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First story proposals for Beneath the Planet of the Apes are first story proposals for a Planet of the Apes sequel.

Introduction: Background

With Planet of the Apes breaking box-office records across the country, producer Arthur P. Jacobs and associate producer Mort Abrahams met with studio chief Richard D. Zanuck in Zanuck's office. Abrahams recalls: "'Planet' had been doing extremely well and we were talking, patting ourselves on the back, and giving Dick credit for putting his neck on the line and so forth. Arthur, Stan Hough [an executive production manager at Fox, later producer on the 'Apes TV series] and I left Dick's office and walked downstairs. As we were walking across the lot, Stan said, 'Why don't you do a sequel?' And I said, 'You've got to be kidding-how?' He said, 'You think about it.' Later, I got a flash of an idea and went into Arthur's office and said, 'Listen, I got this crazy idea about how to do a sequel...'" Hough's suggestion unleashed a flood of possible follow-ups, notably from Rod Serling and Pierre Boulle, yet coming up with a viable script for the sequel as shocking as that of the first movie proved extremely difficult.

Rod Serling Treatments

Rod Serling, original screen writer on the first movie, devised the first idea for a sequel. Taylor and Nova take off to the dark, unexplored part of the planet. Eventually, they would discover the remnants of human city, some weapons, and an old airplane which he uses to fight off the apes - half the film would concern Taylor's battle with the apes who follow him. When the apes have him cornered, all hope looks lost, but a second spacecraft containing (human) astronauts from the past arrives and stops them. Taylor has the opportunity to return to his own time, but chooses a woman astronaut from the ship’s crew as his mate and decides to stay to stay behind in order to rebuild humanity on the planet of the apes.

In April 1968 Abrahams wrote to Serling saying that he thought the treatment was missing the original's visual shock, as well as a shocking climax like the first film. He felt that the sequel should begin with an equivalent of the Statue of Liberty scene and build the story around it. Serling supplied two alternative concepts over the next month. In the first concept, Taylor and Nova discover another spaceship intact and travel either forward or backwards in time to a new, bizarre but unrelated adventure, which would open up "a whole raft of possibilities". The second concept also had Taylor finding a spacecraft, eluding the apes for most of the film and taking off with a handful of intelligent humans. Together, they discover another civilized planet and land, unaware that it is also populated by apes (an idea drawn from Boulle's original novel). Both of Serling's scenarios were rejected.

Interviewed by Marvel Comics in 1974, Serling described a simpler sequence of events concerning his suggestions for the movie: "Arthur offered it to me from London and I remember spending $200 on a phone conversation about what we'd do with it. We literally got into the hydrogen bomb and the resurgence of civilization over the apes and we very much plugged the concept of the ape's desperate fear of the humans. Because the humans repeated what they'd done before which, essentially, was to wreck the earth. As it turned out, I couldn't do the script when Arthur wanted it done. I was on another assignment. So I didn't have the remotest connection with the approach Jacobs eventually went with."

Planet of the Men

Next, Pierre Boulle was asked for a treatment and script. The result was Planet of the Men (English-language copy dated 22 July 1968). It picks up immediately where the original left off and follows Taylor and Nova (and their son, Sirius) as they encounter the primitive humans beyond the Forbidden Zone and re-educate them over the course of many years. In the Ape City, chimp protesters eventually force Zaius to free Zira and Cornelius, but the more aggressive elements of ape society, led by Zaius and the gorilla Field Marshall Urus, eventually gain the upper hand and prosecute a war against the resurgent humans. Led by Taylor and Sirius, the humans utterly defeat the apes in the war, and Sirius leads the more impetuous younger humans against the ape city, eventually killing most and reducing the rest to their primitive states. Taylor is killed by a young human while trying to help Zira. The script ends in a circus where the nearly inarticulate Dr. Zaius is nothing more than a trained ape.

