Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Film Review: PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

PlanetoftheApes_Poster1968 Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Running time: 112 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): PG

Genre: Drama/Sci-Fi/Adventure
USA Release date: 3rd April 1968

Watched on Sky+ Tuesday 17th May 2011.


I have seen this film a several times before but this is the first time I’ve attempted a review. Made at the time when NASA was getting closer to putting a man on the moon, writers were beginning to explore the possibilities this achievement might open up. French novelist Pierre Boulle took it to its extreme with his novel of the same title on which this film is based. For those that are maybe too young, or have been living under a rock for the last forty or so years, here’s a brief summary.

8228263674_Planet_of_the_Apes_1968_DVDRip_DivX Colonel George Taylor and his surviving crew, Landon and Dodge, crash land on a planet they think is far from Earth in the Orion constellation. It looks very barren but the air is breathable and there is water. They set off to find if there is any life. Eventually they find plants and then primitive mute human like creatures. These humans are foraging for food when they are attacked by apes! No ordinary apes though, these can speak, ride horses and use weapons. Dodge is killed and Taylor is injured in the throat before he is captured. He is taken to the Ministry of Science where he is put under the care of Dr. Zira who treats his injuries. She is intrigued by his attempts to talk. Her friend, Cornelius, is more cautious and her boss, the Minister of Science, Dr. Zaius, wants him put down. Still unable to talk, Taylor eventually escapes but is re-captured after an exciting chase through the town. It is here he is heard to utter the memorable line, “Get your filthy ape hands off of me!”. What can this mean for the apes? A human that can talk! There are plenty of witnesses who believe man to be inferior to them and is to be treated like any dumb animal. Much more is to be revealed before the end but, of course, I’m not going to tell you here.

Planet of the Apes 2 Somebody really thought about the world the Apes inhabit, there is a clear structure to their society. Orang-utans are the administrators, chimps are the scientists and gorillas are the military. It’s not clear who does all the menial jobs, but there is a structure there. The cinematography is quite superb; it would have looked great on the big screen (I’ve only ever seen it on TV). Of course the make up effects are also groundbreaking and quite brilliant for the time it was made. The music is quite unusual, but still in keeping with the visuals.

Planet_Of_The_Apes_1968 I thought Charlton Heston did a great job as Colonel George Taylor, he played it with the arrogance and swagger the part needed. Kim Hunter was also really good as Dr. Zira, she was really great despite the limitations of the costume and the make-up. Of course, Roddy McDowall is best known for his part as Cornelius, and various parts in the other ‘Planet of the Apes’ films and finally as Galen in the much loved ‘70’s TV series of the same name. Also worthy of note are Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius, James Whitmore as the President of the Assembly and Linda Harrison as Nova (although she didn’t have to say much).

apes-trio This is the best of the ‘Planet of the Apes’ films, even the 2001 reboot starring Mark Wahlberg. It gained a huge following and started a very lucrative franchise for the studio. It is really well made although I thought it took quite a long time before we actually saw an ape. It also struck me that for a species of vegetarians they wear an awful lot of leather… just an observation. So, over all, a really well made and iconic film with some great ideas that really took hold of the public imagination. I really enjoy it every time I see it… Highly recommended.

My Score: 8.4/10

(RT = Rotten Tomatoes)
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