Plot: What’s it about?
Colonel George Taylor (Charlton Heston) and his two man crew have just awoke from their deep hibernation, to discover their spaceship has crash landed on a strange planet. While this team was prepared to explore some unusual landscapes and perhaps interact with alien creatures, they were not even close to being prepared for what they uncover on this planet. They find other humans residing on this planet, but the humans are very primitive and can’t even speak as of yet. There are beings on this planet that can speak however and they are apes, which of course comes as a shock to the crew. The apes have a perfect grasp of language and even advanced technology is known to them, while the humans are used for science purposes and sometimes for sport. In an effort to add to their ranks of humans the apes capture Taylor and take him into the main city on the planet. As Taylor is dragged through the paces by the apes, he soon learns that the situation could be even worse than he first imagined…
This movie seems to have a “so bad that it is good” reputation and I have no idea why. Sure the makeup and such are somewhat dated by today’s standards, but all movies become that way at some point and the makeup still holds up decently I think. I mean come on, this flick won an honorary Oscar for special achievement in the field of makeup, what more do you want? But for some reason people consider this to be cheesy science fiction nonetheless, usually without even seeing the movie to judge for themselves. Now this movie has several moral/political undercurrents running through the storyline I know, but I am not going to open that Pandora’s Box so you’ll have to find a thesis on the subject somewhere else. The acting is very good and is highlighted by Charlton Heston’s amazing turn as Taylor, which I think is one of the most powerful performances of his career. This Blu-ray release offers an impressive visual transfer, great soundtrack, and some nice supplements, so if you’re in the market for the original Planet of the Apes, this is an ideal choice.
This film was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, who might not be a science fiction director but he delivers an incredible film nonetheless. Schaffner gives this movie a very epic and grand feel, which I think suits the material and events well. This is a large scale storyline and it needs that grandiose scale, which Schaffner is able to pull off here without too much trouble. If you want to see more films by Schaffner I recommend Papillon, The Boys From Brazil, The Double Man, and Patton. The screenplay was written by Rod Serling and Michael Wilson and was based on the novel by Pierre Boulle. This has Serling’s style all over it and even seems like a full length Twilight Zone episode at times. This is by no means a bad thing either, as Serling’s approach to alternate realities and such is perfect for a movie like this. As I mentioned above Charlton Heston (Soylent Green, The Omega Man) is awesome in this movie and his performance here is one of my all time favorites. I can’t imagine someone else in this role and I hope the rumored sequel is squashed before it ruins this sci/fi classic. The supporting cast in this film includes Kim Hunter (A Price Above Rubies), Roddy McDowall (A Bug’s Life), Linda Harrison (Cocoon), and Maurice Evans (The Jerk) as the lovable Dr. Zaius.
Video: How does it look?
Planet of the Apes is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a great transfer, with a much more impressive image than I anticipated. The print is in excellent condition, with minimal grain present and that helps deliver a clean, sharp visual effort that retains a film-like presence. The image shows great detail, even individual strands of fur are visible at times, so this is the most depth we’ve ever seen in this picture. There is some minor softness, but depth is terrific overall and rarely disappoints. The visuals also have richer color hues here, which further enhances the experience and goes well with the accurate contrast. In short, this is a great transfer that fans will much appreciate.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is a solid DTS HD 5.1 option, but this material simply doesn’t have the depth to make it stand out. The scenes that need a boost get one, but the track overall sounds thin in most instances. You can’t fault the mix however, as it is the nature of the movie, which just doesn’t have a potent sound design. Even so, this is a step up from the DVD versions, as we have a little more presence and that can add a lot. Dialogue is clean and clear, while the music sounds quite good as well. This disc also includes the original mono soundtrack, French and Spanish language tracks, and subtitles in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Korean.
Supplements: What are the extras?
A pair of audio commentary tracks are present, one with with a trio of stars and the film’s makeup artist, the other with composer Jerry Goldsmith. While each has a specific focus, both turn out to be solid inclusions. I was also pleased with the text commentary by author Eric Greene, who has vast knowledge about the film. A text commentary might sound unusual, but it is loaded with insight and fans shouldn’t overlook this option. Behind the Planet of the Apes is an extensive look inside the production, with enough information to please even the most demanding fans. You can also watch several shorter featurettes, but the real jewel of the supplements is the excellent Behind the Planet of the Apes piece. This disc also includes outtakes, makeup tests, dailies, extensive still photo galleries, and two of the film’s theatrical trailers.