I love Planet of the Apes. I have loved this franchise since I was a little boy and I saw the original film when it was broadcast on CBS. The idea of a world ruled by talking apes was both terrifying and fascinating to me as a kid, and I can remember watching the first film and being mesmerized. It was just so freaking cool. As I got older, I began to realize the importance of these movies and the meaning behind them. Good science fiction is supposed to make you think. Great science fiction is supposed to make you think and entertain the heck out of you. Planet of the Apes is certainly the latter. I am honored to get this opportunity to reflect on the original five movies that spawned a franchise that is now being revisited for a new generation. So, join me won’t you, as we return to where it all began… Planet of the Apes (1968) Starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans, Kim Hunter, James Whitmore, James Daly, Robert Gunner, Jeff Burton, and Linda Harrison. Screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling. Based on the novel Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle. Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. In deep space, astronaut Taylor (Heston) makes a final report before slipping into a hibernation pod for his return journey back to Earth. Using the latest drive system, only six months has passed for Taylor and his crew, but the Earth has aged seven hundred years. The passage of time is of no great concern to Taylor, who is, for the most part, not a fan of humanity. Indeed, he is a curmudgeon of the highest order and has little love for his fellow man. When Taylor and his crewmates, Landon (Gunner) and Dodge (Burton) crash land in the ocean of an alien world, they awaken to find that an additional 1,300 years have passed. After making their way across a vast desert, they discover primitive humans and figure they will be the dominant species of this world within a matter of months. That is, until the real dominant lifeforms on the planet come along and Taylor and the others learn that apes rule here and human beings are their prey. In a bloody hunt where the apes chase the humans on horseback, Taylor is shot in the neck and taken prisoner. Dodge is killed by the apes and Landon is taken prisoner, but separated from Taylor. As Taylor recovers, unable to speak, he gets a glimpse of this ape society where orangutans are the politicians and priests, gorillas are the police and chimpanzees are the scientists. One of the vets who saved Taylor’s life, Zira (Hunter) recognizes his intelligence and convinces her fiancé, Cornelius (McDowall) that there is more to this human than meets the eye. Dr. Zaius (Evans), an orangutan administrator realizes there is more to Taylor as well and orders him to be castrated before he can mate with Nova (Harrison) a primitive female Taylor has taken a shine to. Realizing what is at stake, Taylor escapes his cell and runs out into the heart of Ape City. After being chased down, he stuns the apes surrounding him by speaking. After a time, Taylor is brought before a tribunal to determine where he came from and what is to be done with him. He learns that Cornelius and Zira are in just as much trouble as he is and are being threatened with charges of hearsay. The apes refuse to believe Taylor came from the stars and suspect he is a part of a tribe of intelligent humans. Taylor realizes just how big a threat he is when he tells the apes about Landon, another human like himself, and finds he has been lobotomized by Zaius to hide the truth from the others. After the tribunal, Taylor learns that the verdict was already in on him, and it was handed down even before his day in court. Zaius intends to have him emasculated and then have experiments performed on him, unless he gives up the information that he wants. Unsatisfied with the answers, Taylor is ordered back to his cell. Later, a young ape, Julius (Wagner), the nephew of Zira, helps Taylor and Nova escape. Along a road outside of Ape City, they meet up with Cornelius and Zira and decide to head for the Forbidden Zone, a desolate place that holds the key to the secret of this world, including evidence that humans ruled this world before apes did, and that they were the cause for its destruction. Worse still, it is here that Taylor learns the shocking truth about this world, that it was Earth all along. The original Planet of the Apes is the highwater mark in the original five films of the series and one of the true masterpieces of 1960’s science fiction cinema. Heston drives the film as Taylor, a man who has always been a harsh critic of humankind, who suddenly finds himself in the position of having to stand-up for and defend the human race. McDowall and Hunter are wonderful as the chimpanzee couple that come to advocate for Taylor and their relationship will only grow in time as the series unfolds. Already though, viewers can see the chemistry is strong between them. Evans as Zaius is also a force to be reckoned with in this movie as the ape who knows all too well who and what Taylor is and the threat he represents. The film has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to iconic moments, each more memorable than the last: from the hunt scene in the cornfield with our first sight of the gorillas on horseback, to Taylor’s first time speaking, to the tribunal scene to the final image of a destroyed Statue of Liberty. The action comes quick and heavy, but there is plenty of commentary of this ape society that mirrors human society. The most telling of these commentaries is during the tribunal scene when Taylor is told that all apes are equal and he responds that some are more equal than others. Rod Serling’s hand can be seen in these subtle comments on society and his influence make this movie feel like a feature length episode of The Twilight Zone. My score for this movie: 5 out of 5 stars. