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Overall Rating
4.59

Awesome72.63%
Worth A Look: 17.89%
Just Average: 6.32%
Pretty Crappy: 2.11%
Sucks: 1.05%

3 reviews, 77 user ratings


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Planet of the Apes (1968)
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by Jay Seaver

"Franchises generally start with a great film, and 'Apes' is no exception."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 BOSTON SCIENCE FICTION FILM FESTIVAL: Has a grimmer, more cynical story than Planet of the Apes ever become both a major pop culture touchstone and commercial franchise? Sure, there are horror series, but even they generally end with the bad guys vanquished, even if no-one really thinks it will stick. Planet of the Apes, though, offers us a hero who thinks the worst of people and isn't often far wrong.

That "hero" is George Taylor (Charlton Heston), an astronaut on a deep-space mission of exploration. Even in a state of suspended animation, the trip will take subjective years, and that's before relativistic effects multiply the objective time a hundredfold. This makes it in all likelihood a one way trip - even if they do return, civilization on Earth would likely be unrecognizable - and that suits Taylor just fine. Things go spectacularly wrong, though, and when they arrive at their destination, the sole female member of their crew is dead, and the ship is forced to crash-land. (As an aside, given the long-term, likely one-way nature of the journey even before the crash, a crew compliment of three men and one woman seems less than optimal.) Fortunately, the planet is relatively hospitable - oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, carbon-based life, human-friendly climate - except for its inhabitants: Somehow, on this world, humans are the only primates unable to speak or reason. A hunting party of intelligent apes captures Taylor and another survivor, dealing him a nasty throat injury that initially prevents him from communicating with his captors.

What makes Apes such a strong movie (besides its award-winning makeup) is its screenplay, taken from a decent novel by Pierre Boulle and adapted very well by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling. Though budget concerns forced them to jettison many of the more fantastic visual images of the source material, they home in on the book's ideas and present them in a clear, entertaining manner - and they move from concept to concept enough to keep the story moving. For the first chunk of the movie after the astronauts' arrival, we're treated to a behavioral laboratory turned on its head - with Taylor the lab animal being studied by scientist Zira (Kim Hunter). It's a reasonably straightforward satire on the scientific establishment: Zira is one of very few who is capable of seeing something other than what she expects to see, and even her investigations seem kind of useless from the perspective of the test subject. Upper administrators, represented by Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans), seem more interested in protecting the established dogma than discovering the truth. The satire segues from science to civil rights, as Taylor must prove his worth as an intelligent being to a system that doesn't recognize him as having any standing to make that claim. The apes' arguments as to why Taylor is "sub-simian" are self-contradictory and fly in the face of what is plainly apparent, but such is how prejudice works. Finally, we are given a glimpse of the apes' pre-history and why the likes of Zaius feel it must be suppressed, a good bit of science-fictional world building, leading to one of the greatest endings in movie history (which I won't include despite the fact that even those who haven't actually seen the movie probably know it).

None of these ideas are themselves revolutionary, but stitched together as they are, they form a believable world, one which feels like it exists beyond the limits of what we see. So many science-fiction stories looking to make some sort of social point seem like they would hold up, that their civilizations are created to fail without any thought to how they could persist in the first place. That there's tension between the different ape species - chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas - in this world isn't important to the main story, but is a detail that rings true.

Also crucial to making the movie work is believing in the apes. John Chambers's prosthetics were remarkable for the time and still hold up well today; he received a special Academy Award for the job even though the "Best Make-up" Oscar wouldn't be created for another thirteen years. The actors underneath this makeup are giving the challenging task of performing without being able to use small facial cues while not coming across as mugging for the camera, either. It's a fine job involving a lot of head-tilts and slightly-exaggerated deliveries. This allows Heston to be his bombastic self and still fit in. Taylor's more than a bit unpleasant, and can often be his own worst enemy, but remains somewhat sympathetic because as mean as he can be, he's got no sense of entitlement, so his capture and imprisonment is more challenge than comeuppance. Also, his wiseass comments are the ones we secretly know we'd be too terrified to make.

