PLANET OF THE APES
35th Anniversary Edition
Review by Michael Jacobson
Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 112 Minutes
Release Date: February 3, 2004
A MADHOUSE…A MADHOUSE!!!”
best science fiction always paints wondrous and imaginative fantasy, but using a
mirror for a surface. If we look
closely enough, we see ourselves.
of the Apes crafted
an incredible world where man was a lower order animal and apes evolved into the
dominant species. The premise is
more than enough to craft a skillful and entertaining story, yet it leaves
plenty of room for social commentary, political discourse and an exploration of
the human condition. The surface
tale may be futuristic, but the subtext reflected the time of the turbulent
1960s when it was made. Superstar
Sammy Davis Jr. called it the best movie he ever saw about the state of black
and white relations.
opens with American astronaut Taylor (Heston) making his final shipboard log
entry before hibernation. Traveling
six months at the speed of light theoretically meant that thousands of years
would have passed on Earth. Having
left home during a strained time in human history, he wonders aloud what the
outcome of it all might have been.
doesn’t appear that he’ll find the answer…his ship crash lands on a
mysterious planet, thousands of years in the future and many lightyears from his
own solar system. He and his two
crewmates attend to the first order of business:
an odd turn of events are in store: they
are on a planet where human beings are primitive, unintelligent, mute and
hunted. Apes are the masters of
this world. Taylor quickly becomes
just another animal taken in a great hunt.
two scientific minds in the ape community take an interest in him:
Zira (Hunter) and Cornelius (McDowall) learn that Taylor can write and
speak. They can’t quite believe
his strange stories of travel through time and space, but they soon suspect that
Taylor’s past might be the key to their own.
them is Dr. Zaier (Evans), who would rather see the “freak” disposed of
rather than face the cultural shock and threat Taylor could represent to the ape
way of life. He is a powerful
enemy; if Zira and Cornelius are to get to the bottom of Taylor’s mystery, it
could end up costing them everything.
screenplay was co-written by Rod Serling, and there’s a definite Twilight
Zone feel to the unfolding scenario. Using
a simple premise for a jumping off point, a full story of social and political
depth unfolds. One can clearly read
in the margins about the importance of civil rights and liberties, the dangers
of discrimination, and the tragedies than can unfurl when we close our minds to
new possibilities or fail to treat others with compassion and understanding.
only points where the film goes astray are with some forced attempts at humor.
Lines like “human see, human do” or “I never meant an ape I
didn’t like” may induce a chuckle, but at the expense of pulling the
audience out of the moment. Still, nothing really derails the momentum of the script,
which moves towards an exclamation point of a finale, and one of the cinema’s
greatest surprise endings (one of the best aspects of this anniversary
re-release is that said ending is no longer given away on the box cover…sheesh!).
cast is wonderful, particularly the delightful Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall,
who give a sense of warmth and humanity (no pun intended) to an unusual pair of
characters. The make-up work was of
course extremely revolutionary for the time:
the actors really did look like apes, while at the same time, their
abilities to perform were enhanced rather than covered up by the appliances they
film became a huge smash, spawning four sequels, comic books, television series
and merchandise galore. Like many
franchises, the footing became a bit less sure as time went on.
But the original remains a staple of the genre and a classic of the
modern cinema…it’s no wonder fans still flock to it some 35 years later.
film looks better at 35 than I do; I can tell you that much!
Seriously, this anamorphic widescreen transfer is quite glorious…this
movie has probably never looked better. The
colors are gorgeous and well rendered throughout, in both darker and lighter
settings. Each tone is uniquely shaded; no bleeding or smearing
disables the integrity of the images. All
details are sharp and clear, with crisp lines and no undue grain or compression
interfering. The final shot,
though, in every version I’ve ever seen, looks a tad muddy. I’m guessing it’s a source material problem that can’t
be corrected, but in any event, it’s a minor complaint.
a final thought, this movie MUST be seen in widescreen to be fully appreciated.
My first experience with the picture was on television, and I realized
later that many carefully staged shots just don’t work when the image is
both a Dolby Digital and a DTS surround track, the movie sounds better than
ever, too. The biggest beneficiary
is Jerry Goldsmith’s incredible score, which is percussive, primitive, and
unique. The front and rear stages
really open up the orchestration so that not even the minutest detail is lost.
The subwoofer really opens up the lower end.
As for the rest of the film, rear stage use is somewhat minimal, but
spoken words are clean and clear. Dynamic
range is fairly strong throughout, especially with the DTS mix.
is a very loaded special edition…Disc One features three commentaries:
one is a text-trivia subtitle feature penned by author Eric Greene, who
knows quite a bit about the film, but needs to brush up on some of his American
history (he incorrectly blames McCarthy for the Hollywood blacklisting actually
done by the non-related HUAC). The
other two are audio: composer Jerry
Goldsmith discusses the score; the other is a spliced together one featuring the
producer, Oscar winning make-up artist John Chambers, and actors Roddy McDowall,
Kim Hunter and Natalie Trundy.
Two contains a lot of the excellent features from the former release of Behind
the Planet of the Apes, beginning with that terrific documentary that was
hosted by Roddy McDowall and that original aired on American Movie Classics.
It’s a detailed look back at all the films and offshoots of the
franchise, with plenty of interview clips, behind-the-scenes bits and
more…it’s definitely one of the best of it’s kind ever produced.
There is also a promo for this documentary.
production featurettes on the individual films are also here, home movies by
Roddy McDowall, trailers for all the films (including an extra teaser for the
original), a text review, looks at the merchandising from the films, outtakes
and photo galleries. Rounding out
are the original 1967 NATO presentation and a real treat: the initial make-up test featuring Edward G. Robinson!