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) Starring James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Gregory, Linda Harrison and Charlton Heston. Screenplay by Paul Dehn. Story by Paul Dehn and Mort Abrahams. Directed by Ted Post. Picking up after the events of the first film, Beneath the Planet of the Apes finds Taylor lost in the Forbidden Zone and Nova coming across Brent (Franciscus), the lone survivor of a space ship sent out to find out what became of Taylor and his crew. Finding Nova with Taylor’s dog tags, Brent goes with the mute girl in hopes of locating his comrade. Instead, he is led to Ape City where he learns the world ruled by apes. He witnesses General Ursus (Gregory) as he leads a rally to muster an army to invade the Forbidden Zone and wipe out the humans who may be living there once and for all. After Brent is injured by a gorilla on patrol, Nova takes him to Zira and Cornelius (played here by Watson) and he learns of their friendship with Taylor. Realizing the Forbidden Zone is the only place he will find the answers he needs, Brent goes there ahead of the invading ape forces led by Ursus and Zaius. What he is finds is the ruins of Queensboro Plaza station of New York City, as well as a group of mutant humans that have developed incredible mind powers and the worship of a nuclear bomb. After being captured by the mutants, Brent is put into a cell with Taylor who recognizes the bomb that the mutants consider their god as a doomsday bomb, capable of destroying the entire Earth. The mutants plan to use the weapon as the Apes descend upon their underground world and in the attack, Nova, Brent and Ursus are all killed. Taylor is wounded, but before he dies, he has a final confrontation with Zaius and with his dying breath activates the bomb and destroys the entire planet. Overall, Beneath the Planet of the Apes is a sequel that certainly is never quite as good as the original, even though it does deliver some twists and turns in its plot and unveils some new secrets of this far-flung Earth of the future. James Franciscus is adequate in the role of Brent, but he pales in comparison to the energy Heston brought to Taylor in the first movie. Sadly, Heston opted to be in this sequel as little as possible and agreed to do it only if his character was killed off. Also suffering from being a second-stringer is David Watson, who fills in for Roddy McDowall who was unavailable when this film was shot. Watson is okay as Cornelius, but he lacks the humor and charm that made McDowall the heart and soul of this franchise. There is much to still like about this movie though, including James Gregory as Ursus, the general who will not be placated until all of humanity is wiped out. His impassioned speech in which he proclaims the only good human is a dead human is memorable and is a highlight of the movie. This film also explores the dynamic between the various apes as the peace-loving chimpanzees protest the coming war with the humans and the violent gorilla embrace it. Also, the scenes with the mutants that show just how much humanity has changed is powerful stuff too and the scenes of the various mutants removing their masks to reveal their true self to their god, scarred from radioactive burns, is the stuff of nightmares. My score on this movie: 3 and half stars out of 5 stars. Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) Starring Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Bradford Dillman, Natalie Trundy, Eric Braeden, Sal Mineo and Ricardo Montalbán. Written by Paul Dehn. Directed by Don Taylor. This entry in the franchise begins with Taylor’s spacecraft landing in the Pacific Ocean in 1973. The military goes out, expecting to welcome home Taylor and his crew, but instead finds the ship being piloted by Cornelius (again played by McDowall), Zira and Dr. Milo (Mineo). As we learn, the three had salvaged the downed ship, repaired it and used it to escape the destruction of Earth in the far-off future. The same rip in time that brought Taylor and Brent to their time sent them to the 20th century. The three are taken to the Los Angeles Zoo for observation by Dr. Lewis Dixon (Dillman) and Dr. Stephanie Branton (Trundy). Initially they decide to keep their intelligence hidden, as well as their reason for fleeing the future, but Zira’s impatience at the endless test they are subjected to cause an angry outburst and the human doctors learn their subjects can talk. Cornelius and Zira argue about her revealing the truth to the humans and agitate a gorilla in the next cage who grabs Milo and kills him. A special Presidential Commission is formed and Cornelius and Zira only tell the members of this board that they escaped from Earth’s future. They do not tell about the war between the humans and the apes and they lie about having known Taylor. Their appearance before this group lets the world see their