You can pick at the movie a little - why isn't Taylor at least a little more curious about the apes speaking English, specifically; isn't his relationship with Nova (Linda Harrison), a wild human captured at the same time, sort of on the creepy side? Explanations suggest themselves, though, and the questions aren't important enough to be addressed inside the movie.

I haven't seen the sequels, and am working very hard to purge the remake from my mind. I've got an English translation of the original novel on my shelf, but I think it's heavily abridged (it's about half the length of the one listed on Amazon). That Twentieth Century Fox built this movie into a franchise isn't exactly surprising, but isn't necessary - this is a classic movie that stands just fine on its own.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1653&reviewer=371
originally posted: 03/17/05 12:08:12
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.
Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.

User Comments

8/06/11 tomA Another example where you can't beat the original 5 stars
3/23/10 Dane Youssef Timeless. A classic hallmark of sci-fi and great filmmaking. Soon to be a true story. See. 5 stars
11/08/09 Danny One of the best sic-fi films ever! The ending never fails to give me chills! 5 stars
9/20/08 PAUL SHORTT A COMPENDIUM OF CLUMSY DIALOGUE, ONE-DIMENSSIONAL CHARACTERS AND A RISIBLE PLOT 2 stars
7/18/08 sebastian Must-see film....one of the top 5 SF films of all time! 5 stars
5/08/08 Karrie Millheim A classic, excellent story line 5 stars
5/04/08 art THIS FILM HAS SOME IMAGINATION IT"S A TIE BETWEEN THIS AND BENEATH THE APE"S PLANET 3 stars
1/05/07 Ron excellent movie. No sequels should have been made 5 stars
11/13/06 melissa classic 5 stars
9/03/06 David Pollastrini My favorite movie of all time. Great make-up for it's time 5 stars
7/27/06 cody a classic scfi movie ,with good story and actors, great make up effects! good movie 4 stars
7/14/06 David Cohen Brilliant, Heston does the best job of his career as a cynical everyman for humanity 5 stars
4/09/06 the untrained eye The best Twilight Zone episode ever. (Think about it awhile) 5 stars
8/29/05 ES This movie is a deeper and better movie than expected, very well done 4 stars
8/25/05 Michael Good movie, weak end 5 stars
8/01/05 DM Awesome ending, fantastic make-up, but occasionally contrived. 4 stars
6/09/05 Indrid Cold Despite the great Twilight Zone-esque ending, it's really not that great. Overrated. 3 stars
4/15/05 Carol Conway Make you think 4 stars
4/11/05 Carolyn Rathburn It really makes you wonder about superiority, better than the remake 5 stars
3/25/05 Denise Classic 5 stars
3/24/05 hannaho A classic! As a kid, there was nothing scarier than the idea of being lobotimized by apes. 5 stars
3/22/05 Suzanne Butler Definitely a classic. 5 stars
3/21/05 Kevin Rose A total classic. 5 stars
3/20/05 Chris Stephens Classic 5 stars
2/23/05 R.W. Welch Heston's "Damn you all to hell" may be the greatest single line in movie history. 5 stars
10/27/04 Daveman Among that last of the old, coldwar paranoid sci-fi films and arguably the best 5 stars
9/03/04 T.B. Less Sci-Fi film 3 stars
5/30/04 Frazier Among the greatest sci-fi films ever. Irony mixed with great storytelling. 5 stars
3/16/04 hep magic stuff with CH in fine form and less dumbing-down than the remake 4 stars
2/19/04 MP Bartley The classic ending aside aside...there's very little to it 3 stars
2/01/04 I Would I hate myself for loving this film. 5 stars
12/26/03 Ozzie a mindblowingly great movie!! 5 stars
12/17/03 john still one of the best sci fi movies ever made 5 stars
9/27/03 Darryl Best sci-fi of all time. Classic. 5 stars
