Filmsite Movie Review
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

The tribunal reconvened back in the chamber, where "Bright Eyes" was dragged back - in a net. Dr. Zaius took the floor and explained that Landon's condition was the result of a skull fracture, and that his life was saved by two veterinary surgeons, but he lost the ability to speak. "Bright Eyes" made further accusations:

"You did that to him, damn you! You cut out his memory! You took his identity! And that's what you want to do to me."

At this point, Cornelius affirmed that there wasn't enough proof of interplanetary travel, but there was proof that the human had come from somewhere in the Forbidden Zone, because he had accurately described it. With "special permission of the Assembly" a year earlier, Cornelius admitted that he had visited and discovered evidence of a simian culture that existed long before the sacred scrolls were written. Dr. Zira added her theory about Taylor's origins - that if he hadn't come from another planet, he must have sprung up from their own planet. And as an animal psychologist, she had examined Taylor and made a startling conclusion:

"I have found no physiological defect to explain why humans are mute...Their speech organs are adequate. The flaw lies not in their anatomy, but in the brain."

The three officials at the front of the tribunal assumed the "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil" pose imitating the wise monkeys of Japanese culture - they could not face the truth of Dr. Zira's findings. Cornelius called the human their "MISSING LINK" -- "Behold this marvel! This living paradox, this missing link in an evolutionary chain." Taylor was the 'missing link' between humans and their evolved ape superiors.

For their outburst, "malicious mischief," and heretical scientific statements, Zira and Cornelius were charged with contempt of court, and the hearing was promptly adjourned. Taylor's two "simian friends and sponsors" were free on bail for the time being, but would be brought to trial for heresy.

In his private office after the verdict was in, the noble and arrogant Dr. Zaius commended Taylor for making it possible for the state "to expose Zira and Cornelius." Now in Zaius' custody for "final disposition," Taylor was again threatened with emasculation, and then experimental surgery on the speech centers of his brain (essentially "a living death" - a lobotomy), unless reprieved. Zaius asked again:

"Tell me who and what you really are and where you came from, and no veterinary shall touch you....Where is your tribe?"

Taylor couldn't convince Zaius to believe that he was from another planet in another solar system, but was relieved when Zaius confessed he didn't believe the Prosecutor's charge that Taylor was a "monster created by Dr. Zira." Zaius actually agreed with the scientists' heretical views about the human's identity as a 'missing link'. Dr. Zaius theorized that Taylor was a member of a mutant tribe:

"You're a mutant...You're not unique...I admit that where there's one mutant, there's probably another and another and another, a whole nest of them. Where is your nest, Taylor? Where are your women?"

And then Taylor replied with a most important question:

"I know who I am, but who are you? How in hell did this upside-down civilization get started?"

Zaius also suspected that Taylor was from the Forbidden Zone. He demanded to know about the possible existence of another human civilization (where life could be sustained), possibly in the unexplored jungle beyond the eastern desert (the arid and desolate Forbidden Zone). And he suspected that Taylor was hiding information: "If you are trying to protect others of your kind, it will cost you your identity." He then pinpointed the real issue - Taylor was a problematic "menace, a walking pestilence." Taylor was given six hours to make a "full confession" (or fabricate lies) about his origins, or he would be emasculated. As he was led away to his cage, Taylor screamed:

"All right, you can cut pieces out of me. You've got the power....But you do it out of fear. Remember that! Remember that! Because you're afraid of me. What are you afraid of, Doctor?"

Dr. Zira's young nephew Lucius (Lou Wagner) helped Taylor escape from his cage by knocking out the gorilla-guard Julius. It had been Dr. Zira's idea to abduct him from imprisonment, using the false story that he was being taken to the zoo. Lucius fibbed about how the anti-vivisectionist society was up in arms and would protect the human ("They're gonna save this beast from those butchers in the lab. If he can speak, he belongs in the public zoo, but what'll probably happen is that some money-mad grown-up will put him in a circus"). Taylor insisted that mute cave-woman Nova be released also to join them ("She comes along too...I want her!"). Dr. Zira met them and they were transported from the compound in a horse drawn wagon. In the countryside, Cornelius joined up for their "expedition," with horses, provisions, and guns. Taylor took one rifle for himself, proclaiming that he would be in charge of himself from then on. An agitated Nova apparently recognized or remembered the terrain near her home.

