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“Attack from the Clouds” is a bit of a step backwards for Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975).
The last few episodes of the series have been pushing the overall narrative forward by leaps and bounds. And though this story continues the story arc involving the stolen World War II warplane, the episode stalls-out, and is heavy on stock footage and an uninspiring, childish threat.
In “Attack from the Clouds,” a giant prehistoric bird threatens the humanoids of New Valley, repeatedly attacking their livestock and generating terror.
The astronauts -- Bill, Jeff, Judy and Brent – realize they need the warplane to fight the giant predator, but risk being spotted by Urko, who still wants his weapon of war back…
The worst and most juvenile moments of Return to the Planet of the Apes have universally involved our heroes (the astronauts) facing giant monsters and over-grown animals.
So far, the protagonists faced giant spiders in the sewers of Ape City, swooping bats (in daylight, no less…) in last week’s episode, sea monsters (“Lagoon of Peril”), and so on. Fortunately, these moments of “monster threats” have mostly occurred in passing, and almost never dominated whole half-hours.
Until now, anyway.
Here, the giant bird is the designated threat of the week, and the elephant in the room. The entirety of “Attack from the Clouds” seems dominated by repeat images of the bird in flight (its fierce talons threatening livestock…) while on the soundtrack, annoying squawks are endlessly re-played. This will drive the adult viewer crazy in a matter of minutes.
The giant bird makes for a dull central menace, and the stock footage of the creature -- seen again and again -- makes the episode play as absolutely interminable. Worst of all, the creature survives at the end of the episode, meaning that he could come back!
On the other hand, this is another episode of Return to the Planet of the Apes that I remember as a child, and I must note that I loved it as a kid (the presumed audience for the series). I still remember playing with a black rubber eagle from G.I. Joe and pretending that it and a model warplane were locked in a brutal air war, while my Planet of the Apes figures looked on.
Next week: “Mission of Mercy.”