Boulle later reflected on his only experience of writing specifically for the screen: "After the success of the original film, Arthur Jacobs requested that I do a sequel for him. They accepted the treatment that I worked on, but they made so many changes that very few of my ideas were left. It was completely different from what they finally used on the screen. I used the end of the first film as my starting point. Taylor realized that man still existed but had regressed to a primitive and savage existence. He decides to attempt to retrain and educate them to bring them back to a normal life. He teaches them the use of language. The apes consider this a great danger and a terrible war begins. Many of the subhumans contest Taylor's leadership because he wants to make peace, and in the end they win out and destroy all of the apes whom they greatly outnumber. I relate this very badly because I have forgotten it." Boulle found the experience much less enjoyable than writing a novel, saying: "It was an interesting and amusing experience for me, nothing more. It's not the same. When I was writing I was thinking in visual terms, picturing the actors, Charlton Heston, and the others. I played the game, but my film was never made, and I don't even want to publish it, and it never will be." In fact, at least one crucial element from 'Planet of the Men' found its way into Beneath - General Ursus (presumably based on Field Marshall Urus) does lead a war of extermination against the humans, a war with disastrous results.

As Jacobs later recalled: "We didn't plan any sequel in the first one, but it became so successful that Fox said you must do a sequel, if you can come up with one. First I went to Pierre Boulle to write the screenplay. He said he didn't know how one makes one, then when I showed him a print of the first one, he was just absolutely ecstatic. He DID write a treatment for a sequel, titled 'Planet of Men', but it wasn't cinematic. Then, I went to Paul Dehn and Mort Abrahams in London, and spent about two weeks, walking and walking, trying to figure out where to go from the Statue of Liberty."

The Dark Side of the Earth

Another sequel proposal was entitled The Dark Side of the Earth. The author and date is unknown, but the same title was used by Rod Serling for a television play about the 1956 anti-communist revolt in Hungary, and the similarities to Serling's earlier Apes sequel outline (which also used the phrase 'dark side of the earth', though not as the title), suggest that the proposal could have been written by someone familiar with Serling’s earlier work, or by Serling himself. One of Abraham's objections to Serling's original story was that it lacked a shock ending, and The Dark Side of the Earth provides a shock ending to a story similar to Serling’s, so it could be his attempt to modify it to Abrahams' liking. However, the proposal does not appear to have been written on Serling's typewriter, and it shares elements of both Serling’s and Boulle’s concepts.

In the story outline, Taylor and Nova find the remains of a twentieth century town inhabited by thinking, talking humans. They join the humans and enjoy their pastoral, carefree lifestyle until another U.S. spaceship crashes, with one astronaut surviving. In time, the second astronaut, like Sirius in Planet of the Men, leads the humans on an attack against the apes just as the hawkish apes led by Zaius plan to exterminate the humans. As in Boulle’s screenplay, the humans take over and the apes revert to a primitive pre-articulate state. But Taylor is not killed in this story. Rather, remembering a bomb he found in the humans’ arsenal and disgusted by the carnage, prejudice, and hatred he has witnessed, Taylor decides to destroy everything so that God can try it all over again. He crashes the ship into the city, igniting a nuclear holocaust which leaves nothing except the reproductive imagery of a flower and a bee.

Planet of the Apes Revisited

Following the rejection of these proposals, Mort Abrahams reconsidered his preconditions for the sequel: "Finally, having thought about it for several weeks, I abandoned the idea of trying to top the Statue of Liberty shot. I told Arthur, 'Look, let's not do a film for the final shot, which we're trying to do in topping the first picture's fantastic experience. Let's just do a picture, but we have to make it visually more exciting by involving ourselves with either mechanical or film effects.' So, we started with that premise. Then, I got the idea of going beyond apes to a race of mutant humans who could create reality out of their own mental images - earthquakes, rock falls and all that sort of thing - which gave us the opportunity for visual effects on the screen. We worked backwards, building the story around the visual gimmicks." In the fall of 1968, while working in England producing The Chairman, Abrahams met with poet-turned-screenwriter Paul Dehn, who had co-written Goldfinger, one of the most popular James Bond films. After some discussion, Dehn agreed to write a treatment. "Having read his poetry," Abrahams said, "I wondered if he would be interested. His imagery indicated such a fertile imagination that I thought his would not be the standard screenwriter's approach."

