The Cult of Earth’s Psychic Evolution in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

*contains spoilers

The best in the original series of Planet of the Apes movies is Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). It is the most futuristic, the deepest as well as the film with the greatest climax of all of the ape movies – perhaps one of the best of all time… And the movie is relevant today as a quote from Elon Musk (1970-) in someone’s podcast had him say that humans will communicate with their minds without speaking or using words in the next five to ten years… Is this question of humanity’s psychic ability a secret which we keep out of the media – or is it already thriving in the community but stifled by the fact that man or some of man have not fully evolved to do such things? Or even give time to evaluate and acknowledge this fact that the voices we hear in our heads are sometimes not necessarily our own. Some people call it female intuition or witchcraft…

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) poster
Elon Musk has made some predictions… such as we live in a video game!
Poor Milla Jovovich in The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)

The sad thing is that the world has a population which has varying degrees of this ability and there are bad people who use it, just as there are good people who use their psychic talents in this present day and age… This is what seems evident to me and Elon Musk.

“But that’s ridiculous…,” said a close family member when I broached the subject and so I must label this article as one of ‘speculation’ rather than real fact as the world in Elon Musk’s mind may already be talking to one another, it’s just it’s too scary for the world to acknowledge that Joan of Arc (c1412-1431 burned at stake) or other so-called schizophrenics and others with mental illness have been mainly demonised rather than canonised for revealing they ‘heard voices’ throughout the ages – and died perhaps for nothing. I’m sure others hold psychic parties and laugh over the very fact they can hear someone else’s thoughts next door and torture them with this fact… pure speculation as I say! Could anyone be so mean?! Ridiculous…

But back to Beneath the Planet of the Apes and it tells of an astronaut named Brent who is played by actor James Franciscus (1934-91 emphysema) who is the only survivor of the latest space mission from Earth to be caught in a bend in time and end up more or less at the exact moment where the original Planet of the Apes (1968) movie left off… If we go back to Pierre Boulle’s (1912-94) book and there was meant to be no sequel as the tale is found in outer space in a kind of message in a bottle set adrift by an astronaut as he tells his tale of a planet which evolved from apes… it’s just that at the end of the novel, the female reader of the tale more or less shrugs her shoulders after reading it and applies her lipstick but in the compact mirror we see she is an ape! Pierre would have his little joke.

James Franciscus as the astronaut Brent in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
Dr Zaius, Charlton Heston with the female character of Nova in a linking sequence between the movies
Writer Pierre Boulle

The original ape movie ends with a high and mighty Charlton Heston (1923-2008 Alzheimer’s disease) riding a steed with girlfriend Nova riding astride behind him. Little does he know as he looks down on Dr. Zauis, who is bound by rope, that he will soon stumble across the remains of the Statue of Liberty in one of the most famous endings of all time.

“The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise and your kind made a desert of it,” Dr Zaius the orangutan had warned Heston’s character, just as the film itself is an early cautionary tale of the dangers of the nuclear bomb. So, the original Planet of the Apes ends…

Beneath the Planet of the Apes has Heston travel further into the desert of the Forbidden Zone and face what appears to be a nightmare of walls of fire and lightning which is followed by a wall of rock which wasn’t there before. He uses his rifle to penetrate this rock and disappears into it… much to the shock of Nova who takes her horse even further into the desert and meets Franciscus’s Brent. Brr, it’s a cold beginning to this piece of Ent! Or is this a B-movie to rent? What’s in a name? Nova, incidentally, while being the name of a bright star is also a unisex Christian name… Anyway, it is hinted that there is some sort of higher power at work in the Forbidden Zone which is not the work of God the creator – could it be some sort of human-induced nightmare of hallucination?

Actor Paul Gregory is excellent as General Ursus in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
Nightmare visions in The Forbidden Zone

“All that matters in the end is power…. Pure merciless force!,” says General Ursus rousing the gorillas at a rally of apes in the ape city which Brent upon seeing it exists immediately describes it as “a bloody nightmare”. I’m sure an ape seeing our cities would say the same!

