PLANET OF THE APES - 1968
20th Century Fox
RATINGS: Finland: K-16 / Germany: 12 / Sweden: 15 / UK: PG / USA: G
Ah, the late 60's. Everyone was so sure we'd destroy ourselves. That's
why so much of the sci-fi that comes from this era is dismal and downbeat
and full of self-loathing.
Not that that's a bad thing. Although I personally disagree with the idea
that humanity is doomed, at the same time I do get tired of the endless
optimism and the-good-guys-always-win trend that is popular today. Sometimes
things don't work out. Sometimes evil triumphs. Shit happens.
The PLANET OF THE APES is based on a novel by Pierre Boulle. It was directed
by Franklin J. Schaffner (THE BOYS
FROM BRAZIL) and written by Michael Wilson (5
FINGERS) and Rod Serling (THE TWILIGHT ZONE
[TV], NIGHT GALLERY [TV]). The story opens with astronaut Taylor
(Charlton Heston: THE OMEGA MAN, SOYLENT GREEN)
on board the first interstellar space ship. His three fellow astronauts,
two men and a woman, are in suspended animation and Taylor is about to
join them. Before he does he makes a final log entry which consists of
a long diatribe against humanity and all their failings, setting the tone
for the entire movie.
crashes in a lake in the middle of a desert on what they believe to be
an unknown planet. The three male astronauts survive the crash and abandon
ship. Just before they leave they check the chronometer and see that,
thanks to the time dilation effect as described in Einsteins Theory
of Relativity (one of the few bits of science the
movie gets right), although they are only a year or so older, 2000
years have passed on Earth. They are truly stranded, in both space and
the desert they discover first: a green, fertile region, second: mute,
savage humans and third: talking apes. Now on the one hand I really love
the scene where you first see the gorilla soldiers riding horses and firing
rifles. It is very cool. But at this point I need to take a
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PARALLEL EVOLUTION!
(Read anything by Stephen Jay Gould, but especially The Burgess Shale). Of all the reasons why they should have
known where they were, the most obvious is life. Every person, every oak
tree, every blade of grass should have been a clue. And let's not
even get into the fact that the apes spoke perfect, 20th century English!
At the very least they could have made mention of the idea that perhaps
after they left Earth some one invented faster than light space travel
and colonized this world a thousand years before they got there.
Okay, I feel
better. All that aside, the ape make-up (John Chambers:
All the rest of the PLANET OF THE APES movies, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU)
is truly amazing, and stands out even today. You can recognize individuals,
read facial expressions, everything. It presents no problem to your suspension
of disbelief. It became such a part of the actors personalities
that on the set the various species (gorillas, chimpanzees
and orangutans) tended to hang out together.
consider humans to be evil, annoying pests. The gorilla soldiers hunt
them down. Taylor is captured but a wound to his throat makes him mute.
He is given to an animal research scientist named Zira (Kim
Hunter: THE BLACK CAT, TWO EVIL EYES, THE
KINDRED), who is performing experimental brain surgery on her human
subjects. Zira's husband Cornelius (Roddy McDowell: THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, LASERBLAST, FRIGHT NIGHT) is an archeologist, trying to piece together the origin
of simian kind. In charge of them both is Dr. Zaius (Maurice
Evans: ROSEMARY'S BABY, TERROR IN THE WAX MUSEUM), who manages
all scientific research and holds the office of Protector of the Faith.
Imagine a world where a fundamentalist Christian creationist was in charge
of a university biology department (or just imagine
RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!
While only having one black actor (Jeff Burton) in the whole flick, he
is of course, slaughtered in the time honored Hollywood Horror Thriller movie cliche of Kill
The Black People/non-whites. This is not to say that the movie doesn't
have its share of white characters getting killed too. It does. The UNFAIR
RACIAL CLICHE ALERT is to let you know that, no matter how many victims
or how many people from different races there are in the movie, the whites
and ONLY the whites were cast as the survivors.
For the full list, go to THE UNFAIR RACIAL
CLICHÉ ALERT page.
famous final scene will go unmentioned here, on the admittedly slim chance
that someone reading this hasn't seen it yet. But it's very
hard to find anyone who hasn't at least heard of it. My daughter
had never seen the movie but was unsurprised by the ending. When I asked
her why she said she knew about it from The Simpsons episode where
actor Troy McClure (HERE COMES THE METRIC SYSTEM,
CALLING ALL QUAKERS) stars in PLANET OF THE APES: The Musical.
Oh well. (FeoNote: 20th Century
Fox has also put a picture of the "Surprise Ending" right on
the cover of the new re-release video box! Look for more of their canny
marketing skills as they will no doubt re-release their entire catalogue
with a spoiler cover!)
aside, this is still a fascinating story. I give it four shriek girls.
copyright 1999 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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