Flickchart Comment #29: Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) vs. Killdozer (1974)
This isn't really that tough a choice... as a lifelong Apes series fan, picking Escape (the third film) is a foregone conclusion. But, however ridiculous the title may seem, Killdozer holds far more cachet with me than one might imagine.
Both films were very important to me at the time of my life where I was slowly being morphed from a kid with no clear loves except for baseball (at which I was, and remain, a horrible player), conservation (I was an avid Ranger Rick reader in my youth) and being a general pain in the ass into a full-on science fiction and horror fan. My sources were few: with just the original three networks (ABC, NBC and CBS), a small local library, two bookstores and zero local theatres (we had to drive 14 miles to see Star Wars -- or any film -- when it first came out) at my disposal (and, of course, no VHS yet and the internet was still light years away), I somehow made the change. The media which inspired me most was clearly film, beginning with the original King Kong a couple of years earlier, but around the ages of 12 and 13, I had convinced my mother that it was just fine for me to stay up mega-late on Friday and Saturday nights and watch movies until about three in the morning.
It was on CBS where I used to watch both of these films, not long after their original release. My friends and I would often play at reenacting Planet of the Apes in those days, not because of the films, but because of the NBC Saturday morning animated Apes series that was airing at that time. Escape was actually my first Apes film. I would see the second, Beneath the Planet of the Apes next, and finally the original, which became one of my favorite films (and frequent nightmare producer). As did Escape, with its very creepy ending and the sadness of its last reel staying with me to this day. Seeing Escape first is probably why I have always taken the apes side in the series, seeing that it rather ironically turns the tables on what the first two films set up, as humans are the real villains in this one. Perhaps not when seen through the eyes of the entire human race -- the apes seemingly do have to die in order to attempt to prevent an unthinkably hairy future -- but then again, when have I ever agreed with the anything the human race thinks is the right way to behave?
Around this same time, CBS late night programming granted me regular viewings of films like Killdozer, originally a made-for-TV production. In addition to the Night Stalker and New Avengers episodes that preceded these movies at night, this is where I first saw the Beatles in Help! and Yellow Submarine, as well as dopey films that became weird favorites to me like Hello, Down There. Killdozer, while the film is not all that great, did engage me enough as a youth to make me begin paying closer attention to credits sequences, where I discovered the name Theodore Sturgeon for the first time. A trip to the library, and I was suddenly having my fragile little teen mind truly blown for the first time. I was already reading Burroughs and Silverberg -- probably far more suitable to my age -- but Sturgeon was something far different. Sturgeon led to Sheckley led to Asimov led to Clarke led to Ellison. Ellison was a particular favorite early on, and because of this, by the time I swiped my mom's copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when I was 14, I was probably prepared for the onslaught a little bit more because of watching a seemingly stupid little TV movie called Killdozer.