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Museum hosts army of civilized apes, radiation-crazed super humans

RALEIGH — The bizarre world you met in “Planet of the Apes” was only the beginning. What lies beneath may be the end! Or it might just be the second of five Ape Planet movies. Either way, “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” (1970) is this month’s feature film shown at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on First Friday, April 5 at 7pm. Free.

When astronaut Brent is sent to search for the missing astronaut Taylor, he suffers a similar fate — crash landing on a post-apocalyptic planet ruled by talking apes. Brent soon finds Taylor’s former traveling companion, a mute human female in a fur bikini named Nova. Together they discover a cult of psychic-powered humans, a band of cranky monkeys, and a divine doomsday bomb — all beneath the atomic rubble of what was once the city of New York! Can you say “recipe for disaster”?

Brent is portrayed by James Franciscus, who is best known for his recurring roles in a number of television series, including “Naked City” (1958), “The Investigators” (1961), “Mr. Novak” (1963) and “Longstreet” (1971). As co-founder of Omnibus Productions, Franciscus also produced many classic movies for television, such as “Heidi” (1968), “Jane Eyre” (1970), and “The Red Pony” (1973). Burt Reynolds was actually considered for the role of Brent before Franciscus was cast.

Maurice Evans reprises his role as the Dr. Zaius, orangutan with an attitude. Evans was one of Broadway’s more illustrious interpreters of Shakespeare in the late 1930s and ‘40s, and was awarded a special Tony in 1950 for his body of stage work. Evans also won an Emmy award in 1960 for his TV version of “Macbeth.” Yet he is probably best known for his recurring appearance on the “Bewitched” TV series in the late 1960s, as Elizabeth Montgomery’s loving but unapproving warlock father named, well, Maurice.

The ever helpful chimpanzee Zira is played by the accomplished Kim Hunter, who made her Broadway debut performance as Stella in “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1947, for which she won the Critics Circle and Donaldson awards. Hunter reprised Stella alongside Marlon Brando’s Stanley in the big screen version of the Tennessee Williams play in 1951, for which she won an Oscar.

Calling all teens! What new lessons can you learn from an ancient disease? Come find out at this month’s Open Minds: Teen Science Café (6pm in the Daily Planet Café), when Dr. Bill Goldman from the University of North Carolina will talk about plague, the deadly disease that changed the course of European history during the Middle Ages. Why do scientists continue to study this disease, and what can it tell us about the evolution and emergence of highly virulent pathogens? Goldman will provide insight into modern research on the bacterium Yersinia pestis and how we can continue to learn about new diseases by understanding old ones.

The Museum and the new Nature Research Center stay open from 5 to 9pm on the First Friday of every month, inviting visitors to witness a (classic) sci-fi or horror movie, wander through eye-catching exhibits, groove to live music, or enjoy food and beverages at the Daily Planet Café. “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” is now open and First Friday visitors can see it at a discounted rate ($3 off adult tickets). Additionally, the Museum Store offers after-hours shopping and an opening reception for painter Anthony Ulinksi, whose exhibit “The Places In Between” runs April 5-29 in the Nature Art Gallery. All exhibited art is for sale.

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, March 19, 2013