Archive for Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Gold off Naples

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2021 by dcairns

In DR STRANGELOVE, Peter Sellers is getting at least some of his vocal inflections from Kubrick when he plays Merkin Muffley, and in TOM THUMB he’s doing George Pal. The third in the trinity of directorial impersonations is AFTER THE FOX, where he reportedly patterned his performance as Italian master criminal Aldo “the Fox” Vanucci on Vittorio De Sica, who he’d already acted alongside in THE MILLIONAIRESS.

It makes sense, when cast as an Italian, to have an actual Italian as model, especially if that Italian is going to be close at hand. And especially since your character masquerades as a great Italian film director. But the movie’s self-referencing doesn’t end there. Vanucci plans to smuggle stolen gold into Italy under cover of a fake film shoot — a film about smuggling gold into Italy — so he enlists real movie star Victor Mature, playing fictional movie star Tony Powell (but with a clip of Mature in Jacques Tourneur’s EASY LIVING to illustrate his career). Mature, who had been semi-retired from the screen, evidently found the experience as invigorating as his character does. It’s quite an early case of an actor sending themselves up with vicious glee, and Mature is not only a good sport but a proficient farceur.

Oh, the title of the fake movie (below) is a broad reference to an earlier, real De Sica film.

And here’s De Sica as himself, directing a movie. Rather excellent gag where a fake sandstorm is produced for the scene, and when the storm dies down, all the equipment has been stolen. This fake movie the real director is making stars another real director, John Huston, but confusingly/hilariously, he’s not played by John Huston. Maybe they’d assumed that Huston, like De Sica a serious gambler, would need the money and agree to play himself playing Moses. Bizarrely, he eventually did play a different Lawgiver in BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES.

And is it a reference to Italian movie dubbing when Akim Tamiroff (whose presence in caper movies seemed to be de rigeur — OCEAN’S ELEVEN, TOPKAPI) is lip-synched by Maria Grazia Buccella? It’s quite funny, anyway.

Neil Simon, who scripted, reckoned that the film was only fair, and that there was more funny stuff on a cutting room floor in Rome somewhere (including Sellers disguised as a Beatle). But, going into it with low expectations — I’d seen it once, years ago, and hadn’t laughed much, and we watched the other De Sica-Sellers collaboration, WOMAN TIMES SEVEN, and didn’t laugh at all — we actually found it very enjoyable indeed. It doesn’t really have a second act, just a bunch of stuff, but it has one of the best closing lines in history.

OK, maybe not top ten best end lines, but top hundred. I like it because it destroys the reality of what we’ve been watching, it FORCES THE FILM TO STOP.

AFTER THE FOX stars Pearly Gates; Samson; Goodnight; Det. Milton Arbogast; ‘Uncle’ Joe Grandi; Pope Alexander III; Nero Wolfe; Lucrezia Borgia; Professor Henry Harrington; Kreacher; Baron Fabrizio Donati; Sgt. ‘Muscles’ Dunn; Capannelle; and Fran Garland (archive footage).

Ape Crisis Centre

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Science, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2017 by dcairns

Sorry for the tacky title, but somebody already reviewed KONG: SKULL ISLAND with the tagline I LOVE THE SMELL OF APE PALM IN THE MORNING, better than which it is impossible to do. It wasn’t the famous Anonymous Wag, it was somebody real with a name, I just can’t recall who and can’t be bothered checking. but well done, Nonymous Wag.

I didn’t see KK:SI but I did see WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, slightly dragged by Fiona, and it has just probably as many APOC NOW refs as the big gorilla one. There’s even a graffita reading APE-POCALYPSE NOW, so I couldn’t use that as my header either. The Vietnam stuff is a little heavy-handed and dumb, though in a war with the apes Americans surely WOULD call their enemy “the Kong” so I have to grant them that one. (They called their enemy that in ‘Nam, too — I know you know that, but did you know it was actually a made-up name? There was no such group as the “Viet Cong,” the US made the name up because they wanted something that sounded cool and sinister. NOTE: see correction in comments section.)