Those familiar with the movies know there is a division of the warlike gorillas, the intellectual pragmatic orangutans and the clever peace-loving chimpanzees.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes sees a world dominated by well-built gorillas, who want to “Invade, invade!, Invade!!” – Ain’t it always the way! Even if it’s just gas-lighting!! – much to the consternation of other species within the ape community. There is a sense of different races or colours within the apes, while the humans are simply described by the gorillas as “white”, which they insist is not the reason for the possible fact they legendarily destroyed the world long ago. This legend leads to the almost religious taboo of entering The Forbidden Zone amongst the ‘civilised’ ape population. But Dr. Zaius knows from previous archaeological expeditions, or has a clue, that the humans, despite the fact they no longer talk, were once smart and civilised enough to destroy themselves and knew organised evil or naivete in the face of it. The fact the humans are currently stunted in this movie, in an evolutionary sense – it’s a mute existence and they act like cavemen, hint that there may have been some sort of intuitive of psychic language in the beginning before “all that talk” which ended the world… or perhaps there was no intuitive thought at all … in the beginning and it has since evolved. Remember, this is speculation!

But, in the ape city zoo, the human’s still fight over a banana or a woman. Some things just don’t change. And this is reflected in the motives of the war-like male gorillas of ape city… Oddly, there are no female gorillas on display as I guess they a kept away home-making… Meanwhile General Ursus cannot explain the walls of fire or the disappearing troops as they scout for a possible invasion of The Forbidden Zone.

Actress Kim Hunter is Zira in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
Nova and Brent on their way to face the mutants…

The General has no choice but to invade when he tells Dr. Zaius of his possibly peaceful motive: “What is more dangerous than famine?”

“The unknown,” says Dr. Zaius with conviction and finality…

You’ve heard of people being scared to death or killing others or themselves out of fear or hate because of the unknown? Well, it happens. Reason and motive sometimes just don’t come into it. Perhaps it was the voices which told them to do it! Or just a lack of sleep. Certainly illegal drugs and other legal addictions will cause some sort of violent outburst.

This movie was written by former British journalist Paul Dehn (1912-76), who was responsible for the next three ape movies and also wrote the screenplays for the underrated cult films The Night of the Generals (1967) and Fragment of Fear (1970). He even wrote the screenplay for the Bond movie Goldfinger (1964). An Oxford graduate who used to review films, Dehn spent World War Two at Camp X in Canada where clandestine methods of training spies to win the war happened and succeeded. Was the element of mind-reading used as far back as World War Two by the Allies and was that just a small part of Camp X which may have inspired the seed of the screenplay for Beneath the Planet of the Apes? We’ve heard of such things happening behind the Iron Curtain in Russia during The Cold War in terms of legend. Certainly, if you take a look at David Cronenberg’s early film Stereo (1969) there is such an academic facility which takes on a study of the psychic realm and especially the sexual element which includes the omnisexual experiences of psychic individuals … and their ultimate folly in going too far exploring it. It’s an interesting early avant garde faux documentary by a great director.

Fragment of Fear (1970) trailer
Screenwriter Paul Dehn
The Forbidden Zone of Camp X in Canada during World War Two

Back to the movie and the unknown area of The Forbidden Zone and its nightmare visions hides a race of psychic human mutants who flourish to a degree in the bowels and ruins of what was formerly New York City. These humans are the latest thing in the evolution of man in that it has honed it psychic powers over the centuries in seclusion since the Apocalypse to a point where they can talk to each other without speaking but with as little as a nod of their head which is accompanied by an electronic keyboard tapping sound instead of words as their thoughts are carried seemingly through mid-air…

As for the writer of this article, just call me Brent as I chill in front of the tv watching Beneath the Planet of the Apes with a mind dulled by anti-psychotic medication and Valium, which I dare not stop taking lest the flood of voices enter my mind just like the poor devils in David Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981), who are more or less seen as de facto or fictional versions of schizophrenics, whose minds are rested from the horror of a cacophony of voices by the fictional anti-psychotic drug Ephemerol, something which caused their problem in the first place. And also, the fear that I will end up like Brent at the hands of the evil psychic mutants and run amok… Scary stuff or perhaps comforting?

Scanners (1981) trailer

“There is a time for truth,” Dr Zaius tells our chimpanzee heroine Zira.

“And the time for truth is always now…” she says back to him naturally.