Dehn submitted his story treatment, which was developed from Abrahams’ concept, on 13 September 1968. Planet of the Apes Revisited, again, began with the final moments of the first film. This time, Taylor and Nova ride into the Forbidden Zone, where they see various visual deterrents including arid deserts, snow drifts and banks of thick fog. They travel down an elevator and encounter a race of mutated humans who survived the nuclear war in the buried New York City. They[1] [had] metamorphosized into telepathic beings who worship the atomic bomb as a god, and while the mutant government (though not the wider community) are aware of occasional intrusions by primitive humans, gorilla hunters and chimp explorers, they choose to live in pacific isolation. Meanwhile, General Ursus, a Hitler-like gorilla, tells an ape assembly that they have killed or captured all the humans. But the ape population is growing and the captured humans require feeding, so they need to expand their frontiers. The mutants convince Taylor to spy on their behalf, for the sake of peace. He and Nova return to the Ape City, to the home of Zira and Cornelius, where he reveals that Nova is pregnant. Ursus' scouts enter the Forbidden Zone and discover the tops of New York’s tallest skyscrapers. Believing there is a ready-made city waiting for them, the gorillas soon discover that the city must be inhabited, and therefore begin to prepare an invasion. During this time, Nova gives birth to a son, Sirius, who is cared for by Zira, and Taylor meets secretly with some chimpanzee and younger orangutan students. While making their way back to the mutants, Nova is shot dead by a gorilla guard, but Taylor tells the mutants about Ursus' plans. As Taylor watches from above ground, the gorilla army marches past a pathetic anti-war demonstration, with the intent of claiming the Forbidden Zone as their own. A visual deterrent of an army of men with primitive apes pulling their war machines is disrupted by Zaius. In response, the mutants send their bomb to the surface. Taylor convinces Zaius that it must not be touched, but Ursus shoots Zaius and Taylor flees. He rendezvous’ with the chimpanzee students, who have taken over Ape City in the gorillas’ absence. They manage to capture Ursus as his gorilla soldiers break the supports of the missile, making it point downwards. The rocket fires, destroying the mutant city and the gorilla army. Taylor and his chimpanzee allies return to Ape City where Ursus is imprisoned and the humans are freed, with a new era dawning between man and ape. Dehn's treatment climaxes with an optimistic ending set 54 years after the explosion, where a group of children are being taught about that final war. The teacher is a chimpanzee and the children are human. The treatment goes on to cut to the Forbidden Zone where a group of horribly mutated apes emerge from a tunnel and, symbolically, shoot a dove - an ominous ending after all! Paul Dehn explained: "...exciting ideas did come out of the second one as a result of the Statue of Liberty, which instantly suggested that New York was underground and that there could be relics of human civilization down there, and that gave me the idea for the mutants, people who had become radiated." "We were looking for a setting that would be at once recognizable to the audience and yet take on a different form," added Abrahams. "Now, we had already destroyed New York in the first one, so we had to decide if we wanted to do shots of New York with buildings on their sides. We decided to go underground instead, and keep the whole atmosphere underground in contrast to the first picture which was all above ground. I don't know where the specific idea of the subway came in, but it all came about due to our desire to create a very visual picture. The first film depended upon the unusual story and the unusual characters. Presumably, most of the audience for the second picture would have seen the first; therefore you couldn't do scenes like the sudden disclosure of apes on horseback and expect the same reaction. We were looking for unusual visuals, not the repetition of anything in picture one."

Notes

  1. Assumption: They = the mutants


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