So, I was glad I saw this in the end — we’d seen  films one and two in the trilogy, and this one does its best to actually be a concluding episode, though I’m sure there’ll be pressure to do more — a reboot, or some kind of sequel that also serves as a remake of the original Chuckles Heston apetacular (still the best in the series/serieses).


The first half hour is nicely directed, though the 3D didn’t add as much as I expected — maybe because the sinuously moving camera does all the 3D’s work for it. But I wasn’t really engrossed dramatically. Caesar (Andy Serkis and his army of animators) is quite chatty in this one, despite Noam Chomsky’s firm stance on ape language, but he apparently has never learned to use contractions. So talks like Data from Star Trek, or like a man in a biblical epic. This is obviously as deliberate as the ‘Nam refs, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. (Notice how Data’s robospeak gradually infected the rest of ST:TNG‘s cast as the writers forgot how people talk).

I guess the biblical epic aspect has always been there, from the casting of Heston to all the talk of a “Lawgiver,” echoing Heston’s role as Moses and eventually embodied by John Huston, director of THE BIBLE (and portrayer of Noah, another man who conserved species from an environmental disaster) in BATTLE FOR, the last of the original series. That movie is referenced here just enough (a single teardrop!), and there are lots of other clever harkenings to the earlier films, which the reboot has always been nicely respectful of.

But the first half hour is also terribly uninvolving. No effort is made to remind us of the personalities of the lead apes from the previous installments. One fellow only gets a little character grace note five minutes before being offed, which retroactively makes said grace note seem like a cynical plant. Inexplicably, the film’s baddie, the Colonel (Woody Harrelson as Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz with a side order of Robert Duvall’s Kilgore) shows up out of nowhere to kill some apes and set Caesar on a mission of revenge, then vanishes back to his hideaway — Caesar falls off a waterfall, very dramatically, but in the next scene is back in his (compromised, unsafe) base camp, making plans. It feels muddled, and the emotion is dampened by confusion.

Fiona points out that the film is still afraid of female apes: none of them talk in this film, and they don’t fight, contrary to nature. They don’t have big purple behinds, so the movie resorts to having them wear little hair braids so we know who’s a girl. They make little feminine grunts, the way real apes don’t. I think the rot set in with Tim Burton’s appalling POTA movie, with Helena Bonham Carter and Lisa-Marie as sexy ape-babes. Ugh. That’s the only bit of wrongheadedness from that abomination which has kind of survived and mutated, as if exposed to an experimental gas canister (Burton is getting to resemble an experimental gas canister more and more).


There’s also, I would say, a problem with the first half’s post-apocalyptic landscape. Unlike the crumbling cities of DAWN OF, there’s nothing specially evocative about, say, a Snow Cat lying abandoned in a snowy forest. It looks like quite a normal site. I love post-man settings in the same way I love empty set photographs — I’m all about the defining absence, me. So this was disappointing.

But it was in the midst of the snowy rural stuff where the film is aiming to be THE SEARCHERS with even more sign language that it starts to get good. There’s a quite brilliant scene of Maurice the orang (Karin Kanoval and her animators) and a silent little girl (Amiah Miller) which is LOOONG, wordless, quiet, tender and hypnotic. Really unexpected in a summer blockbuster. And the film starts improving right now.

Next we meet Steve Zahn (and his Zahnimators) as the comedy relief chimp (his “Oh nooo…” sounds very Scottish, somehow). Comedy relief characters are primarily needed by films with no sense of humour, or films afraid that a sense of humour will deflate the pomposity that sustains them. Both certainly factors here — any film with a lead who can’t use contractions must be afraid of humour. Get it safely contained in one character and you’ve quarantined it. But Zahn & co create a rather adorable figure here. So appealing, I worried he was being set up for a moving death scene. But the film doesn’t ALWAYS do what you expect.


Now the movie becomes a prison camp flick, and the Colonel shows semblances of another of his rank, Saito in BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. But it’s a wall he’s building. Yes, this feels like the first anti-Trump blockbuster (or the first I’ve seen — I don’t see many). And it will feature an ape swinging from a Stars and Stripes which is also inscribed Alpha Omega and is also on fire. An image for our times. (Also prefigured by John Huston, this time in WINTER KILLS.)

