PLANET OF THE APES. (1968) DIRECTED BY FRANKLIN J. SCHNAFFNER.
PRODUCED BY ARTHUR P. JACOBS.
BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY PIERRE BOULLE.
SCREENPLAY BY MICHAEL WILSON AND ROD SERLING.
MUSIC BY JERRY GOLDSMITH.
STARRING CHARLTON HESTON, RODDY MCDOWALL, KIM HUNTER, LINDA HARRISON AND MAURICE EVANS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This sci-fi action thriller was always destined to be a stone-cold classic. The source book was written by the guy who also penned THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI, one of the best war stories ever committed to paper, and then celluloid.
Rod Serling, one of the screenwriters, was best known for his super-successful spooky anthology television series, THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Director Franklin James Schaffner also directed PAPILLON (1973) and, one of my all-time favourite films, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL (1978).
So, you see, the book and the screenplay were always going to be in safe hands. Not so poor Charlton Heston as All-American astronaut George Taylor, who crashes his spaceship in the lake of an unknown planet along with two colleagues, Dodge and Landon, a fourth astronaut, a female called Stewart, having perished on board ship. They have been gallivanting through the universe for hundreds of years but, due to some outer space trickery, they haven’t aged a day.
The new planet seems horribly bleak, deserted and even hostile. Watch out for the stunning scenes of Taylor & Co. trying to navigate their stony new surroundings. The settings look genuinely just like a hostile planet might look, so the fact that all the scenes are real Earth locations, as opposed to a fake set, is just mind-blowing…! At last, the lads find a lovely clear lake that seems safe enough to swim in, so off with their kit and in they dive…
Cue some rather fetching nudity, and it’s worth remarking that Charlton Heston in this movie has a fabulous body, hard and toned and hairy (thank Christ it’s only 1968 and waxing the male chest wasn’t a thing yet!) and utterly masculine, and it makes me sad that they don’t make ‘em like that anymore. His thighs are a poem, those hard muscled buttocks a symphony to the beauty of the male nude. Would I ‘do’ him? In a heartbeat, folks…
Anyway, Taylor soon finds out that the planet he’s landed on is run by . . . wait for it . . . intelligent, talking apes, who have enslaved any humans in the place and created a strict hierarchy for their society which sees the terrifying black gorillas as the muscle-for-hire and labourers when needed, the intellectual chimpanzees as teachers, doctors and scientists and the orang-utangs as the sort of scions of society who have the last word in anything to do with government and religion. Ah good, two easy ones, lol…
Taylor is supported by the lovely Dr. Kira and her fiancée, Dr. Cornelius. They’d like to look after Taylor and study his funny little human ways, as opposed to the evil Dr. Zaius, who thinks that castrating and lobotomizing their strange guest will cure what ails him. Taylor is very clear on which option he’d personally prefer. Well, I think we all would be…!
So, what should Taylor do? Should he cut and run? Well, maybe, but not without Nova, the one attractive human female on the planet whom he chooses as a running-away buddy. It’s the rugged male in him, clearly calling to the female in her. She’s mute as well, but I don’t see that being a problem for Taylor. Do you…?
She’s beautiful in a Raquel Welch/ONE MILLION YEARS BC way, with the wild dark hair, curvaceous figure and pretty features of the Hammer beauty as well. Oh, to be a fly on the wall on their wedding night…!
Although, why would I wish for that when I could wish to be Nova instead? Surely that’s much better than merely wishing to be the fly, who won’t be getting any sex but might get walloped with a rolled-up newspaper if it insists on landing on Charlton Heston’s ass one too many times when he’s busy makin’ whoopee…? Yep. Nova it is…
PLANET OF THE APES is probably one of the best science fiction films ever made, and spawned four sequels in the original series. There was also a television series, a movie re-imagining, a reboot film series (I watched one of these and it was awful!), a documentary and comics and maybe some merch as well, you know the type of thing. Figurines, posters, and the like.
The iconic end scene has been parodied by THE SIMPSONS, who are also responsible for ‘spoiler-ing’ mine and my kids’ first viewing of the movie with the words in their song, ‘It was ***** all along!,’ but, don’t worry, folks, I’ve saved you from a similar fate through the magic of asterisks-es-es. Ahem.
In the script, the apes get in a fair few digs at the humans’ expense. In a reversal of real life, monkeys on the Planet of the Apes experiment on man, and it would certainly make a body remember and feel ashamed of all the times Earth scientists have used and abused terrified monkeys and other poor animals in all kinds of horrible laboratory experiments.
Anyway, the verdict? Superb sci-fi thriller lightly seasoned with the blackest of humour and a chilling message to the Earth-dwelling viewers to not fuck up the place where they live… There isn’t a spare Earth out in the shed…