Planet of the Apes 50th Anniversary Blogging: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
By contrast, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes -- written by Paul Dehn (and based on characters by Pierre Boulle) -- is dramatically different in both tone and theme from these cinematic predecessors.
From this turbulent era of violence, riot and protest was formulated Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, a sci-fi film which projects an ape slave uprising in technological North America in the far-flung future year of 1991.
As also suggested by author Greene, the film's text is actually "key for re-reading the Watts Riots as a justifiable reaction to intolerable oppression, rather than just an outbreak of lawless abandon." (Planet of the Apes as American Myth, Eric Greene, 1998, page 16). In Dehn's script, the rebelling apes are even specifically referred to as "rioters."
A populist human movement resists the enslavement of apes...because the simians are (involuntarily) taking away their jobs. GO HUMAN, NOT APE, reads one placard. SLAVES ARE SCABS reads another. UNFAIR TO WAITERS screams one more.
We saw signs and visceral protests like this in District 9 (2009) too: a nativist fear that ethnic "newcomers" are here to steal jobs, depress wages and tax our already overburdened system.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes even depicts slave apes in neck shackles, and auctioned off in a public square to the highest human bidder. If you've ever toured the Old Slave Mart in Charleston, SC, you'll recall that such auctions are not fiction; and that Conquest of the Planet of the Apes does not exaggerate the plight or treatment of slaves in our history.
Our question becomes: is Breck referring to the "dark side" of human nature (which certainly doesn't seem to fit the kindly, innocent apes; especially those like Lisa...), or is the governor actually making another coded statement about skin color. "The dark side" might actually be interpreted to mean dark-skinned.
I'm particularly fond of an artful shot that visually "entraps" Caesar and his kindly master, Armando (Ricardo Montalban) within the parted, uniformed legs of an armed soldier. The images tells us how the State surrounds and dominates the characters.
Again, given the context of the Detroit Rebellion or the Watts Riots, this image is meaningful. People watching the nightly news during those real-life conflagrations had also witnessed "the night of the fires" as Caesar called it, and wondered: would order be restored? Or was this the dawn of a new order? The order of the oppressed...
MacDonald then insists that Caesar's attempt at revolution is doomed to failure. "Perhaps, this time," Caesar replies, indicating that this initial riot will not be the last attempt. This response further contextualizes the race riots in America: they exist not as separate, individual, isolated incidents of rampant lawlessness...but as organized, necessary steps along the pathway from slavery to freedom, to total equality.