: boats from Africa, slave auctions, police in riot gear, and so on. All of this was still a fairly touchy subject back in 1972, as was the content of its original ending, in which the apes strike back at their human oppressors in violent and bloody fashion. Test audiences reacted to the horrifying finale with — what else? — horror, but out of fear that their film was too bleak and too bloody to be commercial, 20th Century Fox recut “Conquest” to secure a PG rating and improve its chances at the box office. A few years ago, when “Conquest” was released on Blu-ray as part of a “Planet of the Apes” box set, the original “Unrated Cut” of the film was included as a bonus feature.

To get that all-important PG rating, the studio removed just about any shot that featured splattering blood from the nearly 30-minute long ape uprising that concludes “Conquest.” That includes one memorable and disturbing moment, available in the Unrated Cut, in which Governor Breck (Don Murray), the evil, turtleneck-wearing overlord of this dystopian future, makes a vain attempt to prove his superiority over the rebelling apes by grabbing one of his command center’s gorilla servants and shooting him in the face.

Both versions of “Conquest” conclude with the apes successfully overrunning Ape Management, and grabbing Breck and his goons. Caesar stands before the defeated humans and his assembled ape troops and delivers an impassioned speech about his plan for the future. “From this day forward,” he yells, “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!” Meanwhile, the lone voice of reason from humankind, Breck’s African-American assistant MacDonald (Hari Rhodes) pleads with Caesar for mercy as “a descendant of slaves.”

In 1972, audiences next watched Caesar make a stunning about face: seconds after giddily describing a future in which humanity is enslaved to apes, he decides to listen to MacDonald. He gives a second speech, reversing most of what he’d just said. “Now we will put away out hatred,” he says. “Now we will put down our weapons. We have passed through the Night of the Fires. And 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!”

Good to know Caesar knows the title of the film. This ending was, frankly, a cop out designed to placate audiences who were unprepared for a movie that championed humanity’s downfall. The original ending on the Unrated Cut is significantly less hopeful and significantly less confused:

One other small but important difference between the two cuts: Caesar is swayed from his bloodlust by MacDonald and an ape slave named Lisa (Natalie Trundy). In the Theatrical Cut, Lisa pleads “No” at the decisive moment, making her the first normal ape to speak on the Planet of the Apes. In the Original Cut, Lisa looks on sadly but doesn’t vocally object as Caesar orders Breck to his death. So the Theatrical Cut shows that the apes are osmotically learning language from Caesar, while the Original Cut leaves the question of how the apes pick up speech for future films.

Lastly, “Conquest”‘s alternate versions IMDb page is incorrect: the Unrated Cut on Blu-ray (at least the Unrated Cut on the Blu-ray I have) does not begin with a pre-credits sequence in which an escaped ape slave is hunted and killed by police. Both versions begin identically: with the credits over apes learning menial tasks like shining shoes and pouring drinks. Not sure where the info on IMDb comes from — “Conquest”‘s Wikipedia page verifies that the alternate intro was in the script, but never made it into the finished film.

The Unrated Cut. The Theatrical Cut has a certain lunatic charm, though, since trying to fashion an upbeat ending out of full-on racial warfare is a fool’s errand. A plausible non-violent finale might have been possible, but it would have required massive reshoots that the film could not afford. Instead they just had McDowell redub his lines and inserted them over extreme close-ups or wide shots so audiences couldn’t tell that Caesar’s lips didn’t match his words. But while Caesar is ordering his soldiers to treat the humans humanely, he’s standing, sweaty and manic, in front of his broiling inferno. That’s an appropriate backdrop for the crazy brutal ending, but not for the last minute mercy ending.

There isn’t that much different about the two versions. One runs 86 minutes with less blood and more thematic backpedalling; the other runs 87 minutes with ape headshots, bloody human carcasses, and an antihero who finishes what he starts. Still, the Unrated Cut is preferable. Conquest should not be cheerful. If you have a movie about apes kicking the shit out of humankind, you might as well go all the way with it. The full scope of the violence and the uncensored hatred of Caesar’s message really brings home the darkness of this story and the “Planet of the Apes” franchise as a whole. There’s nothing happy about these movies. They work best when the studio keeps their stinking paws off the editor.

Both versions of “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” are available on a single-disc Blu-ray. Which version of “Conquest” is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Freddy 1920

Freddy Facts

10 Facts You May Not Know About the Nightmare on Elm Street Movies

Catch a Nightmare on Elm Street marathon Friday, November 27th as part of IFC's Sweatsgiving Weekend.

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Defining a film genre with a career that spanned five decades, horror auteur Wes Craven sadly passed away two months shy of his 76th Halloween. The spookmaster helmed some of the grittiest, slash-iest films ever to grace video rental shelves — The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left and of course, A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Released in the genre-packed year of 1984, the first Nightmare on Elm Street flick spawned a very successful franchise and an iconic character that, even 30 years later, is still a costume staple. And while Freddy Krueger and his dreamscape shenanigans have been watched countless times, there are a few facts about the cat nap killer you might not have known.

