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Franklin J. Chaffner
Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly
Writing Credits:
Pierre Boulle (novel, "La PlanŤte des singes"), Michael Wilson, Rod Serling

Somewhere in the Universe, there must be something better than man!

Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall star in this legendary science fiction masterpiece. Astronaut Taylor (Heston) crash lands on a distant planet ruled by apes who use a primitive race of humans for experimentation and sport. Soon Taylor finds himself among the hunted, his life in the hands of a benevolent chimpanzee scientist (McDowall). Winner of an honorary Academy Award for Outstanding Make-Up Achievement, Planet Of The Apes is grand entertainment from its visual arresting beginning to the chilling last moment.

Box Office:
$5.8 million.

Rated G

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 8/15/2000

• Photo Gallery
• Theatrical Trailers

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Planet Of The Apes (1968)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 26, 2004)

Odd realization: although I feel like I saw Planet of the Apes long ago, I don't know if I ever actually did. That uncertainty occurs to me for two reasons. First, the movie has been such a known part of pop culture for so long that I'm sure a lot of folks believe they saw it but didn't; sometimes it's hard to separate actual memories from imagined ones, as anyone who thinks they saw Laura Dern pick the leaf in Jurassic Park can attest.

Secondly, I know I was heavily into Apes toys as a kid. Man, the Mego memories! I dug all of their stuff; in fact, I still remember my Mom's indignation when Dart Drug wouldn't sell the naked Dracula figure to us at a discount since someone stole his clothes. Those damned, dirty apes were definitely part of my toy collection.

Of course, I owned those Mego "Mad Monsters" toys and never saw the original movies on which the figures were based, so that didn't mean I had to experience any Apeage to like the trinkets. I suppose the most confusing part of the whole thing is the existence of a live action Apes TV show in the mid-Seventies. That's probably the place I got most of my Apes exposure, since the program's 1974-era broadcast coincides pretty well with my first serious action figure buying days.

What does this have to do with the movie itself? Um... nothing, but I like to talk about my fascinating childhood and am sure each and every one of you feels the same way! In any case, I found Apes to be a much more entertaining and compelling film than I expected.

I guess I've regarded the whole Apes series as a bit of a joke for years, since on the surface the whole thing seems so cheesy. The Sixties wasn't exactly a stellar era for classic science fiction films, either; leave out 2001 and the rest of the landscape looks pretty barren.

Apes showed a depth and efficiency that surprised me. As far as the latter goes, let's just say the movie contained a much stronger message than I anticipated. Actually, I always knew it had one particular point; since that one involves the ending, no matter how famous that conclusion may be, and even though Fox stupidly reveal it on the case of the DVD, I'm not going to mention it - no spoilers here! (Not today, at least.) In addition to that portion, the movie reveals a definite bent against orthodox thinking. It seriously gives the whole creationist movement a slap upside the head, as the plot perfectly reverses the standard "man evolved from apes" idea and makes the creationist concept look rather silly. All of its adherents are pompous, status quo figures who pretend to have interest in obtaining knowledge but clearly work their hardest to stop true progress from occurring.

I must admit it was pretty startling to see ultra-conservative Charlton Heston starring in this picture, especially during the anti-hunting scenes. Political views aside, he does a competent job in his lead role as captured astronaut Taylor. Yes, he overacts pretty badly at times - "It's a madhouse!" - but for some reason, it works. Heston brings an arrogant grittiness to the role that makes him seem appropriately bold among the crew of humanoid apes.

Despite being buried beneath all those layers of make-up, the actors who play our simian stars all do well. Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter do nicely as sympathetic chimps, and Maurice Evans is terrifically brusque and superior as Dr. Zaius. It helps that the make-ups themselves are pretty effective; the mouth movements seem weak and cause the film's greatest problems with disbelief, but the actors and the outfits combine well and make a silly concept work.

Of the whole cast, special mention must go to the exceedingly lovely Linda Harrison as Nova. She ain't much of an actress, but wow - what a babe! Call me sexist if you'd like, but the absolute worst part about Apes stems from the fact we endure no fewer than two shots of Heston's bare butt but she shows no skin. Damn them - damn them all to hell!

Despite the lack of subtlety behind the film's message, director Franklin Shaffner (Patton) moves the proceedings along at a nice pace and keeps it from becoming heavy-handed. He actually displays flair for tossing out some of the potentially groan-inducing moments in a casual manner. For example, one scene actually has the ruling panel of arrogant orangs emulate the famous "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" gestures, but it went by so quickly I actually had to reverse the film to make sure I saw what I thought I saw. (I did.) No matter how overbearing the movie could have become, it never reaches the level of preachiness.