good-natured humor and banter and they become celebrities. They are welcomed as honored guests, although Dr. Otto Hasslein (Braeden), the President’s Science Advisor is wary of the two apes. When he learns Zira is pregnant, he gets her drunk and gets her to open up more about the future and how it will unfold. He learns enough to have them taken in for further questioning. Under the influence of truth serum, Hasslein learns Zira had conducted experiments on human beings. Angered at how his wife has been treated, and enraged when his unborn child is referred to as ‘a little monkey’ by their orderly, Cornelius accidentally kills the young man and the two escape. With the help of Dixon and Branton, Cornelius and Zira are offered sanctuary in the circus owned by Armando (Montalbán) and there Zira gives birth to Milo, an ape child that Hasslein sees as a threat to the future of humankind. He tracks the two down to a deserted ship in the Los Angeles Harbor and then kills Zira and shoots the infant she is carrying. Cornelius kills Hasslein and is shot himself by the police. As the film ends, we learn Zira switched her baby with the one belonging to an ordinary ape in Armando’s Circus. The circus owner, knowing the truth, vows to watch over the child, who is left at the end of the movie pleading for his mother. Without a doubt, this is the strongest sequel in the franchise and the best next to the original movie. With each sequel, the budget for the Apes movies were cut. Moving the action to the then present time of the early 1970s meant a huge savings for make-up effects, but it also shifted the dynamic considerably. Starting with this entry, it is the apes who become sympathetic and humans who become the bad guys. Roddy McDowall returned to the franchise with this film and the loving relationship between Cornelius and Zira drives this movie. This is the first time McDowall got to take the lead and steal the show. The scenes with him and Hunter are wonderful and their deaths at the end of the movie is heartbreaking. Also of note in this movie is the introduction of Armando, the circus owner who befriends the renegade apes. Montalbán plays his part wonderfully, being flamboyant and larger than life, but never to the point of being over the top or camp. Braeden’s Hasslein is a worthy antagonist in this film. The thing is, I never get the feeling his character is a villain, at least he never sees himself that way. He is simply a man afraid of the future who is determined to save humankind, no matter what it takes. My score on this movie is: 4 and a half stars out of 5. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) Starring Roddy McDowall, Don Murray, Ricardo Montalbán, Natalie Trundy, Hari Rhodes and Severn Darden. Written by Paul Dehn. Directed by J. Lee Thompson. The film series jumps to 1991, eighteen years after the events of Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and eight years after a plague has wiped out all the cats and dogs in the world. With the loss of their furry friends, humans have domesticated apes to be their new pets and then to become their servants. Armando and Caesar (the child of Cornelius and Zira, all grown-up now and played by McDowall) come to the city to advertise the circus. There, Caesar witnesses a brutal beating of a disobedient ape, yells out at the humans hurting him. Panicked, he runs away and Armando is taken in for questioning as his owner. Caesar slips into a shipment of apes coming into the country and sees firsthand how his simian brothers and sisters are treated. He is sold at auction to Governor Breck (Murray) and left in the care of the sympathetic aide MacDonald (Rhodes). Meanwhile, Armando is subjected to an interrogation by Inspector Kolp (Darden) that causes him to take his own life. When he learns of Armando’ death Caesar feels he has nothing left to tie him to humanity and he begins to plot a rebellion that will lead to an uprising of his people. Breck learns that there might be more to Caesar than meets the eye as Kolp believes he might be the missing child of Cornelius and Zira. Believing Caesar will be a danger to the future of humanity, Breck orders him to be tortured and forced into speaking. When Caesar talks, his execution is ordered, but thanks to McDonald, he is able to survive. He goes on to take control of Ape Management, the facility where apes have been trained to be slaves. He then takes control of Breck’s command post and drags the governor out for execution. Breck pleads with him to show compassion and mercy, but it is the plea of Lisa (Trundy), Caesar’s future wife that stays his wrath. He announces that they who are not human can afford to be humane and that this night marks the birth of a new order and a new domination of Earth as the Planet of the Apes. This was the most violent entry in the franchise and the only one to get a PG rating. Surprisingly, the original ending was much darker as Breck was murdered by the apes. After test screenings, it was toned down and given a more hopeful ending. McDowall returns in an all-new role as Caesar, the grown son of Cornelius and Zira, who is shocked to see how apes are mistreated by humans. What began as a desire to replace beloved household pets has evolved into full-blown slavery of another species. Caesar fulfils ape legend and becomes the leader who will set his people free. Natalie Trundy, the wife of producer Arthur P. Jacobs takes on her third role in the Apes movies as Lisa, the chimpanzee female who is destined to become Caesar’s wife. Whereas the character of Hasslein had logical motives for getting rid of Caesar’s parents, the humans in this film are nowhere as sympathetic. Murray’s Breck is a grade A bastard and so is Darden’s Kolp. Both are sadistic and cruel. Rhodes’ MacDonald does come across as a reasonable character who has the best interest of the apes in mind, mainly because his ancestors were slaves too. Early on, he is an advocate for Caesar and, more importantly, a reminder that not all humans are bad. My score on this film is: 4 stars out of 5. Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) Starring Roddy McDowall, Claude Atkins, Natalie Trundy, Austin Stoker, Severn Darden, Lew Ayres, Paul Williams, Bobby Porter and John Huston. Screenplay by John William Corrington and Joyce Hooper Corrington. Story by Paul Dehn. Directed by J. Lee Thompson. This installment opens with a framing sequence set in the year 2670 as an orangutan called the Lawgiver (Huston) recounts how Caesar and his people and a band of humans lived together in harmony after a nuclear war devastated much of the planet Earth. While the ape leader seeks peaceful coexistence, there are forces led by gorilla General Aldo (Atkins) that believe humans should be wiped out once and for all. The future is uncertain, and Caesar is desperate to avoid the one his parents knew. His human aide, MacDonald (Stoker) tells him of archival footage in the war-torn city where Kolp now leads a group of radioactive scarred mutants. He suggests going there to find it to see if it will offer the answers Caesar is struggling to find now. When Caesar, MacDonald and the orangutan Virgil (Williams) journey there, Kolp and his forces discover them and follow them back to Ape City. The crazed governor decides to declare war on Caesar and his people and wipe out the ape plague once and for all. Kolp is not the only problem Caesar is facing. Aldo plans to seize control of Ape City and enslave the humans that are in the compound. His plot is overheard by Cornelius (Porter), Caesar’s son, and the chimpanzee child is severely injured by Aldo to keep him from talking. Afterwards, the general leads a raid on the city’s armory and takes control of the guns. Cornelius is found and taken home. There the child dies, but he is able to warn his father of the plot against him. Before Cornelius can act against the treacherous Aldo, Kolp and his forces attack Ape City and the apes are forced to defend themselves. They are eventually captured and killed by Aldo and his men. After the battle, Aldo demands that the humans in Ape City be killed. Caesar steps in to protect them and before Aldo can turn the other apes against him, Virgil reveals that Aldo murdered Caesar’s son, breaking the apes’ most sacred law: Ape will not kill ape. Caesar and Aldo battle and Caesar kills the gorilla. Afterwards, he releases the humans and pledges a new society will begin this day, one where apes and humans will live together as equals. The final scene of the movies shows the Lawgiver as he speaks to a group of ape and human children. For all these years, the two groups have lived in peace. But there is a question asked by one child: Who knows about the future. The Lawgiver tells the child, “Perhaps only the dead.” With that, the movie ends on a close-up of a statue of Caesar that has a single tear running down his cheek. This is the weakest entry in the film series, although it does serve the purpose of bringing the movies to a logical conclusion. It also leaves the viewers with the biggest question of all: Why the single tear by Caesar at the end? Is it because the destiny of ape kind and humankind was altered and the two may will now live together with strife? Or is it because fate cannot be changed and eventually, apes and humans will find themselves at each other throats? Indeed, only the dead know. At least the real battle to determine the fate of the planet was won by Caesar, not against Kolp, but against Aldo. The movie ends with the chance that the two species will be able to coexist and that peace has finally come to the Planet of the Apes. This this entry ends with the most upbeat of all the films. My score on this film: 3 stars out of 5. See larger image Planet Of The Apes Legacy Collection Blu-ray PLANET OF THE APES A bewildered astronaut (Charlton Heston) crash-lands on a strange planet ruled by apes who use a primitive race of humans for experimentation and sport. BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES A daring rescue mission leads to a subterranean city where mutant humans worship a weapon capable of destroying the entire planet. ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES Two futuristic simians who have traveled to present-day Earth enjoy celebrity status—until a government plot forces them to run for their lives! CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Apes have been domesticated and trained as pets and personal servants — until their continual mistreatment leads to a spectacular revolt. BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES In the final Apes chapter, an idyllic society of man and ape is threatened by both a militant gorilla and a tribe of still-intelligent mutant humans. New From: $29.94 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.