Tuesday, April 16, 2013

#974. Planet of the Apes (1968)

Directed By: Franklin J. Schaffner

Starring: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter

Tag line: "Somewhere in the Universe, there must be something better than man!"

Trivia: Allegedly, Jerry Goldsmith wore a gorilla mask while writing and conducting the score to "better get in touch with the movie."

In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, actor Charlton Heston appeared in a trio of impressive science fiction films, all of which have become cult classics. Yet as popular as The Omega Man (1971) and Soylent Green (1973) were (and are), neither achieved the critical or commercial success of his first foray into the genre, 1968’s Planet of the Apes.

A deep-space mission under the command of Capt. George Taylor (Heston), which left earth in the 20th century, crash lands on a remote planet some 2,000 years in the future. Realizing they are there to stay, Taylor and his two subordinates, Landon (Robert Gunner) and Dodge (Jeff Burton), set out to explore this new world, only to find it is ruled by a society of talking apes! 

A melee ensues, during which Taylor is shot in the throat. Now a prisoner of the apes, he is taken to a laboratory and studied by chimpanzee researcher Zira (Kim Hunter). Realizing Taylor is not like other humans (on this planet, men and women are mute and behave like primitive animals), Zira and her fiancé Cornelius (Roddy McDowell) decide to use Taylor to prove Zira's theory of evolution, which asserts that all apes evolved from a lower order of man. 

The ruling council, headed by Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans), accuses Zira and Cornelius of heresy for suggesting that "superior" apes share a common ancestry with humans. Zaius and his colleagues change their tune, however, when Taylor regains his strength and starts to speak, something no man on this planet has ever done before!

Planet of the Apes is one of the most popular science fiction films ever made, a picture that spawned four direct sequels; a remake (Tim Burton’s Ill-advised 2001 movie of the same name); and a 21st century re-imagining (director Rupert Wyatt’s excellent 2011 flick Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which itself launched a series of films). Along with its influences on the genre and movies in general, Planet of the Apes also features a hell of a shocking finale, easily one of the most famous surprise endings in cinematic history. 

Yet what truly stands out as you watch Planet of the Apes are the apes themselves. The prosthetic make-up effects devised by artist John Chambers are beyond amazing, and kudos must also be given to producer Richard Zanuck, who, before the cameras even started rolling, invested $50,000 to ensure the apes would look as realistic as possible. Even more important - and just as remarkable - were the actors behind that make-up, all of whom delivered superb performances, and brought the various simian species presented throughout Planet of the Apes convincingly to life.

Like The Omega Man and Soylent Green, Planet of the Apes paints a bleak picture of mankind's future, a clear influence of the turbulent era (
a time rocked by civil strife and the war in Vietnam) in which these films were made. Yet despite the obvious influences of that period (which also includes an intriguing take on the civil rights movement), Planet of the Apes is not dated in the least, and is just as entertaining today as it was in 1968.

1 comment:

Billy Kravitz said...

LOVE that movie. you know, most biologists say humans did not evolve from ape-like creatures, because GENETICALLY we still ARE one of the great apes, since we're more similar to Chimps and bonobos than they are to gorillas and Orangutans Merely a savannah adaptation. And this in no way negates ppl from believing in creationism... that's just the recipe God used to do it.Hope the make more '...of The Apes' movies... Shopping Mall of the Apes... Beach Party of The Apes... All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet of The Apes...I'll buy a ticket!