The shock of Elon Musk and his psychic prediction becomes a possibility all those years ago in Beneath the Planet of the Apes when it had already predicted the future. The sad thing is that humans face, both in this movie, and in its ‘current’ social form – I won’t go into AC/DC wars within men or the virago of some women or the dominance of sexuality as a dinner debate and other politics which divide the planet so hopelessly – humanity has not yet learned its lesson even if it is blessed by psychic power as we are led by misguided worship of both men, women and God but remain still threatened and vulnerable by something else… Perhaps by what Dr. Zaius said: the unknown! There is often no peace in this still slightly mysterious existence on Earth as we live upon and beneath one another in our city dwellings… Or can you hear the birds singing above the ringing in your ears? More later…

Perhaps the Doomsday Bomb could be melted down into re-usable wedding rings…
War in the name of religion Kingdom of Heaven (2005) poster
More religion and war…

The mutants in the movie worship a bomb, which we learn is a ‘Doomsday Bomb’, and they use it as a symbol of peace and power albeit an impotent symbol with only one orgasm or sting of death so to speak… It is only through legend that they worship the thing. And this relates to man’s worship of God and Christ and other religions, which after nearly two thousand years of legend has kept man in an almost worse and divided mess than the planet began with ‘naïve’ man in the first place. The worship of the bomb is a misguided worship of a legend which has been passed down… and there is often a perverse worship of the legend of Christ or a deity by certain individuals who pay lip service in believing in the God Almighty which lets them get away with doing awful things while others stand by… Even the apes worship a God as General Ursus begrudgingly listens to a nauseatingly pious priest look down on the humans as inferior sinners while celebrating their own superiority. Sound familiar? Let’s try and move on from this fruitless debate…

The mutants or psychics in the movie have lived in peace by worshipping the symbol of the bomb but they still wage war on any outsiders who are not dominantly psychic like themselves… by using their minds! The apes and the mutants in their belief in God are the opposite ends of the legend and the spectrum in terms of physical and psychic evolution.

The mutants all have blind faith… while the apes are like some of us today and question the inadequacy of religion in its current form. They are both misguided as all their beliefs lead to no guarantees… except death and annihilation. And we’re back to the unknown again, although there are no complaints from the ‘beyond’ so far. I’ll rap the table twice for yes or to touch wood!

“I reveal my inmost-self unto my God,” says a mutant in front of the missile kept in their cavern somewhere in the ruins of the New York Public Library beneath the rubble of what was once a ‘great’ city. The mutants appear human but remove their faces to show the scars of living in a radioactive city for generations.

I reveal my inmost self unto my God…
One of the mutants is revealed

These powerful psychic mutants – at least in terms of their minds – live in the ruins and turn their powers on those on the spectrum of psychic ability such as the ‘civilised’ Brent against one another…and he is defenceless. I’m definitely on the spectrum, and I say that hypothetically, when it comes to psychic power, a lower form of life in the psychic scheme of things. I feel my thoughts can be read by the psychic mutants but my drug damaged brain – yes, someone laced my marijuana which cooked my mind as a teenager one evening, I was never the same – and as a result I suffered years of not understanding the psychic element on planet Earth. The voices of Scanners haunted me and I was damned instead by a mental health diagnosis and unnecessarily high doses of medication as I questioned my own morality which kept me in crisis. Was I under the influence of a criminal or damaged parasitic psychic entity? I think their evil exists and the religious call them demons… It’s all in your head, they said. Or: “That’s ridiculous…” as I was told only yesterday. The voices and nightmares I had that descended in the night, were they the psychic visions of other psychic worshippers of The Doomsday Bomb in the present day? Other Scanners? Or, was it God or the aliens? I’m not sure I believe in ghosts per se… but there’s something which can visit you in the middle of the night and stain your dreams instead of your sheets or whatever. There are malevolent forces which can manifest themselves… And now I sound like Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49 after a bender) ranting but the possibility of this which has been intellectualised in popular comic book form in Beneath the Planet of the Apes!

The Raven (2011) trailer
This Island Earth (1955) lobby card… You can hear the tinnitus or whatever!