Science fiction films never accurately predict the future (except BRAZIL, which has all come true) but one hopes this does, just so we can have Don Jr. lose the power of speech and his dad shoot him. Oh, come on. It’d be interesting.

But the movie isn’t as dark and vengeful as that, after all. It has a much more nuanced take on vengeance than, say THE REVENANT, which proved remarkably dumb and unsophisticated. And it even redeems the somewhat fascistic ending of RISE DAWN, which had Caesar depriving his enemy of apehood so he could kill him without breaking the “Ape Shall Not Kill Ape” rule. That climax, which seemed like it was meant to be just cool and bad-ass, is back-engineered to seem genuinely proto-fascist, something that must be atoned for and which leaves trauma for the perpetrator, or maybe this was always part of their plan (the writers of the first film are execs on this, granting a sense of cohesion and trilogic world-building). Caesar feels guilt for killing Toby Kebbell as Koba the bonobo (I just like writing that) and gets a chance to act differently this time.


So maybe because I like apes or because I don’t like concentration camps, this movie got quite emotional for me. I seemed to continually have something in my eye (mayve it was the 3D). It wasn’t profoundly moving, because torturing animals always gets a reaction (my friend Alex makes fun of the bit in RISE OF where Malfoy shows up with girlfriends to abuse apes — “No matter how evil you are, it’s unlikely you’d think that torturing chimps would be a good way to impress the girls,” — but in fact, animal abuse is a staple of entertainment, since drama depends on a good bit of unpleasantness to work its magic). Arguably, it was all too easy. But it worked. And it didn’t become so manipulative and Von Trieresque that I resented its effect.

It’s nice to get a proper trilogy. The middle one is the darkest. The first and third are the best. This is as it should be.


The Mysterious Mr If – The Final Chapter

Posted in FILM with tags , on October 3, 2011 by dcairns

One good thing about this being the positively final chapter of THE MYSTERIOUS MR IF, my unaccountably unproduced feature script, is that we’ll be free to do week-long celebrations again — starting next week with a series of posts on a filmmaker well-known but underappreciated, and hitherto rarely discussed on Shadowplay. Shall I tell you who it is? Not yet!

Another good thing is that you need no longer stand in silence, awed by my genius, but can once more join the discussion, my creative juices discretely hooded ‘neath a veil of criticism.

Last we saw, things were coming to a head, as Mr If, Victorian master-criminal, took over the Big Computer at Edinburgh University (come on, we all know it exists!) in some one-tenth-baked scheme to end the universe. The forces of reason — including Duffle, a narcoleptic policeman; Turner, a less interesting cop; Thrower, a dunce; Sheena, a tour guide; and Howie, the human exhibit from Edinburgh Zoo —  gather to stop him.

Can they succeed, or will cause and effect go up the lum, with reason besmirched and reality a-tatter?

Now, for the last time, read on!


Duffle halts, holding the others back, a grim look dampening his visage.


Shit – the ballerinas.


Dancers of death!

The Ballerinas have set up a practice bar at one side of the lobby, where they are stretching and bending. They leave the bar and advance on the forces of order. One of them activates a CD player which blasts outSwanLake.


We can’t let them delay us. Thrower – arrest them.

Thrower gulps and charges forward. The Ballerinas go into kung fu mode and kick him senseless with slippered feet.


Leave these bitches to me. I know what shits them up.

She whistles. The Ballerina nearest to her covers her ears and Sheena belts her one. The girl crumples to the floor.


Of course – they can’t stand high frequency sound!

Howie doesn’t get the “0f course” part, but shrugs.

Turner and Duffle draw their police whistles and emit piercing blasts. Sheena and Howie wade in, punching the dancers into unconsciousness.


You are tutu much!


Cop this, twinkletoes!

Thrower manages to handcuff one Ballerina to his wrist while she’s covering her ears.


Right, let’s go.

They sheath their whistles and move on. Thrower’s Ballerina immediately recovers and starts kicking the shit out of him. He’s left behind.

The elevator has a sign hung on the door – THE END IS NIGH. They take the stairs.


The computer workshop is lit like a disco, a mirror ball above. Shadowy figures lurk in the corners. Upon entering, they find a giant birthday cake.


