US Release Date: 02-08-1968
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
- Charlton Heston, as
- Roddy McDowall, as
- Kim Hunter, as
- Maurice Evans, as
- Dr. Zaius
- James Whitmore, as
- President of the Assembly
- Linda Harrison, as
- Robert Gunner as
Charlton Heston faces the horrible truth as Taylor in Planet of the Apes.
In 1968 the movie going public was introduced to one of the greatest and most original sagas in science fiction history. Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle, Planet of the Apes spawned four sequels, a primetime television series, a Saturday morning cartoon series, a comic book, action figures, a board game and many other items aimed at children. During the early to mid seventies it was THE movie franchise, not to be eclipsed until a little movie called Star Wars was released a few years later.
For those who don't already know, this is the story of a group of astronauts, led by Taylor (Charlton Heston), who travel nearly two thousand years into the future and find themselves stranded on a mysterious and unknown planet. They soon discover that on this planet humans are as ignorant as dumb animals and apes have the power of speech and the ability to reason. What's more the apes hunt man for sport and perform experimental surgery on them, much as humans have done to animals in our culture.
The apes are divided into three distinct categories, the orangutan's who are the political and spiritual leaders, the gorilla's who are the hunter's and make up the military, and finally the chimpanzees who are peaceful and intellectual. The ape make-up is amazing and holds up well more than thirty years after its release. John Chambers was, in fact, given an honorary Academy Award for his work creating the life-like masks which took as long as four hours to apply. Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter are completely unrecognizable as the pair of chimpanzee scientists who befriend the human Taylor, and assist him in his escape. Maurice Evans gives the best performance in the movie as Dr. Zaius, the wise orangutan leader of Ape City. He alone knows the secret knowledge buried underground in the forbidden zone, a secret that leads to the famous and shocking final scene in this sci-fi classic.
Director Franklin J. Schaffner does a terrific job setting the mood, without the use of modern special effects via computer graphics he makes us believe we are on another planet simply by how his shots are executed; this is helped out immensely by Jerry Goldsmith's eerie and haunting score. Planet of the Apes is a fascinating concept that is well executed. Now that the Tim Burton remake is set to hit theaters in 2001, it is the perfect time to view this wonderful film, whether you've seen it a dozen times or never, it won't disappoint.
Kim Hunter and charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes.
I have never been a Charlton Heston fan. He has always seemed so self righteous and egotistical in interviews. Here, in Planet Of The Apes, it works for him. He plays a man who loses all dignity by becoming a pet to an animal. "Take your stinking paws off me you damn, dirty ape!" he arrogantly yells the movies most famous line.
What I enjoy most about this movie is the atmosphere and the constant level of suspense. A ship crashes on an unidentified planet. At first the planet seems deserted. Then we find furs suspended on a cliff. Then we find humans that can't talk and are hunted by gun totting apes. (if that is not irony, Mr. NRA President, then what is?) In practically every scene we learn more about the planet and the situation our hero is in. Until the final scene where all questions are answered.
A wonderfully intriguing piece of science fiction.
Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes.
Planet of the Apes is the first movie I can remember that made me a devoted fan. I owned several of the dolls (this was before they were called action figures), the cardboard playset, coloring books, comic books, and of course, the lunchbox. It had a defining effect on me and probably accounts at least in part for my love of Science Fiction. I wasn't born in time to see it in the theater, but as a child they showed it frequently on television. I watched it every chance I could get. Pardon the pun, but I went ape over this movie.
As Patrick mentioned, the movie was based on a book, but although the main thrust of the plots are similar, they differ greatly in the details. In fact, the book is actually a combination of the first movie in the series and the fourth; Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Most significantly, the endings are different. That famous scene on the beach where the horror of it all sinks into Taylor, is missing from the book. The truth is revealed in a completely different and less plausible way. The movie ending was the invention of the screenwriter, that master story-with-a-twist-ending-teller, and creator of the Twilight Zone; Rod Sterling. And much does this movie have to thank him for.
I remember as much excitement and curiosity being generated by the ape costumes in this movie as the special effects in Star Wars generated only a few years later. During the ape craze, you couldn't turn on the television or read a magazine without some mention of them. And they are amazing, especially for the time.
Of course what makes this movie great, is the same thing that makes all good Science Fiction great. It is an abstraction of ourselves, but told in such masked terms that you can enjoy it on two levels; either as an action/adventure story, or as an allegory to modern man and the relations between people of different skin color and of how man treats the world around him. On both levels, this movie works.
Photos © Copyright 20th Century Fox (1968)