Brent and that last hope of mankind in the form of the young woman Nova enter the bowels of New York… There is a humming sound… Perhaps the doctors diagnosed tinnitus in Brent…. Watch the opening credits and the rest of This Island Earth (1955) for an early version of this sound. The humming or high-pitched sound is ever-present and grows omnipresent as Brent crosses the threshold through a tunnel where there is some kind of electronic burglar alarm. It is the unknown and it stops and starts as Brent and Nova continue… reaching an almost unbearable pitch…

Another one of David Cronenberg’s early short films is the made for tv title Secret Weapons (1972) about a man with developed psychic ability who chooses not to have the ‘honour’ of serving the law but instead chooses a life of crime working for organised gangs. I guess it’s a very personal decision which I didn’t have to or never want to make. To use psychic ability against justice or for criminal intent was used in the underground film Anti-Clock (1979) which was co-directed by Jack Bond (1939). In that film, a guy with psychic ability uses it to win money in poker games. I wondered why I was never interested poker!!

Anti-Clock (1979) trailer
Cronenberg’s short film…
Doh! A more pleasant image than Brent trying to strangle Nova… If you want to call it that?!

Brent is far from being a fully developed mutant despite being smart enough to be an astronaut and he’s surprised when the mutants spurn outsiders even before he’s met them… as they make the ringing in his ears ring into a climax before ending suddenly…He then attacks Nova by taking her by the throat and tries to drown her in a water fountain outside the doors of the mutant’s lair. Just like Homer Simpson does to Bart sometimes!

The desegregated water fountain in New York gives way to a new sort of segregation between the fully psychic and those on the spectrum or without much at all. Brent’s violent baptism of Nova is forced upon her by Brent’s possessed mind and has nothing to do with being born again or even have anything to do with God… directly, that is. Brent is under the influence. It is then that Brent enters the lair of the mutants and we learn that they can read his mind and there is no current secret thought of his own and there is no defence should he be interrogated as they torture Brent with high-pitched mind-splitting tinnitus for not obeying their will. The mutants use their powers to humiliate and kill outsiders. They worship the power of the bomb, or God, in their spare time which is plentiful!

The Split Enz song History Never Repeats from the early 1980s
Brent faces interrogation in the foyer of the New York Public Library
I tossed in the powers of the X-Men

“Are you what we were before we learned to talk?,” ponders Brent over a sleeping Nova upon the earlier realisation he is in New York and that his civilisation is dead. It is a quiet moment before his assault upon her… and the realisation that civilisation is alive but not so well.

The film encapsulates the beginnings of man before language and through to what could possibly become in terms of a fully psychic society, which is one that still has no real security due to the corruption of the rest of the world as well as corruption within. Should society reach the stage of not using its voice box seems a bit silly. What if something heavy dropped on your foot, or if you felt like singing aloud to a song on the radio? … If radios and singing aren’t banned or passe. Ultimately, Elon Musk’s prediction may become commonplace but it will never lead to a peaceful and loving society. So, what’s the point? … Let’s keep torturing and shouting at each other between worshipping the latest invention to divide and destroy the world! Or so it would seem.

However, there will still be the presence of beautiful voices, both in our heads and singing out loud, classical  instruments will forever enrapture the will which is lost in moments of ennui… The mutants in this movie perhaps still hear the cry of a baby, or even the sound of a woman or man sobbing… There will forever be laughter and arguments… It’s just that it ended the world in a very short time in terms of the emergence of civilisation…  According to Beneath the Planet of the Apes, it will happen all over again and it is the dilemma or pickle for the world to ponder in earnest forever… between the occasional omnisexual experience as delved into by Cronenberg in his movie Stereo… Or whatever takes your fancy! Human life is forever cursed by a collective dysfunction.

Another poster for Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

“Get out of my head!,” cries Brent at the crisis of morality when he nearly kills Nova due to the will of the unknown and when he meets the ‘unknown’ in the form of the false plastic adhesive faces of the mutants which vanity prevails them to wear, he says pointing to his head in acceptance of their omnipresent power: “Here, you can hurt here, I know.”

It is like a revelation for him in the space of minutes of his own diagnosis for psychotic violence upon Nova to the understanding of what he faces or is a part of and can never escape… This is an adventure movie which is thoroughly fascinating in its multi-faceted screenplay. It was dismissed by critics at the time and even current rating systems don’t think much of it. It’s disposable pop and the psychic element is pap to others.

Brent has also led the gorillas to the mutants’ lair and when he first meets these people, he is placed like a pawn on the chequered chessboard floor of the entry hall of the New York Public Library under the scrutiny of the mutants, where this scene is a symbol of man, war and the folly and downfall of man’s so-called psychic superintelligence all rolled into one.

