Plot: What’s it about?
As far as documentaries go, Behind the Planet of the Apes is a superb one, with all the elements a person could want. This piece runs two hours in length, so it is by no means a fluff featurette, more like a feature in and of itself. It devotes much of the time to the first picture, but also explores the rest of the series, which is very cool. As hosted by Roddy McDowall, this documentary guides us through almost every nook & cranny you can imagine, this is about as comprehensive as a documentary can be. We follow the path of the novel to the screenplay, then learn how the actors were selected and the production begin, including all the trials and tribulations the crew encountered. I loved the insight into the process of creating the apes, as it showed how much work went into the costumes, something I think is often overlooked. Once discuss is closed on the first Planet of the Apes picture, we explore the sequels and that is also most interesting, to be sure. I simply cannot explain just how in depth and enjoyable Behind the Planet of the Apes is, as it offers insight into this series like I had never expected, but is never dull in the least.
This documentary was first released with the Planet of the Apes limited edition box set, but has now been released in solo form, via Image Entertainment. I was a little unsure at first, as I purchased the box set and assumed it would be the sole place to find this documentary, but Image has done us all a favor, to be sure. I think fans of the series would have picked up that set regardless and now, we can have an improved version of this documentary, which I think is great news. We see feature films get rereleased often, but here we have a documentary previously used as a supplement, now standing alone. Image has included the complete two hour Behind the Planet of the Apes documentary, but also added many other cool bonus materials. I commend Image for revisiting this excellent documentary and enhancing the treatment it was given, as this two disc set is a treasure trove for fans of the series. In addition, Image offers this loaded set at a very reasonable price, which means there’s no reason not to check it out.
Video: How does it look?
Behind the Planet of the Apes is presented in a full frame transfer, as intended. This documentary includes materials culled from various sources, so the video quality varies from sequence to sequence. But the image remains solid from start to finish and never dips too much, so no worries in the end. The older material has signs of wear & tear, but that’s to expected, at least I would think so. The newer clips look sharp and clean however, with no problems to discuss in the least. In the end, this is about as good as this material can look, given the various ages of the sources used within the documentary.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included stereo mix is more than solid, since the documentary nature of the material doesn’t call for much dynamic presence. As with the video, some of the older material is a little weak, but not to an extreme level. The audio remains smooth and always easy to understand, whether in interviews, archival clips, or bits from the movies themselves. Not much else you can ask for really, given the nature of this material and all.
Supplements: What are the extras?
In addition to the complete two hour documentary, this double disc edition sports an impressive roster of goodies, to be sure. I was thrilled to find some outtakes and dailies from Planet of the Apes, although no audio is supplied on these. Even so, I was happy to be able to watch the material and no sound is really needed, though it would have been welcome. A restored makeup test with Edward G. Robinson is also included, which is a pleasure to watch and offers a cool glimpse into the process used. This set also includes National Theater Owners of America presentation, a Planet of the Apes featurette from 1968, a look at the direction of J. Lee Thompson & Don Taylor, a selection of production stills, A Look Behind the Planet of the Apes from 1972, and a number of Apes theatrical trailers. The main draw for some however, could be the complete Roddy McDowall interview, which is well worth a look, to be sure.