The two ape-scientists were also fugitives, threatened with indictments for heresy. Their intention was to find proof at the dig site about their ape origins, and more about humans. Their destination was a jungle that existed beyond the Forbidden Zone, but first they had to cross an arid desert area, a three-day ride, where Cornelius had performed a dig over a year earlier, and near where Taylor claimed his spaceship had landed in the Dead Lake. After they passed the bluff with the sinister 'scarecrows,' they paused to overlook a vast gorge and river that led to a coastal sea where the dig site was located. Cornelius explained why it was called the Forbidden Zone - the "deadly" area was quarantined - "an ancient taboo set forth in the sacred scrolls."

At their coastal campsite on the shore of the vast ocean with breaking waves, Taylor shaved his face and told inquisitive Lucius: "In my world when I left it, only kids your age wore beards." As they climbed a wooden scaffolding structure against a cliff wall to enter a vast cave facing the beachfront, Zira alerted everyone to the approach of Dr. Zaius and armed gorilla-police mounted on horseback. The group had been tracked and was pronounced under arrest. Taylor threatened Dr. Zaius with his rifle ("If there's any more shooting, Dr. Zaius, you'll be the first to go") and the gorillas were ordered to withdraw.

Zaius dismounted and attempted to convince Cornelius and Zira to give up their treasonous association with Taylor, without luck. Cornelius contended that the archaeological dig site held "a fabulous treasure of fossils and artifacts." After Dr. Zaius claimed the artifacts were "worthless," Taylor hypothesized that the diggings could possibly provide evidence of a civilization or another culture older than the 1,200 year-old "sacred scrolls" written by the ape's Lawgiver. He challenged the Minister of Science (and Chief Defender of the Faith) to put his skepticism to the test and see if there was really "no contradiction between faith and science, true science" --

"If they (Zira and Cornelius) can prove those scrolls don't tell the whole truth of your history, if they can find some real evidence of another culture from some remote past -- will you let them off?"

After Zaius agreed to the proposition, the group entered the cave and emerged into a vaulted room. In an upper level of a dirt pit, Cornelius described his discoveries:

I discovered traces of an early ape creature -- a stage of primitive barbarism, really -- dating back some 1,300 years roughly. It was at this level I discovered cutting tools and arrowheads of quartz and the fossilized bones of carnivorous gorillas.

Then, on a lower level of his diggings, Cornelius uncovered the artifacts found there - bones and remains from a civilization about 2,000 years ago:

That's the paradox. For the more ancient culture is the more advanced. Now, admittedly, many of these objects are unidentified. But clearly they were fashioned by beings with a knowledge of metallurgy. Indeed, the fact that many of these tools are unknown to us suggests a culture which, uh, in certain ways, equals our own. Some of the evidence is uncontestable.

Dr. Zaius was disbelieving and unconvinced by Cornelius' "contestable" findings, speculations and conclusions. Dr. Zira pointed out one of the remnants - a dirty, porcelain human doll, that was found beside the jawbone of a man (Cornelius: "And no trace of simian fossil has been found in this deposit"). It was scientific proof that humans had existed first before the apes became masters. Zaius quoted from the 13th Scroll to bolster his view that the ancients, the oldest civilization, had kept humans for a time as household pets, until they were considered untamable. He urged Cornelius to keep searching:

"Keep digging, Cornelius. You'll find evidence of the master of this house, an ape."

Up until now, Taylor had sat quietly listening to the debate. He had been examining other remnants from the 2,000 year old level and "reconstructing a life." The remnants included a set of false teeth, a twisted pair of eyeglasses, and a pre-fabricated heart valve. Taylor deduced that there were humans like himself before the apes: ("A close relative - he had all the same weaknesses. He was a weak, fragile animal. But he was here before you and he was better than you are"). While Nova was fiddling with the human doll, it spoke: "Mama, Mama." Taylor asked the speechless Zaius: "Would an ape make a human doll that talks?" The doll was firm evidence that humans once held superior technology and that apes had somehow descended from humans, but Zaius debunked the proof - he asserted that even his grand-daughter played with human dolls.