Of course, Planet of the Apes also works well as nothing more than a science fiction action film, which is part of its enduring popularity. Of all the negatives that could have been attached to this movie, it may flirt with some of them but they never stick. Ultimately it's a fun and satisfying adventure that still gets the job done after more than three decades.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus D

Planet of the Apes appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Apes came out right before Fox started to uniformly put out only anamorphic transfers. Though generally good, the image suffered from some flaws typical of unenhanced transfers as well as a few other issues.

For the most part, sharpness looked fairly good. Most of the movie appeared nicely distinctive and detailed. Wider shots periodically betrayed minor softness, but the lack of definition never seemed worse than that. Due to elements like the American flag patches and Hestonís wrinkly forehead, occasional examples of jags and shimmering occurred. I also noticed some mild to moderate edge enhancement at times during the movie.

The print itself seemed pretty clean for its age. Actually, during the first two-thirds of the movie, it appeared relatively problem-free, as I noticed very few instances of flaws; I detected a few speckles and a little grit, but little else. As the film progressed, the number of faults increased, and I witnessed more frequent scratches and dirt, plus some light grain. However, even at their worst, these concerns remained fairly minor. I saw more than I'd like, especially toward the end of the movie, but the print nonetheless seemed largely fresh and clean.

Colors looked appropriately bright and accurate, without excessive prominence but always seeming clear and true. Black levels were nicely deep and dark but not overly thick, and shadow detail seemed adequately heavy without overwhelming the image. The latter was true even in the few "day for night" scenes we saw, which usually create very dim and bland imagery. Ultimately, I found the picture of Apes to provide a decent but unexceptional image.

The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seemed decent for an older movie. The soundfield appeared fairly restricted and essentially remained monaural except for the music. Jerry Goldsmith's score provided some moderately ill defined but generally broad stereo imaging and also seemed to spread very lightly into the surrounds. Other than that, I detected very little audio that emanated from anywhere other than the center channel. The sides offered effects in a vague manner but didnít create a distinctive feeling.

The audio quality was erratic but generally acceptable. As the movie first started, I was struck by how muffled the dialogue sounded. It improved a bit as the film continued, but it remained fairly dull and bland. Nonetheless, all speech was clear and intelligible; I had no trouble understanding what anyone said. Effects seemed similarly flat and displayed a minor amount of distortion during two or three louder occasions, but they appeared relatively decent for source material of this era.

The score lacked tremendous clarity in the reproduction of both highs and lows, and the music also sounded somewhat shrill and harsh at times. Actually, much of the track came across that way, as the mix often favored the treble elements too heavily. This gave it a dense tone. Overall, the audio didnít seem bad for a film from 1968, but it never sounded terribly good either.

As for the supplemental features found on the Apes DVD, it's a very basic affair. That isn't as much of a concern if you've purchased the Evolution boxed set, since it includes Behind the Planet of the Apes, a good documentary I discuss elsewhere. As for the Apes disc itself, its extras are meager. We find trailers for all five of the films plus a Planet of the Apes Cross-promotion, which is just an ad for the whole set of films combined into one. In addition, there's a Cast listing of seven actors. Unlike most of these deals, it's not "interactive"; I pushed buttons until my thumb almost fell off but there's no way to highlight any of the names and obtain more information about the participants.

Finally, the Photo Gallery includes three different sections. "Behind the Scenes" provides nine shots from the set, with images such as Heston romping in the surf. (Why no romping pictures of Harrison?!) "Before and After" gives us four screens, each with two photos; the left shows an actor without ape make-up, the right depicts him or her monkeyed-up. The first three are face shots of McDowall, Hunter and Evans, while the fourth shows a full body image of Hunter. (Why no full-body images of Harrison?!) "Concept drawings" tosses in eight screens worth of early artwork used to influence the look of the film. (Why no early art of Harrison?! Wait - that makes no sense...) Jerry Goldsmith's score also plays behind each of the pictures in these sections; I'm not sure why, as the snippets are all very short, but it doesn't hurt anybody.

Ultimately I found Planet of the Apes to offer a compelling and satisfying little science fiction experience. The film's not perfect, but it seems clever and well executed. The DVD provides very good picture with fairly solid sound and a few minor supplements. Those who want the in-depth Apes experience will go for the Evolution package, as it includes the fine Behind the Planet of the Apes documentary plus the other four films. For those who don't desire such an intense package, the solo edition of Apes definitely merits a look, but don't be surprised if it whets your appetite and you find yourself interested in the other movies as well.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3611 Stars Number of Votes: 36
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