Before you catch IFC’s Nightmare on Elm Street Sweatsgiving movie marathon, check out 10 facts about the Freddy movies every horror fan ought to be privy to.

1. There’s a true story behind the original film.

1. Freddy Krueger
New Line Cinema

It’s a far-fetched premise: Young and otherwise healthy individuals have a nightmare and die from unknown causes shortly thereafter. But it actually happened to a group of Southeast Asian refugees who fled to America from the despotic rule of Pol Pot. Three men, in three separate cases, had terrifying nightmares and tried to keep themselves awake for as long as possible. After finally succumbing to exhaustion and dozing off, each man woke up screaming and died with no discernible medical cause. Wes Craven took notice of the cases and decided to work the mystery into a compellingly gruesome storyline.

2. The “Blood Geyser” used 500 gallons of blood and malfunctioned spectacularly.

2. Blood Bed
New Line Cinema

Actor Johnny Depp has a pretty dynamic on-screen death for his feature film debut. As high schooler Glen, Depp is sucked into his bedroom mattress and erupts in a huge blood geyser, which was achieved with a rotating set, a mounted camera and 500 gallons of fake bloodpumped through the bed. However, during an early take, the room was rotated the wrong way and caused a wave of fake blood to splash onto the film equipment and electrical sockets. No one was hurt, but the power went out and Craven referred to the malfunction as a “Ferris wheel from hell” in the DVD commentary.

3. Freddy’s famous sweater instills fear through science.

3. Sweater
New Line Cinema

There’s a reason why Christmas decorations trigger fear in the hearts of men and women — and it’s not just from the prospect of spending time with family. While penning the original script, Craven read in Scientific American that red and green were the two most clashing colors to the human eye. (He shared a visual example last year on Twitter.) Therefore, if the scarred flesh and finger blades weren’t upsetting enough, viewers are subliminally unsettled simply by looking at Freddy’s choice in autumn wear.

4. Freddy’s glove was also designed to tap into our deepest fears.

4. Glove
New Line Cinema

Speaking of finger blades, Freddy’s signature weapon was also based on our primal fears. The glove was a product of Craven’s wishes to give his lead a unique weapon that was both cheap and easy to transport. But the director had a eureka moment when he read about early man’s fear of bear claws. The ingredients came together to produce a glove adorned with fishing knives, later changed to steak knives for the shooting script.

5. Freddy was inspired by a bully, a superhero, a homeless person and a pop song.

5. Bully
New Line Cinema

You’d have to make quite the impression on a writer to be immortalized as a serial killer who preys on sleeping children. But apparently, that’s the case for at least two people in Craven’s past. Craven has said he based Freddy on a bully named Fred Kreuger who menaced Craven in his youth who also inspired the character “Krug” in Last House on the Left. Freddy’s famous hat and sweater is said to be influenced by a homeless man whom Craven remembers staring at him through his bedroom window when he was 10. (The colored sweater was also a nod to the DC Comics superhero Plastic Man.) Finally, Gary Wright’s 1976 hit “Dream Weaver” inspired Craven to create a character who “weaved” through people’s dreams.

6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is about a teen coming to terms with his homosexuality.

6. Freddy 2
New Line Cinema

Since its release, viewers have noticed A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 has homosexual themes and subtext running throughout the story. (Lead character Jesse is noticeably attracted to his best friend Ron; a sign on his bedroom door forbids the entry of “chicks”; Freddy has no female victims; Jesse and his gym teacher engage in a shower room towel-snapping scene that could only be described as “intimate.”) Turns out, it’s no accident. Screenwriter David Chaskin explained in the documentary Never Sleep Again that he conceived the premise of Freddy entering Jesse’s body as a metaphor for the character’s closeted sexuality.

7. Freddy was originally written as a silent killer.

7. Phone Tongue
New Line Cinema

It’s hard to believe anyone would want to tear out the dialogue for the ol’ gloved wiseacre, but when he was conceived, Freddy Krueger wasn’t going to have any lines. As viewers might notice in the original film, Freddy is more subdued (for Freddy) and closer in tone to his mute cohorts Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. But as the franchise continued, the killer eventually became the throat-slashing one-liner factory we know him as today.

8. The lack of Freddy in the first film was on purpose.

8. Freddy Appearance
New Line Cinema

Wes Craven didn’t need Spielberg’s deft use of a shark to know the unseen is far scarier than the visible, which is why Freddy Krueger only has 7 minutes of screen time in the original film. Obviously, the character quickly became a huge draw for audiences and was given ample time to shine in the sequels.

9. Dick Cavett really wanted Freddy to kill Zsa Zsa Gabor.

9. Dick Cavett
New Line Cinema

In a dream sequence in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, talk show host Dick Cavett interviews the glamour punchline Zsa Zsa Gabor on TV, morphs into Freddy and goes in for the boa-bedecked kill. As it so happened, Cavett was given the choice of who to have on this fantasy show and he chose Gabor because, according to him, he’d never have her on and if there was any guest he’d like to kill off, it would be her.