Gunshots from gorilla snipers on the beach rang out and interrupted their discussion. Taylor held Dr. Zaius hostage at gunpoint, and forced him to call a ceasefire and subdue his apes. He extracted a promise from the apes to let him and Nova escape (with a horse, a week's supplies, and ammunition) further into the Forbidden Zone. He affirmed to Zaius that Cornelius' work had proved the superiority of humans over apes:

"Man was here first. You owe him your science, your culture, whatever civilization you've got."

However, Zaius countered: "If man was superior, why didn't he survive?" Taylor answered that the human race presumably didn't survive because of "a plague, some natural catastrophe, a storm of meteors." Taylor claimed that Zaius knew all along - sarcastically calling him a "Defender of the Faith, Guardian of the terrible secret." Zaius referred to the 29th Scroll, the 6th verse, prophetically written many years ago by the Lawgiver ("The greatest ape of all"), that man was inherently evil, death-worshipping, and violent:

"Beware the beast man, for he is the devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death."

Before Nova and Taylor left on horseback to follow the shoreline and explore deeper into the Forbidden Zone, they said goodbye to Zira and Cornelius (who affirmed that Taylor had helped to prove their innocence). The couple was invited to join Taylor, but felt they must remain with their own culture. Taylor advised Lucius - the next generation: "Keep 'em flying...the flags of discontent. Remember, never trust anybody over 30," and kissed Dr. Zira goodbye! - she agreed but added: "All right, but you're so damned ugly." In Zaius's final words, he confessed he had always dreaded the coming of the hated, beastly, and war-loving human:

"All my life, I've awaited your coming and dreaded it, like death itself....I have always known about man. From the evidence, I believe his wisdom must walk hand in hand with his idiocy. His emotions must rule his brain. He must be a warlike creature who gives battle to everything around him - even himself...The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise. Your breed made a desert of it ages ago."

Taylor was still unsure: "It still doesn't give me the why." On "a planet where apes evolved from men," Taylor wanted more answers: "There's gotta be an answer." Zaius cautioned ominously - presumably he knew that ages ago, the human race had destroyed civilization:

"Don't look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find."

After they departed, Zaius was freed and ordered explosives detonated to seal up the cave (with evidence of humans and their earlier society: "In a few minutes, there will be no doll. There can't be"). Zira and Cornelius would both stand trial for heresy, without evidence or proof to exonerate them. Lucius vehemently argued with Dr. Zaius: "Why must knowledge stand still? What about the future?" Zaius replied that the destruction of the evidence may have just saved the future for all of them. To Dr. Zira, Zaius predicted that Taylor would soon find "his destiny."

DVD Cover Revealing Iconic Twist Ending

This film's iconic, chilling, startling, twist-surprise ending has become common knowledge -- stranded American astronaut George Taylor, having escaped from enslavement and imprisonment by talking civilized apes, rode on horseback down a beach shoreline in the Forbidden Zone with Nova behind him. He suddenly stopped when he saw something, and dismounted to stare upwards. As the camera panned forward toward Taylor, through a spiked object, he exclaimed:

"Oh, my God! I'm back, I'm home. All the time, it was..."

He dropped to his knees: "We finally really did it." He pounded his fist into the sand and railed against Earth's generations almost 2,000 years earlier that had destroyed his home planet's civilization with a devastating nuclear war (World War III?), and brought civilization back to a pre-Industrial Stone Age. His cynicism in the first few minutes of the film was now affirmed, and he reacted traumatically:

"You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! Goddamn you all to hell!"

The full object came into view as the camera tracked backward - the spiked crown of a battered Statue of Liberty holding a torch, buried waist-deep in beach sand. It had been called the 'Forbidden Zone' because the area around New York City had been irradiated after the blast. The screen slowly faded to black.

The end title credits played without musical accompaniment - the only sound was the ever-present rhythmic waves pounding the shore.

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