Directed By: Franklin J. Schaffner
Written By: Michael Wilson and Rod Sterling (screenplay) Pierre Boulle (novel)
This is such a powerful movie. It’s coming up on a 60th anniversary in a couple of years and still has the power to blow us away. To maintain iconic status for such a long time is impressive. Despite the greatest effort and all the advancements in special effect they weren’t able to even come close to this film with a remake. Even the new franchise that took its name is simply living off the success of this film. The new Planet of the Apes franchise is really good and we will cover it in time but it still only stands in the shadow of this movie. In the pre-Star Wars era this was the greatest science fiction movie of all time. It came out the same year as the equally inventive Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odessey but this movie didn’t require an altered state of mind to sit through. That easily gives this movie the edge and even after special effects took hold of the genre this movie still stands tall among everything that came out after.
What made this movie great was that it was bold. It was more than the average movie made simply to entertain because this one sent a message, it had a purpose. This movie both subtly and seriously sent messages about humanity and the problems developing at the time that threatened not only society but the world in general. This movie made strong statements about racism, animal cruelty, evolution, and the insane doctrine of mutually assured destruction. In the ape society there are clear class differences between chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. Zira and Cornelius are looked down upon not only for being chimps but also for being proponents of evolution. An idea that threatens the word of the almighty ape creator and the very foundation of ape law which all apes live by. The whole society is built upon the principles of ape law and anything that contradicts it is heavily scrutinized by the powers that be. There is a lot of secrecy within the ape society and the most powerful orangutan, Dr. Zaius, harbors all the information. When Taylor pops up his presence alone has the potential to spawn unwanted questions that can unbalance the entire order of the ape society.
The treatment of humans in this film is no different than the common treatment of animals hunted and kept captive at the time and even now in some cases. The role reversal that has humans on the receiving end of that kind of treatment was a bold statement by this movie in 1968. Seeing apes pose for pictures with smiles and faces of pride while standing over the bodies of dead men and women is both ironic and eerily unnerving. This movie offers a very interesting look at a society in which humans are truly the lowest form of creature. It’s meant to be humbling I think, as arrogance is such a weakness for man in general. It was ultimately arrogance that even led to the circumstances in which the world has turned upside down when Taylor comes back to it.
Has there ever been a more insane idea than the MAD doctrine? The idea of mutually assured destruction seems so crazy it’s hard to believe that it was ever taken so seriously but it was. It is a lesson in history about the dangers of power and how it can manipulate men. Man finally finds the capability to destroy not only his enemy but everything there is. So in the event the enemy is able to strike first we can at least strike back and make sure we don’t lose. We can’t lose if there is nobody left to win. It’s absolutely frightening to think that the powers that be would ever be so foolish as to play games where the lives of every creature on the planet hung in the balance but they did. The world was a dangerous place when men built super weapons and pointed them at one another. Too often for anybody to be comfortable with there were times when things got so bad there was a man on each side holding his finger just over the button waiting for the GO order. That reality makes the big twist at the end of this movie all the more hard hitting and iconic. When Taylor is faced with the reality of where he is and what had to have happened he damns the men who made it happen. It’s one of the most memorable scenes of all time and Charlton Heston nailed it.
When I was growing up in the 90’s Charlton Heston was an actor of legendary status and even at the youngest of ages I knew him by name and reputation. I had seen this movie at a really young age and I remember so vividly my mom explaining it to me one day. Why the world would have been blown up and all kinds of other questions only a young kid could come up with. Something about those talks and this movie stuck with me from a very young age but the point is that I knew Heston from that part at a young age. As I got older in the mid 90’s I remember always noticing him in movies and how no matter how small the part his name was billed in the early credits. As if his presence alone gave the film another level of credibility. The two films that come to mind immediately are True/Lies and Tombstone. Nevertheless, Charlton Heston was bigger than any part he ever played. His role in this movie was great and he is, as much as so many other reasons, a big part of why this movie is still relevant today. Heston was more than Taylor though. He was Moses, Ben Hur, he was the freaking NRA, he was a lifetime of achievement that everyone took note of.
