Saturday Movie Review – “Planet of the Apes (1968)”

No, this isn’t the version with Mark E. Mark.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Charlton Heston as George Taylor

Roddy McDowall as Cornelius

Kim Hunter as Zira

Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius

Linda Harrison as Nova

Robert Gunner as Landon

Jeff Burton as Dodge

Screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, based on
the Pierre Boulle
novel
.

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

Complete information is available from the
IMDB
.

Buy just this title from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca

Buy the entire series from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca

Past movie reviews, including the 2001
remake
, can be found here.

Premise

Something goes wrong aboard a spacecraft, and a few
human astronauts
land on a world where humans are the least evolved
simians.

High Point

What Taylor finds.

Low Point

There are two serious contenders, depending upon what
type of geek you
are. The film geek in me is bothered when I see
someone using the old
Panavision lenses to pan across landscapes, as they
tend to involve a
lot of distortion that breaks the illusion, as
happened here in many
of the opening sequences. The science geek in me
wonders how they
could have concluded the planet had no moon just
because they hadn’t
seen it yet; without a moon, a planet with Earth’s
gravity would have
an unbreathable atmosphere, and there wouldn’t have
been any tides as
we saw and heard about later on. The language geek in
me is trying to
figure out why Taylor didn’t clue in to the fact that
these apes spoke
English.

The Scores

It’s an adaptation, which hurts the
originality a bit, but
it’s a good one. There were some changes, most of
which seem designed
to make things play better visually. (For example, in
the novel,
Taylor convinces his captors that he is intelligent by
carving a proof
of the Pythagorean Theorem into the wall of his cell.
This works even
for readers who don’t know what that proof is, as
they’ll recognise it
as a sign of intelligence. In a typical audience
today, I doubt there
would be more than a handful of people who recognise
it as more than
random geometry.) I give it 4 out of 6.

The effects involving the spacecraft and the
explosion were
done well enough. The makeup, which looks a bit stiff
around the lips
today, was a remarkable achievement in its day. (This
is, in my
opinion, the only area in which the 2001 remake was
superior.) I give
it 4 out of 6.

The story had a few nagging issues listed in
the Low Points,
and did have a tendency to be a little bit preachy at
times. Beyond
that, there’s a lot of symbolism here that is played
out subtlely,
including Taylor’s reversion toward the violence he so
hates when
cornered, and the similarity between the Ancient
Scrolls and our own
religions. I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting was a difficult chore in this
film. Heston played
Heston, as he generally does. Harrison did well with
her unevolved
character, right down to the awkward and lopsided
smile. The others
had a very difficult time, as they were forced to act
with most of
their faces obscured. Still, the hunched gaits and
other examples of
body language were well done. I give it 4 out of 6,
due to lack of
variety from the lead who had to carry the film.

The emotional response was fairly strong.
Even without the
famous ending, it’s an interesting movie, but the
ending really
clinches it. I give it 6 out of 6.

The production was well done, given the
limitations of the
lenses. Those problems, thankfully, only appear in
the beginning.
Most of this involves great direction of makeup-laden
actors, and a
general move to closer and closer shots as Taylor
starts to feel
increasingly isolated and self-motivated. I give it 5
out of 6.

Overall, it’s a classic, and for good reason.
Worth checking
it. If you don’t know how it ends, go watch it now,
before you read
any comments. This is one that’s too often spoiled in
casual
conversation. If you can, rent or buy it without
talking to a human
clerk, just in case. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, the 1968 Planet of the Apes
receives 33 out of 42.

Next Week

Next week’s review will be of Primer, a small
independent film that deserves far more mainstream
attention than it has received.

5 replies on “Saturday Movie Review – “Planet of the Apes (1968)””

  1. Timeshredder says:

    language
    The ending has become so well-known that at least one video release had the final image on the cover (you can also see it at the link in this post).

    As for language: as I’ve said elsewhere, Taylor doesn’t find it odd for the same reason the audience didn’t: we were all playing along with the well-established conventions of pop-SF. Yes, most alien planets in movies (up to that point) look like Terran deserts, the natives speak perfect English, and if the fauna can occasionally be strange, the flora looks like it came from your local greenhouse.

    • y42 says:

      Re: language

      The ending has become so well-known that at least one video release had the final image on the cover (you can also see it at the link in this post).

      Proof that even a monkey could do a better job at meketing than whoever’s in charge there. Seriously, putting the damn punch on the gorram cover! What WERE they thinking? At least the new release isn’t this dumb.

      Yes, most alien planets in movies (up to that point) look like Terran deserts, the natives speak perfect English, and if the fauna can occasionally be strange, the flora looks like it came from your local greenhouse.

      I bet these two are connected : )

    • octa says:

      Re: language
      Off topic: That was a great read, thanks for the link Timeshredder. I liked your article on Spiderman too, very enjoyable :)

  2. octa says:

    .
    I have fond memories of these movies. The conclusion in the first one came as a real surprise to me and it just got my imagination rolling with post apocalyptic scenerios that my GI-Joes would eventually play out :) I owe a lot of my fascination with sci-fi to this movie and The Twilight Zone.

    I remember staying home sick one day in the early 90s a local television station was playing all the movies for a whole week at noon every day. I ended up faking it for the rest of the week just to see all of them :x

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: .

      I have fond memories of these movies. The conclusion in the first one came as a real surprise to me and it just got my imagination rolling with post apocalyptic scenerios that my GI-Joes would eventually play out :)

      Glad to hear I wasn’t the only kid inspired to post-apocalyptic fantasies by 70s ape-mania.

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