The Planet Of The Apes Films – Part 1 of 8: Planet Of The Apes (1968)
Do I really have to tell you what this one is about?
OK. I’ll make it brief.
A spaceship crash lands. Three of the four crew members survive. The world they’ve landed on is barren – but habitable.
After discovering a tribe of primitive, mute humans they are captured along with them. By talking apes!
One of the crew is killed, the other is lobotomised and the only survivor is George Taylor. He is taken to Ape City.
A savage throat injury renders him temporarily unable to talk. Two kindly chimpanzee scientists take a liking to him after discovering his above average intelligence.
Taylor is shocked to see the disdain that the apes treat the humans with. They are considered no more than animals.
When Taylor regains his speech his simian captors are stunned… and frightened.
It’s his destiny to venture into the Forbidden Zone. Only by making a grim discovery there will Taylor come to realise where he really is.
This science fiction masterpiece from director Franklin J Schaeffner is a guilty pleasure for me. It’s a film I like to wallow in when I’m in one of my “fuck the human race” moods. Given the shitty state of the world right now – that happens more often than I care to admit.
It has groundbreaking make up effects. A daring avant garde’ score by Jerry Goldsmith (I LOVE his work!), Stunning performances by Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and Maurice Evans all encased under ape masks as Cornelius, Zira and Dr Zaius.
There’s that classic twist ending. It may have been parodied many times in pop culture for a generation, but it’s still a punch right to the gut.
Next year this film is 50 years old but it’s still mind boggling how ahead of it’s time it is.
I see this as something a little more intimate as an epic sci-fi potboiler. This is a character study. A glimpse inside the mind of one man. Colonel George Taylor played by Charlton Heston in a seminal performance.
Taylor is one of cinema’s most iconic anti-heroes. With his hard boiled cynicism and sarcastic laugh – he is the bitter core of this movie. This is a guy who’s given up on the human race before the story has even begun. A guy who’s left Earth because he just wants to see if there’s anything better elsewhere.
Oddly his overall sourness makes him more sympathetic. We all know how he feels. He says what we’re all thinking but are too afraid to say.
Taylor has lost hope but he can allow himself a sarcastic laugh about it. He’s got a good inkling that mankind are probably extinct when his ship splashes into the lake on this new (?) world. He doesn’t see it as necessarily a bad thing.
Although he is distressed when he found out how things came to be that way.
He wanted to be proven right, but not that right.
I love this bitter and miserable old bastard. He’s a character I can live vicariously through.
Self loathing is an appealing quality if done right. It’s something Charlton Heston has always done very well.
It’s interesting how in this movie the apes considers themselves superior to the humans – but make all the exact same mistakes.
They have their own form of racism by differentiating class by sub species. It’s like the film is saying that the more sentient a species becomes the more it learns to discriminate within itself.
Remind us of anyone?
Also the concept of heresy against an extremist religious doctrine – and any admission of the value of science being punishable as blasphemy.
The apes were always a metaphor for the human race. Designed to point out our most worthless attributes.
Planet Of The Apes is a bleak and nihilistic classic. It tells us everything we need to know about ourselves.
One little nitpick though. Taylor assumes he’s landed on an alien world right, and doesn’t realise until the end that he’s been on Earth the whole time?
Why doesn’t he think it’s odd then, that all the apes speak ENGLISH??! Wouldn’t that have at least given a little bit of the game away before he saw Lady Liberty half buried by sand?
The Man Who Saved Movies. You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!