I have no strong opinions about the ownership of guns and I have no opinion as to the position of Heston as the President of the NRA organization. His “cold dead hands” speech will live on forever but it matters little to me as I don’t take much position in the matter. I was a fan of Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine but even with everything I liked about that movie I was always bothered by what Moore did to Charlton Heston. He made the man look bad because he was trying to be a zealous political ass and it was such a disrespectful and shameful thing to do. If I’m not mistaken Heston was in the early stages of Alzheimers at the time. He shouldn’t have been put in that position and Michael Moore should be ashamed of himself, gun ownership is bigger than one man and even an organization as large as the NRA, it was a pointless attack. Moore has got himself in the news again with shameful comments in regard to the recently released American Sniper. Specifically, from what I have been told, he called snipers cowards. I don’t mean to go off on a tangent here but I find that comment so offensive I need to speak my mind on it. Nobody has any business calling any man who serves our country in the armed forces cowards. Aside from that, there is nothing cowardly about a sniper. Snipers are skilled operatives strategically placed as part of all battle plans. As long as there have been ranged weapons there have been soldiers skilled enough at marksmenship to be utilized in key locations by their commanders. To call them cowards is foolish, but for any lazy ass American who has all the freedom in the world at his disposal to say anything negative about the men and women who fight and die for those rights is foolish enough all by itself.
This movie made strides in the capabilities of make up artist and production designers. It was inventive and incredible what they were able to accomplish in 1968 when making a movie set on a planet ruled by walking and talking apes. It’s easy to look back now with all the capabilities that are at the disposal of filmmakers today and think they could do this better now. It’s a fool’s notion and they should never try. I’ll get to the “rebooted” franchise when we reach it in the “R” section of the collection. There is a significant reason why it is apart from this film in the order of the DVDs on our shelf and I’ll cover that when we get to it. We do not own the 2001 remake by Tim Burton, because it sucked mainly. For a long time it was the film that represented to me as a film fan the possibility that anything could be an absolute disappointment.
I thought the 2001 remake of this movie was going to be one of the most awesome movies I had ever seen. I was a big fan of Tim Burton and excited about the darkness he would bring to it. I eagerly kept up with all the news coming out of production and all images of the apes looked incredible. They had a stellar cast all around and even got Charlton Heston himself on board for a cameo. I was so pumped about this movie I forced my family to the theater on the week it was released when we happened to be out of state on a family vacation. I’ll never forget how adamant my step father was against going to a theater while on a beach trip, but on a rainy day I somehow talked them into all of us going. I’ll never forget the complete and utter disappointment I felt after walking out of that theater. So much was wrong and I was all alone in the understanding. The rest of my family just saw a crappy remake but I saw so much more than that. I saw something that could have so easily been the greatest thing ever and couldn’t figure out how the finale product was such a failure in every possible way. How had Tim Burton failed me so? In fact this movie was the beginning of a long anti-Tim Burton period of my life. He has finally won me back around these days but he really let me down in 2001 and for a long time after I shunned him.
My whole point to all of that is that the remake in no way, shape, or form matched up to the original film in any manner. The movie may have looked good but everything about it was wrong and it doesn’t even come close to what was accomplished 33 years before. Some things shouldn’t be touched. Some movies are perfect just the way they are and more often than not the efforts to remake any film do nothing but tarnish the name and reputation of the original.
I have read the book this movie was based on. There were different things in both the original and the remake that came from the book in separate scenarios. Neither is any closer than the other really because both took plenty of liberties with the story to adapt it to the screen. I liked the novel by Pierre Boulle but ultimately it’s hard to like it more than the original version of the story I saw in this film. In the book “Planet of the Apes” the Taylor character, named Ulysses, makes it back to Earth in the end only to find it is now run by apes. The entire story of his travels begins as being read aloud by space travelers who have found the tale floating through space in a glass bottle. At the end of the story the narrators dismiss it as fake because a human could never be capable of such, the readers turn out to be chimps. It’s a good story with an interesting twist, but I think the much different twist at the end of this film is just as good and even more shocking.
We don’t own any of the sequels to this film but it’s a series we would normally have all the films to for appearance purposes if nothing else. I remembered liking Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Escape from Planet of the Apes. The fourth and fifth weren’t bad either as both continued an interesting story. I liked this franchise quite a bit but this one is the best of the bunch and I’m proud to have it as part of our collection.
It is meaningless for me to put my stamp of approval on this movie. It is above me and there is nothing I could ever say that hasn’t been said by the countless others this film influenced. I consider this one of the greatest science fiction films ever made and everyone should see it. This movie will live on as long as film history is still relevant.
Pending, so she says.
NEXT MOVIE: Planet Terror (2007)