No candles – this is If’s work.

Muffled cries. Turner punches the cake, breaking the icing.


Twenty-four blackbirds take wing.

Howie peeps into the gateau and finds the Prof, bound in spaghetti and gagged with a balled-up printout.


Howie, look after the professor.



Aw –

Huffily he starts unwrapping the Prof.

Footsteps. Materializing from the feet up as though emerging from a dark shadow that isn’t there, If himself.


I’m glad you could all make it to my little un-birthday party.


If himself!

If himself wears a paper party hat and reads from a copy of The Dummy’s Guide to Computers.


It seems I can programme this computer to subtract facts from the area, weakening existence. My power is at its height – it is time for my apotheosis!


It’s true – my factatron has become a world-sucking truth-crumpler! He has perverted science and made it gay!


Don’t do it, If!

Duffle draws an outdated pistol and levels it at the mad genius as he plays the computer keyboard like an organ.

Then, shambling figures emerge from the far corners of the room – THE PROCLAIMERS!

Covered in tar and feathers and wielding guitars.



The Proclaimers!


Not that!


Fly, my pretties! Smite their brute flesh with your unreasoning fists and things!

Duffle switches his aim from If to the advancing zomboids.


Don’t shoot them! They don’t know what they’re doing.


Free will all piffle now, my mind-slave zomboids do my bidding and dream of yams! No hospice for the brain dead, but lovely fights!

The lights flicker as If nears the end of his programming.

Duffle hurls himself at the dirty zombies.


It takes a dreamer to catch a dreamer. I’ll put paid to their malarkey.

The Proclaimers throw him out the window. A scream and thud as Duffle impacts upon Turner’s car bonnet.

Strobe lights on. The Zombie Proclaimers grab Turner. As one tall singer attempts to throttle him, another marches towards him, instrument raised.


My underlings are better than other people’s overlings!

Sheena draws her gun and shoots down the mirror ball. It lands on the approaching Proclaimer’s head, and he staggers off aimlessly, making the room dance with light.

Passing Sheena, he BIFFS her head with his flailing guitar.

Turner rabbit punches the other Proclaimer, winding him.

Howie is still tearing spaghetti bindings from the Prof when he gets bored.


I want a go!

He charges between the zombies and wrestles If away from the doomsday computer. But If is becoming more and more unreal, and Howie can’t get a grip on him.


It’s like wrestling with mist, is it not? Puny human, my unreal flesh defeats your corporeal fumblings.


Fucker! Argh!

He growls like a wolf, but to no avail. His arms slip through If like swimming.

If’s hands solidify on his throat and do some choking.

Turner grapples with his musician while the mirrorballed Proclaimer bedevils him with his guitar neck. It snaps off, shedding straw from within.

Sheena casts around, nursing her injured head.


Think! Be detective. Solve, not fight. Poirot, Sherlock, Nancy Drew. Must – use – brain!

In a corner – a Gladstone bag marked “Dr. Trumpton Mondo”.

She opens it. The If file!

She passes it to the Prof and whispers something.

Then she empties her gun into If.


Get off my boyfriend’s neck!




If laughs satanically and carries on strangling Howie.

Howie is on the verge of losing consciousness. Everything goes blurry:


Everything shimmery and badly drawn.

The zoo, a sign reading ZOO.

The little furry animals – a sign reads LITTLE FURRY ANIMALS.

A possum. A sign – POSSUM.

The sign shimmers, and reforms as PLAY POSSUM.


Howie plays possum. He lets his body go limp and his tongue loll out.

If relaxes his grip and Howie kicks him in the balls.


Swine! My knackers are still solid!

Just then, an expertly flung mirrorball knocks Howie cold.

Staggering back, If sees the Prof entering details from the If File into the computer.


“As a boy, froze milk and used it as meteor. Confused bishop with wooden dress.”


No! You’re making me real!


“Burst woman with goal post at school. Lost virginity in wilderness.”


We’ll fact you up! You’ll be a pushover without your fanciness!

Sweeping Sheena aside, If advances on the Prof, but as his white hands reach for the hapless scientist’s throat, two outsize pencil erasers sweep into view, erasing If’s hands. True Crime has his revenge.


