Following the cataclysmic finale of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, there was only one logical direction for the series to go---> back to the future. The result is an illogically conceived and satirical prequel that will amuse and delight and ultimately devastate with its bleak Shakesperean tragedy.
When Taylor's spacecraft unexpectedly splashes down in 1973 and is retrieved by a military envoy, the three astronauts that emerge from the capsule are not revealed to be Taylor, Landon and Dodge, but rather the astonishing simian ape-chimps Cornelius, Zira and Milo... the third of which is a completely disposable character who is appropriately killed off very early by a caged zoo gorilla who was probably jealous that the talking simian chimpanzees were getting all of the attention. With Milo out of the picture, the story focuses on the relationship between Cornelius and Zira in ways that were not afforded the opportunity in the two previous films and is filled with tongue-in-cheek episodes inspired by Pierre Boulle's original novel as Cornelius and Zira go around "aping" 20th century human culture (a subtle and clever mockery of our own) in an attempt to make themselves fit in to our society.
While Cornelius and Zira make themselves at home as cultural "celebrities" they are being carefully monitored under the watchful auspices of the nefarious Dr. Otto Hasslein played by recognizable character actor Eric Braeden (of Young and the Restless fame) who listens with great interest to what the talking chimps have to say about where they came from during a Presidential Inquiry and how they managed to arrive in Taylor's spacecraft as Cornelius explains that the capsule was found when it washed ashore and was repaired by Milo -- an implausibility which is the film's glaring continuity error since Taylor's spacecraft sunk into the depths of the Forbidden Zone it is a far fetched conclusion that they somehow managed to not only find, retrieve and repair it (even if they had repaired Astronaut Brent's crashed spacecraft from Beneath which was overlooked as well) with engineering far in advance of their own intellectual ape intelligence (which Milo only "half-understood" as Cornelius describes it) but managed to do so and escape within a very small window of time before the planet was obliterated by the shock-wave of destruction catapulting them backwards in time and arriving at roughly the same destination and era as Taylor's original point of departure (it could be argued that these narrative inconsistencies support evidence of "Hasslein's Observed Time Curve" which suggest that a predestination paradox created alternate intersecting timelines as illustrated by the incongruent timeline of events between Conquest and Battle). Nevertheless, once you get past the major plot hole and just go with it, Escape is a fun and dramatically intense film but is my least favorite second only to the weakest link in the evolutionary Apes chain; Battle For The Planet of the Apes.
When Zira announces that she is pregnant, the film takes a dark and conspiratorial turn when the government realizes the consequence a race of intelligent talking apes will have on the future of our human society. In an effort to protect their newborn, Cornelius and Zira find refuge with Armando, a sideshow circus entertainer played by the extravagant Ricardo Montalban who gladly welcomes the simian family with open arms, but it isn't long before Dr. Otto Hasslein picks up the fugitives' trail and hunts them down in a tragic and inevitable climax that sets up the paradox of the entire Planet of the Apes chronology.
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