The sequel to the original classic, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes had the impossible task to not only match the original quality-wise but to surprise the viewer somehow, even after the mother of all twists.
Even though Beneath most certainly doesn't match its predecessor in terms of how impactful and iconic it is, it's hard to imagine that audiences back in the day weren't surprised by it in some way! Now this movie doesn't slowly build up to one final zinger, instead going for a more constant flow of what-the-hell moments culminating to one surprisingly and, at the same time I guess, appropriately pessimistic climax. Charlton Heston is back as Taylor but in a less prominent role this time around, instead showing up as a supporting character to James Franciscus' Brent, an astronaut whose ship happened to be following Taylor's and which happened to crash on the planet also. This sadly sets up Beneath as a kind of retread with a tacked-on where's-Charlton? subplot. Brent even meets up with Taylor's partner Nova and they're soon off horseback-riding wearing not very much at all. Then the apes show up and capture both of them. Brainy chimps Cornelius and Zira are back of course, though the former isn't played by good old Roddy McDowall this time as David Watson steps into the role. For some time, the film seems to offer nothing new and yet...
On the apes' side, we see the army facing off with protesters and something familiar, if goofy, soon comes out of that. Following some strange goings on, Brent eventually escapes and finds an underground passage way leading to some kind of futuristic church where these emotionless telepathic monks prey to some big golden phallic missile as they rip out their own faces, which turn out to be masks, to reveal their true, creepy-looking selves. I swear I did not make any of this up. That actually happens. The monks, as it turns out, are butting heads with the apes and, despite their powers of persuasion and abilites to create illusions, they soon find themselves invaded by said primates and struggle to stop them. This is when Brent and Taylor finally meet up and fight like animals (against their will) before the tragic and rather abrupt ending kicks in. By the end, you'll figure out that the whole thing was one big analogy for the Cold War and start over-analysing it.
In case you haven't noticed, this movie's batshit insane.
Which is why I like it so much, probably.
Now, don't get me wrong: it's no Planet Of The Apes. But as a sequel, it certainly expanded the world set up in the first movie, brought new threats to the table and enough twists, not to mention messed-up visuals (an ape sauna being one of them), to make it a worthwhile, underrated follow-up which probably didn't need to be this much of a downer but which did really well to not just tell the exact same story again, keeping it fresh for fans of the original.
While some might find it just too bizarre for its own good, most should enjoy at least how bold and out there Beneath The Planet Of The Apes is. As a sequel to one of the best sci-fi films ever, it's not always firing on all cylinders and it really shouldn't work but it kinda totally does somehow.
Check it out.