Planet of the Apes (1968)

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Planet of the Apes (1968)

Post  BoG on Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:35 pm


What more can I say about the original Planet of the Apes film that hasn't been said, written about and pondered over already? How about this: the final resulting film was much more than the sum of its many separate parts. By all rights, it never should have succeeded, to any degree. One of the first hurdles to overcome was the ape makeup - how to present scenes of main character Taylor (Heston) talking with apes and not make fools of everyone involved? There was a screening test filmed with Heston and Edward G.Robinson in ape makeup (poorly done at that point - the footage still exists and can be seen on special DVD editions). The test audience didn't laugh.


But that was just the first hurdle. The author of the original novel was a satirist, not a science fiction writer. The director, Schaffner, had no experience in sci-fi; neither did the actors - this began  Heston's sci-fi cycle, not end it. Rod Serling, one of the screenwriters, was known for the Twilight Zone TV series, of course. But, again, his focus had been on TV, on drama, on small human stories. Somehow, it all came together.  I really admire the first sequence in the film, from the introduction of Taylor in his small spaceship to the trek across some alien desert. When I first saw this (it must have been the first TV airing, in the seventies), I really bought into it. By about the 15-minute mark, the film had me - we really were on some distant planet, many years in the future, on the wildest sci-fi adventure I'd yet seen. The walk the 3 astronauts were on was long, but, somehow, I wasn't bored.

The film only got better as it went along. I think, in the most basic terms, the film just managed to present two elements in the best possible manner, and these two elements didn't bang up against each other, as might be expected. The elements worked together, very smoothly. The first element is the satiric one, some of the satire taken from the novel. It's most evident in the central trial sequence, when the ruling apes literally close their eyes, ears and mouths to the idea of any intelligence existing outside their own limited domain (Ape City). The film mocks us, our modern society, our religion(!) and even our history; the apes stand in for us: our politicians/religious leaders (orangutans), our scientists/professionals (chimpanzees) and our military/police (gorillas). Are we really such short-sighted brutes? We may laugh as the film progresses but afterward, if we think about it..waitaminnit...Wait a minute....!

The 2nd element is the adventure, the action. This turns out to be one of the more exciting science fiction epics. There are no real slow spots. Schaffner was always one of my favorite directors; his The War Lord and Patton are among my favorite films. So, an audience has its pick here: appreciate the satire and enjoy the action. It's all there. And, it's not just action; there's a sense of adventure here, of a journey which, in many ways, is an ultimate one, guaranteed by the ending. The Time Machine (1960) had a similar feel to this, but with less edge. Planet of the Apes was very edgy for its time. At the end, there was no where else to go, really; you can't go anywhere from an ultimate ending. However...
However, there was a continuation in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). Could it help ever being anything but mediocre by comparison? No.  BoG's Score (for POTA): 9 out of 10



Last edited by BoG on Tue Feb 24, 2015 4:07 pm; edited 7 times in total
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Behind the Planet of the Apes

Post  BoG on Fri Mar 26, 2010 6:48 pm


I was on the edge of my seat when I watched this the first couple of times - yes, even after the initial viewing, I was still enthralled by Taylor's dilemmas. He's in some almost surreal, nightmarish situations here.
I also believe that this film's storyline underscores and spells out Charlton Heston's dedication and his commitment, not just as a movie star, but as an actor. Heston's character, Taylor, starts out as the typically arrogant white male - the almost superior, most powerful member of society (back then) - but he ends up on the lowest rung of this new community. He is despised, ridiculed and humiliated. It's a stunning turnaround for his character.
Below are some behind-the-scenes stills during filming of Planet of the Apes and a shot of Edward G. Robinson in early ape-makeup tests (Maurice Evans ended up playing the part of Zaius), and writer Rod Serling with presumably Zira (Kim Hunter).

BELOW: pre-production concepts, with a more advanced/modern, futuristic setting

And, click here PLANET of the APES Program to view  the original program booklet from 1968.

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