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Planet of the Apes

112 minutes
adventure, science fiction

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This entry created 20 May 2023. Last revised on 20 May 2023.

410 hits since 20 May 2023
©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
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Planet of the Apes

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I had a chance to watch the original Planet of the Apes movie from 1968 recently, and it is still a pleasure to watch.

It's based on a French novel, but there are major differences. I read the novel in translation years ago, and I remember it being wordy and more of a political satire. The movie people brought in multiple writers, notably Rod Serling, which created the story as we know it today.

The movie might not have been made except for the success of 1966's Fantastic Voyage, a film largely forgotten today, but it showed at the time that a science-fiction film could make big money. So the studio decided to spend major bucks to make Planet of the Apes.

One of the remarkable things about the movie is the cinematography, particularly in the opening scenes. The studio bosses were upset that the movie was going over budget, but the director insisted that they needed time to get the outdoor shots right, and thankfully they did.

I imagine you all know the story? Four astronauts on an experimental interstellar voyage awaken from suspended animation to find their ship crashlanded and sinking. (Well, one of the four died during the voyage.) The three surviving astronauts trek across a forbidding landscape in search of food and shelter, only to be taken captives by a civilization of intelligent apes!

The movie stars Charlton Heston as astronaut Taylor, Roddy Mcdowall and Kim Hunter as chimpanzee scientists Cornelius and Zira, Maurice Evans as orangutan defender-of-the-faith Dr. Zaius, and Linda Harrison (then girlfriend of the studio boss's son) as primitive human Nova.

Listening to the movie commentary, I learned that they originally filmed scenes where Nova was pregnant, and the movie's working title was The Second Adam. However, there were issues with the ethics of having Taylor father a child with a primitive human, so that was all cut from the film.

The movie was noteworthy at the time for the simian make-up effects, even if they are less impressive by modern standards. The actors had to invent techniques to be able to project their voices 'through' the masks without sounding muffled. Thanks to the magic of make-up, 'older' actors were able to play 'young' Cornelius and Zira.

To me, the original film is still wonderful to watch, well directed, excellent performances, and the ending is memorable. Recommended.