Planet Of The Apes (1968 USA)

apes(Today is the first anniversary of this blog, btw) Moving on…Planet Of The Apes is such an icon of the late 1960s. This is why 21st century remakes of it do not work. Youngsters today think its just a science fiction story, but this is actually a barometer of what was going on in those days of a rapidly changing society. “Don’t trust anyone over 30” and  “Beards? I don’t go in for fads,” type of cutesy-pie dialogue dates it wonderfully. The satire here does go overboard at times, but everyone seems to really mean what they are saying. Man.

One thing I’ve always been curious about, and need to research someday, is how much of Rod Serling’s original adaptation made it into the final script. It seems to me, as someone who loves ‘ The Twilight Zone’ and much of Serling’s writing, that quite a lot of his script survived. The cynicism, the talkiness, the liberalism, the satirical jabs at organized religion and its inherent hypocrisy, even the nuclear bomb-themed twist ending… all classic Sterling.

Certainly Charlton Heston’s opening monologue, when he asks, “does man, that marvel of the universe, still make war against his brother?” could only have been written by Serling. But the whole film pretty much follows the same tone, which again leads me to believe that most of what Serling wrote was left intact. Either that, or Michael Wilson (the other credited screenwriter) is a Serling clone. The picture itself looks like a medium-budget affair, at best. Most of the sets resemble those of a late-sixties TV movie, or an episode of ‘Star Trek.’

The special effects are hardly special; just adequate enough to do the job. The real attention getter when the film came out was the ape make-up, which was considered astoundingly realistic at the time. It’s still impressive in its way, allowing for quite a lot of facial expressiveness by the main characters. But like so many technical aspects from that time and before, it will come up lacking and seeming lame to today’s younger audiences, who have grown up with CGI and other much more dazzling and realistic effects.

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Mr Heston carries the film; without him, ‘Planet of the Apes’ would probably seem a lot more foolish than it does. He is bitter, heroic, noble, and cynical; his George Taylor is even at times a Christ-like figure, as when he is stoned by the ape mob and endlessly tied up and taunted by the guards. At its core, ‘Planet of the Apes’ is a rather heavy-handed spoof of organized religion. Time and again, we hear the elders of the ape community talk about “heresy” from younger apes who don’t understand that “the proper study of apes is apes.” Man is a soulless animal to them, lacking “the divine spark that exists in the simian soul.”

The point is hammered home again and again that organized religion is narrow-minded, unwilling to accept new ideas even if they’re true, and almost always, inevitably, corrupt. The now-famous ending was such a shocker at the time that it somewhat obscured the fact that it was really very downbeat. ‘Planet of the Apes’ has been called ‘near-classic science fiction’; it’s a bit too goofy in places to be taken completely seriously, and yet has many powerful moments. The most enjoyable aspect of it for me is Jerry Goldsmith’s wonderful musical score: staccato piano, piercing strings, thunderous percussion, and simulated “ape” sounds.

apes 2

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Comments

  1. Great post. Must get round to watching this again! Congratulations on a year of thoughtful, stimulating and wide-ranging posts, Geoffrey! I must have been reading these almost right from the time you started up and I’m going to continue reading them!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much, Phil. I’m pleased you noticed htd from the beginning. If anyone searches for the first post now it will say March 19 Angels & Demons, but that’s because the first one, on 4 March (The Bride Wore Black) was re-published a few months later in longer form. Anyway, its great to have positive feedback like this, you’ve really made my day!

    Like

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