Planet of the Apes (1968)

A group of astronauts crash land on a distant planet in the future. While exploring their new surroundings they discover that primates have evolved into the dominant species while humans are the outcasts.

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Cast: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harrison.

MPAA Rating: G

Run Time: 1hr 52mins

Fun Fact: Ursula Andress was considered for the role of Nova before Linda Harrison was cast.

The other day I was doing some thrift shopping around the area. I have recently gotten back into movie collecting and after getting some things organized in my house, I found my VCR/DVD combo player and some of the VHS tapes that I have owned for a while. When I was out and about, I saw the original Planet of the Apes on VHS for less than a buck. I got that one because for years I never understood why I never owned a copy of it while owning the 2001 Tim Burton version. Plus, I had an itch to watch it again because it had been years since I have last seen it.

Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone fame wrote a first draft of the film. Based off the novel of the same name by French author Pierre Boulle, the story tells us of a group of astronauts that have crashed landed on a strange planet where apes rule supreme. The studio deemed Serling’s draft to be too expensive to film and a rewrite was commissioned like most Hollywood scripts do. What do we get with this combined script? We get one of the greatest science fiction films of all time.

From the first moment of the film, we get some great visuals. The opening scene in space has a very science fiction feel of the time period. Science fiction was at its height in this time period of film making and the money was well spent in the visuals. The best part of the film is the make up effects of the apes. The look to this day it looks phenomenal. The actors have quite a bit of work to be able to talk under all of that makeup and you can hear them deliver their lines perfectly. Ape City looks amazing as well making it look like a city from another world. It has an ancient time feel to it and being from a different world. The film has a very epic film feel to it as well with the costumes that are also well made. You can tell the filmmakers spent the money in the right places to make the film visually appealing. The filming location was in the southwest United States, and it stands in as distant world that we are unfamiliar with. When the scenes of actions are on screen, we get some creative camera angles that are a bit different. While some of the camera work can be a little shaky most of it is focused and the right angles are used in certain scenes.

The cast brings their A-Game as well. Charlton Heston has to do many different things from being a mute to delivering his lines. He has to show a wide variety of emotions. Heston really shines when he has to act like he can talk but an injury prevents him from doing that. Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter are also fantastic and have great chemistry with each other and also Heston who is on screen with them quite a bit. Linda Harrison has to rely solely on her actions and doesn’t have any lines. It’s one thing being able to convince an audience through line delivery, but it is another to convince an audience through just actions. My favorite performance goes to Maurice Evans as the antagonist. Evans pulls off the performance as the antagonist so well that when he is on screen, I wanted to see more of him but also despised what he was doing at the same time in a good way. How a true antagonist should be written.

Planet of the Apes also has a few major narratives that were big for it’s day and even is relevant to this day. The major narrative is how beings treat each other and what they can do to each other as well. What if animals were the dominant species and humans are considered to be the lesser class. How would people handle that? While the film does not over push the narrative you have to really dive in and pay attention to get the full effect of it.

As for climaxes and endings go, this film has one of my favorite endings of all time. When we talk about twist and turns in film this is pulled off perfectly. I definitely will not spoil it and if you haven’t seen it get on it right now. I remember when I first saw it when I was about twelve, I was blown away by it. I had to watch it again to really get the full effect of it.

Overall, Planet of the Apes is one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. We get amazing visuals, and the makeup work still holds up fifty years later. The cast delivers in all of the performances and there is a lot of work they had to put in and they all pull it off. This film also has one of the greatest climaxes/endings of all time. If you haven’t seen it yet I would have to admit that I’m jealous of that because I wish, I could get the effect of seeing it the first time again.

Verdict: Hit


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