Actor Victor Buono receives the mutant treatment behind the scenes
Your typical holy weapon of peace in today’s world is put on parade and worshipped
Close-up of the Alpha Omega bomb in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

If there is any beauty to be found in the mutants in this movie is that despite all of them looking like an uncooked chicken mixed with pale bloody veins and such, they choose to use plastic faces which are of mixed races, and they still acknowledge man and woman and child and there’s even possibly a gay character in the form of Victor Buono (1938-82 heart attack) who almost lisps: “Tell us of the apes!” after torturing Brent with the perversion that is his and his fellow mutants’ power of high pitched and mind-piercing ringing.

“The bomb is a holy war of peace,” they keep on insisting that they’ll use it should the gorillas ‘invade’ and when Brent does swear at the mutants, he is told politely: “I forgive you your language. I know your sanity is about to give way.”

There is no real option for the mutants but to use the bomb as they cling with fragility to their worship of peace which is threatened by the reappearance of man on the spectrum of psychic powers in the form of Brent as well as gorillas at the very end of that spectrum who can simply block the mutants’ horrific visions in the Forbidden Zone by having no imagination whatsoever… or simply by realising it is just a psychic vision or thought and nothing else…

Well, here we are in the present again and the only real option for the world is to continue to build perhaps the ultimate weapon which is the cobalt cased Doomsday Bomb in Beneath the Planet of the Apes which in one press of a button can wipe out the planet… It’s a no win for peaceful democracies symbolised by the everyman of Brent who probably wishes he’d never heard of a mutant or suffered at the hands of the toxic physicality of the gorillas which led him there in the first place… Brute force once again will prevail in the push button age by bomb or through the physical subjugation upon the chess board in terms of invasion and conquest of the well-developed psychic mutants.

Is this what Elon Musk had in mind about the future of mankind?
Bob Dylan lyrics
Franciscus and Heston are forced to fight in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

“We get our enemies to kill each other,” is the wisdom of the mutant and Charlton Heston and James Franciscus as Brent are told this before they are forced through the sound of tinnitus and thought control to kill one another. They fight tooth and nail despite being on the same side in terms of humanity and the psychically ignorant man on the spectrum in terms of that ability. I just hope the average person is not hosted by such psychic puppet masters everyday of their lives in terms of anger and destruction turning the world on one another…Demons that they possibly are! If they are, I hope they can overcome it!!

The climax of the movie is not as mind bending as the first movie, but it is still near the ultimate in nihilist screen history… The two men escape their cell and a short battle bloody battle ensues with the invading apes…

“You bloody bastard,” says Heston, shot through the heart by gorillas to Dr. Zaius who had earlier warned him he would find his destiny, and it is the world’s destiny, as Heston himself pushes the button for the Doomsday Bomb to explode… The psychic mutants have already been condemned through genocide performed by the apes… some even commit suicide rather than face the brute force of a gorilla.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) trailer
Did he mean after he blew his brains out? … The war goes on…

The Doomsday Bomb explodes and there is a coda by a voice which seems to carry some authority, at least in narrating movie trailers of old: “In one of the countless billions of galaxies in the universe there is a medium sized star. One of its satellites, a green and insignificant planet … is now dead.

The magnificent thing is that the writer of this movie Paul Dehn pulled off what seemed to be the impossible…Despite the fact that star Charlton Heston endorsed the ending so there would not be another ape movie to follow EVER…. There was a sequel and a couple more after that! Who would have imagined?

And there we have the cult item of the ‘apes’ movie linked to a quote made by one of the richest men in the world. What can you do? … “Before your kind made a desert of it!,” to re-quote Dr. Zaius … Now I wish I could show you a clip from the musical version of Planet of the Apes as devised for a few short seconds in the cartoon show The Simpsons where the song Amadeus is rhymed instead with the words Dr. Zaius!! “Dr. Zaius… Dr. Zaius! Dr Zaius!!…” And I hear all the men say: “Doh!”

For a playful look at the psychic possibilities found David Cronenberg’s movie Stereo PRESS HERE.

For a look at the genesis of schizophrenia and its possible myth in the movie Secret Friends PRESS HERE.

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