This is the fourth movie in the original series, following the comedy/drama Escape From the Planet of the Apes (in which Cornelius and Zira repair Taylor's spacecraft and return to Earth, only to be killed by humans fearful of an ape-dominated future).
This movie takes place 20 years after the last one. Cornelius revealed in the last movie (from secret ape scrolls) that a plague would wipe out all cats and dogs. This has come true. Humanity instead has welcomed apes into their lives, first as pets, and then as slave labor. (And the apes have somehow evolved tremendously in 20 years… ahem).
Caesar (played by Roddy McDowall), the son of Cornelius and Zira, has been sheltered by circus owner Armando (Ricardo Montalbán) from government investigators, but now Armando brings him to the city (an unspecified city, but which for continuity reasons must be New York City) to show Caesar a fascist society built on slave ape labor.
Caesar acts impetuously, which gets Armando arrested and forces Caesar to pretend to be a non-speaking slave ape.
Will Governor Breck (Don Murray) and his henchmen find Caesar? Can MacDonald (Hari Rhodes) use his black experience to convince Breck to avoid violence? How will Caesar respond to oppression, and can he mobilize ape resistance?
I thought the movie got off to an interesting start, left me bored for a while, became amusing as the apes begin to sabotage the humans, gets dramatic and then action-filled… and the ending is good, but repetitive.
Excellent performances by Murray and Rhodes. Montalbán is given little to do, and a really low-budget death scene. McDowall, who was great as Cornelius, is stretched a bit far as Caesar.
Though the character of MacDonald, the movie compares the apes' struggle to the successful struggle of blacks for freedom and civil rights. Will Breck (or Caesar) listen?
Can you wargame it? In theory, yes. However, the combat scenes in the movie lack understanding of strategy or tactics.