10. Wes Craven doesn’t like the ending to the first film.

10. Ending
New Line Cinema

If there’s one thing about horror movies, the genre ain’t short of sequels. And while the Nightmare on Elm Street series went back to the Freddy well more than a few times, Craven never wanted to tease a sequel at the end of the first film. Surprisingly, the first movie was to end on a happy, positive note with the plucky teens driving off. But according to the director’s DVD commentary, studio head Bob Shaye insisted that Craven hint at future installments with Freddy appearing as the driver. Craven compromised with the sweater-striped convertible top and Mom being yanked through the front door window.

Star Trek III Everett

Speak Klingon?

How Well Do You Know the Aliens of Star Trek? Take Our Quiz!

Catch a Star Trek movie marathon on IFC this month.

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From the Klingons to the Borg, the various Star Trek crews have encountered many alien races in the final frontier of space. Before you catch IFC’s Star Trek marathon, take our quiz on the various aliens from the movies and TV shows. We promise it’s easier than the Kobayashi Maru.


David Krumholtz Harold and Kumar

Goldstein Rules

David Krumholtz’s 10 Funniest Movie Roles

David Krumholtz stops by Comedy Bang! Bang! tonight at 11P.

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If you’ve seen David Krumholtz in Gigi Does It, then you know he’s a performer with serious range. It’s hard to believe the guy you loved in films like Harold & Kumar and 10 Things I Hate About You is under all that makeup. To help get you ready for David’s appearance on this week’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, check out some of his funniest movie performances below.

10.The Santa Clause, Bernard the Elf

Walt Disney Pictures

Krumholtz was a memorable part of the Tim Allen holiday favorite, playing an overworked, Type A elf just trying to keep the North Pole moving.

9. Slums of Beverly Hills, Ben

Krumholtz played the Broadway bound brother of a rapidly developing Natasha Lyonne in this indie darling.

8. The Big Ask, Andrew

Krumholtz’s friends would do anything for him…well, almost anything, in this dark comedy about big favors.

7. Addams Family Values, Joel Glicker

Neurotic Joel Glicker didn’t have much going for him, but sometimes the right amount of desperation can be attractive. Just ask Wednesday Addams.

6. Serenity, Mr. Universe

Krumholtz supplied some comedic relief to Joss Whedon’s space Western as a hacker who’s funny right up until the moment he breaks your heart.

5. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Schwartzberg

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

Krumholtz shines almost as much as his staches and ‘dos in this cult classic send up of musician biopics.

4. This Is the End, David Krumholtz

Krumholtz got to play one of his funniest parts ever in this Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy as, well, David Krumholtz.

3. Superbad, Benji Austin

Krumholtz wanted Michael Cera to sing him a little song, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Maybe that had something to do with all the cocaine.

2. 10 Things I Hate About You, Michael

Touchstone Pictures

Krumholtz became an icon for a generation when he allowed Andrew Keegan to draw a male member on his face in this teen classic.

1. Harold and Kumar trilogyGoldstein

Little did we know that Goldstein’s search for Katie Homes’ nude scenes would launch one of Krumholtz’s most beloved characters, popping up in all three Harold & Kumar movies.

The Fan Everett Collection

It's Not Crazy, It's Sports

8 Extreme Sports Fans from the Movies

Cheer on Uncle Chubbys on an all-new Benders Thursday at 10P on IFC.

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There have been countless movies about sports heroes over the years. But every so often those of us whose court is on the couch regretting how many chicken wings we ate on game day get the spotlight. The Benders guys love hockey, but these passionate sports fans from the movies take their team loyalty to some pretty extreme places.

8. Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams

Ray Kinsella (Costner) is such a fan of baseball, he listens to voices in his head and builds a field in his backyard. Thankfully they never made a sequel called “Field of Screams” where the voices tell Ray to murder his family.

7. Dan Aykroyd and Daniel Stern, Celtic Pride

Aykroyd and Stern play Boston fans who kidnap an opposing team’s player in this Judd Apatow scripted comedy. Much like Tom Brady, they never admit to their crime.

6. Robert De Niro, The Fan

Gil Renard (De Niro) loved the San Francisco Giants so much, he actually kidnapped player Bobby Rayburn’s (Wesley Snipes) son. Couldn’t he have just painted his body orange and black and called it a day?

5. The Fans in Major League

The fans stayed dedicated to the Indians even in tough times, which is pretty admirable since the team consisted of a womanizer, an ex-con and a voodoo practitioner.

4. Patton Oswalt, Big Fan

Patton Oswalt is borderline mental in his NY Giants fandom here, which, if you look at their offense this year, you’d have to be.

3. Robert De Niro (again), Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

De Niro’s character has lost it all betting on the Eagles over the years. Nobody tell him about Draft Kings, okay?

2. Toro the Bull, Space Jam

It’s not tough to root for a team consisting of Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny AND Bill Murray, but Toro didn’t just cheer from the sidelines. When push came to shove, he put his horns where the Monstars’ sun don’t shine, and helped turn the tide of the game.

1. Susan Sarandon, Bull Durham

Talk about going the extra mile. Mentor, lover and fan, Annie Savoy (Sarandon) is second only to the jock strap as the ultimate athletic supporter.

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