You doled out the power of erasure: little thought you that my rubbers would be your undoing!



The Prof types like fury, flicking through the aged pages of the If File.


“1889… nailed panda to Queen Victoria… covered Stuttgart in bacon…”



I’m becoming real… heavy… substantial… I can feel my feet on the ground…


“Born for third time in 1892, this time as Negro…”

Duffle, staggering back in through the door and wiping broken glass from his nightshirt, shoots If through the heart.

The zomboids recover their minds and wonder where they are.


Where am I?


Where are you?

Howie wanders over, rubbing his head. Sheena takes his hand.

If lies dying, his cape spread around him like a pool of ink. One hand flutters, a shadow of his melodramatic gestures.


All I wanted was a world that didn’t exist. A happy world with nothing in it. Alright, I may have ravished a few statues. I dressed up a cat and shot a pensioner. I may have gone too far. But who is the true criminal here among us today?

Turner puts his face very close to that of the dying man, and whispers:


You are.

If dies, a smile playing about his lips.


Well, he doesn’t exist now.


If only we could be sure. If only… if only… if… if…


A gravestone marked “THE MYSTERIOUS MR IF”.

Draped with a string of onions.

Glib newscaster monologue #158.


So peace falls again upon our fair capital, like an unwanted figurine from a high window.


Montage of discarded banners.

The Iffies return home, sadder but none the wiser.

The Proclaimers are led away by kindly MEN IN WHITE COATS.

Bruised Ballerinas are dragged off in handcuffs.


The followers of Mr. If’s insane death-cult have dropped their nasty placards, forgotten their right of free assembly and returned to their meaningless lives. Peculiar violations have fallen by 700%, and the surfaces of things have recovered their pleasing dull solidity. For some time to come, the good folk of Edinburgh will not take reality for granted.

The Prof walks down the street, glancing this way and that in paranoid terror. Then he shakes his head, laughs, and walks off jauntily, twirling a cane.


The “IF…” grave.

The floral Tramp walks by, his head now free of horticulture. He carries the flowers as a bunch in his hands.


Nobody will get in a boat without first affirming it is a REAL boat, but soon our former indolence and neglect shall return, and we shall squander our lives and despoil our world as ever before.

The Tramp lays his bouquet on If’s grave.


The Blue Museum, open for business.


God bless us, every one.


Bunting hangs generally.


Just another case successfully solved by the Lothian and Borders Police.

Duffle shows a new batch of uncomprehending foreign TOURISTS around the Blue Museum.

A mannequin of Mr. If has been added to the displays. He towers over a cut-out of the Edinburgh skyline, clutching a black sphere marked “BOMB”.

Turner smiles at this understatement and sips a cup of tea.


Come back in fifty years and we’ll be able to reveal the REAL story.


Now, now, Chief Inspector, mustn’t confuse the punters.

PC. Thrower, heavily bandaged, enters with a tray.


More tea, anyone?

Cries of joy from the coppers.


Sheena hurries up to Howie’s cage, whooping.


I’m going to be a detective! They’ve waived the height restriction. I saved the universe so I get to fight crime!


That’s brilliant. All I get is some extras hay and a tire to swing on.


Feeding time!

He clangs a bell.


In his cage, Howie tears a pizza in half and gives Sheena the section with anchovies.


So…do you think the zoo would be interested in having a breeding couple of humans instead of just the one?


Hmm. You never know. Some day humans in the wild might become rare. Better safe than sorry.


Or alternatively, I have a nice flat, you could move in.



Edward Woodward meows.

Watching their ever-more passionate embrace, the Rotund Dutchman snaps a picture and a CHILD turns to his MUM:


Mummy, what are the humans doing?

Meanwhile, a bronze statue of a great ape:


A tear dribbles down its cheek.


MR. IF (V.O.)

The world shall hear of me again…

A melodramatic LAUGH.


Scratchy black and white, overexposed sky.

An Old Testament Prophet stands in the alley with his slabs. A thirties-style British jazz song plays while the Prophet periodically drops a stone tablet.

The words on the tablets are unrelated to the song.

They are:











Mr If folds up the screen into a tiny square, pockets it, and sweeps off into a white void…