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. As you should already know Fox is releasing a limited edition boxed set of all the Apes movies along with a bonus documentary disc, so if you want them all that is the only chance you have. This single disc is for you folks who only want the first film, but if you’re like me you’ll just wait for the boxed set.
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 a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. I am pleased with the overall visual quality, but man I wish this one would have been delayed a bit to add that anamorphic enhancement. The films looks very good and shows no age signs at all, which was surprising. The colors are rich and bold with no traces of smears and flesh tones (human and ape) appear natural and flawless. The contrast is also top notch, displaying complex shadows and no signs of visible detail loss. While this should have been anamorphic, I can’t find anything to complain about with this transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release includes a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 track which offers a nice experience, but lacks the punch and atmosphere a true 5.1 track would offer. The surrounds don’t see much action although the music sometimes visits them, so don’t expect a powerful mix from this one. But while the surrounds are silent much of time, the audio is still solid in most respects. The effects while limited in placement and impact still sound very good and the music has a nice texture to it also. The dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and never once did I have to fiddle with the remote to adjust the volume.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release contains some nice still photo galleries, theatrical trailers for all the Planet Of The Apes flicks, and a brief promo for the Evolution limited edition boxed set.