7/07/03 Ahnold Fantastic movie. Science fiction suspense the way the best are intended 5 stars
7/03/03 Dave Hopman Much better than Tim Burton's remake. Fantastic movie! 5 stars
4/22/03 mr. Pink Very dated and tiresome. Baffling how many people see this as a classic. 2 stars
1/14/03 alien assassin This is classic sci-fi. Tim Burton's remake sucks 5 stars
12/21/02 Pigwidgeon I liked the remake, but the original is BEYOND "Fucking Awesome". 5 stars
12/10/02 Roddy fangirl Roddy as an ape........weird..... 5 stars
12/06/02 Kyle An all-time favorite! Imaginative and haunting. 5 stars
11/22/02 Charles Tatum Some films should be left alone 4 stars
8/26/02 bonnie blue world onto itself: haunting,strange,brilliant-remake more wretched than i thought possible 5 stars
8/18/02 Kurt The Marky Mark remake can't compare to the original classic. 5 stars
3/22/02 Jim Gillespie Good, but not as good as the new one 4 stars
3/08/02 livia good theme 4 stars
3/03/02 pauly The first time I saw it the ending was a total shocker. Now I see it again and realize how 5 stars
2/02/02 Del If you think the remake is better, you're a fucking idiot 5 stars
12/28/01 Andrew Carden Very Creative and Imaginative For It's Time. 4 stars
12/03/01 Monday Morning The first time I got stoned on pot, this was the movie I saw. Gotta luvvit! 5 stars
11/30/01 Phoenix Planet of the Apes is a sci-fi classic. Though I still think the remake is better. 5 stars
10/17/01 Cody Bowersock Planet of the Apes is a classic. You have to love it. don't fuck with Moses! 5 stars
10/13/01 Abrianne Fosnaugh I loved it! It's one of my all-time favorites. 5 stars
8/28/01 Michael Flynn Those damn, dirty apes. 5 stars
8/26/01 spaceworm This ending makes us drop our jaws, not scratch our heads. No sequel necessary! 5 stars
8/16/01 the scarecrow Charlton Heston is fucking old!! 5 stars
8/10/01 SJKelley Still the best. 5 stars
8/07/01 Studmaster Incredible. I still remember the first time I saw it as a litte kid in the 1970's! 5 stars
5/19/01 Jessica Smith could be more interesting 3 stars
5/01/01 Farah Rahaman This movie was mind blowing! 5 stars
4/26/01 Josh Kessler It was the crappiest movie I have ever seen!!! 1 stars
2/15/01 Del R Soylent green is people! Uh... wrong flick... 5 stars
1/30/01 R.W. Welch Ingenious and well done; one of the top ten sci-fi flicks. 5 stars
1/27/01 dave Underhill a deep look at human ethics, if you dont like it you dont understand it. 5 stars
11/29/00 DH Definitely worth the look ! 5 stars
11/27/00 TJ ST John GET YOUR STINKING HANDS OFF ME YOU DAMN DIRTY APES!!!! 5 stars
10/10/00 P. Rodriguez Easily one of Heston's best performances. Top Stuff! 5 stars
9/19/00 Jeff classic combination of cheese and thrills 4 stars
9/18/00 D SILK E 1 i've seen a lot of damn movies..but this takes the gold 5 stars
9/16/00 JB Just saw it for the first time (on the big screen) at the Egytian. I truly love this film. 5 stars
7/15/00 Mark Pederson Love it all time favorite sci/fi have seen it 20 times or more first time was in 1973. 5 stars
5/21/00 Leon Adeoye For my generation, something to look back at. 4 stars
1/19/00 Jedi15 You maniacs! You blew it up! This movie is a classic. The sequels sucks big hairy cock. 5 stars
12/10/99 Bob Barker It's a classic Charlton Heston flick. Need I say more? 5 stars
4/14/99 Jon Jackson Chuck is damn manly. Long live chest hair! 5 stars
3/07/99 little jerry Superb use of locations.Brilliant story.And as everyone knows,an ending you'll never forget 5 stars
2/25/99 Vick Di Brecci Starts off very good and slows down 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Feb-1968 (PG)
  DVD: 28-Mar-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Jul-1968 (G)




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