Planet of the Apes (1968 )

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Cinematography Leon Shamroy

Planet of the Apes is a 1968 American science fiction film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. It stars Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison. The screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling was loosely based on the 1963 French novel La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boulle. Jerry Goldsmith composed the groundbreaking avant-garde score. It was the first in a series of five films made between 1968 and 1973, all produced by Arthur P. Jacobs and released by 20th Century Fox.

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After optioning the novel’s film rights, Arthur P. Jacobs spent over three years trying to convince filmmakers to take on the project. He hired a succession of artists to create test sketches, and hired veteran television writer Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, to pen the script. Serling’s script changed elements of Boulle’s novel, introducing Cold War themes; notably he wrote a new twist ending that revealed the planet to be a future Earth where humans had destroyed themselves through nuclear warfare. As production costs were estimated at over $10 million, no studio in either Hollywood or Europe would assume the risk. Jacobs and associate producer Mort Abrahams persevered, and eventually persuaded Charlton Heston to star; Heston in turn recommended director Franklin J. Schaffner. The team recorded a brief screen test featuring Heston, which ultimately convinced 20th Century Fox the film could succeed.

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Fox insisted on changes to reduce the budget to a more manageable $5.8 million. The producers hired veteran writer Michael Wilson, who had previously written the adaptation of Boulle’s novel The Bridge over the River Kwai, to rewrite Serling’s script. To save on special effects costs, Wilson’s script called for an ape society more primitive than appeared in the novel. The new script changed much of the plot and dialogue, but retained the Cold War themes and Serling’s ending.  John Chambers created the innovative makeup effects.

Heston played 20th-century American astronaut George Taylor, who travels to a strange planet where intelligent apes dominate mute, primitive humans. Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall played the sympathetic chimpanzees Zira and Cornelius, and Linda Harrison portrayed Taylor’s love interest Nova. Maurice Evans played the villain, orangutan science minister Dr. Zaius. The finale, in which Taylor comes upon a ruined Statue of Liberty and realizes he has been on Earth all along, became the series’ defining scene and one of the most iconic images in 1960s film. The film was released on February 8, 1968, and was a smash success with both critics and audiences, breaking contemporary box office records and earning rave reviews. John Chambers received an honorary Oscar at the 41st Academy Awards for his make-up effects, the first ever given to a make-up artist. Jerry Goldsmith‘s score and Morton Haack‘s costume design also earned Oscar nominations. Fox approached Jacobs and Abrahams about filming a sequel. Though they had not made the film with sequels in mind, its success led them to consider the prospect.

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Filming began on May 21, 1967, and ended on August 10, 1967. Most of the early scenes of a desert-like terrain were shot in northern Arizona near the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, Lake Powell, 61 Glen Canyon61 and other locations near Page, Arizona Most scenes of the ape village, interiors and exteriors, were filmed on the Fox Ranch in Malibu Creek State Park, northwest of Los Angeles, essentially the backlot of 20th Century Fox. The concluding beach scenes were filmed on a stretch of California seacoast between Malibu and Oxnard with cliffs that towered 130 feet above the shore. Reaching the beach on foot was virtually impossible, so cast, crew, film equipment, and even horses had to be lowered in by helicopter.:79 The remains of the Statue of Liberty were shot in a secluded cove on the far eastern end of Westward Beach, between Zuma Beach and Point Dume in Malibu. As noted in the documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes,the special effect shot of the half-buried statue was achieved by seamlessly blending a matte painting with existing cliffs. The shot looking down at Taylor was done from a 70-foot scaffold, angled over a 1/2-scale papier-mache model of the Statue. The actors in Planet of the Apes were so affected by their roles and wardrobe that when not shooting, they automatically segregated themselves with the species they were portraying.

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Only one word can describe this movie, “WOW”

20 January 2004 | by Greg (New Jersey) – See all my reviews

Absolutely incredible. Easily in my top 10 all time, and that’s saying something. This movie kept me captivated from the beginning all the way to the end. It combined a super setting and effects (at least for ’68) and the casting was perfect. This movie included, in my opinion, one of the most memorable line in film history, “get your damn paws of me, you stinkin’ apes!”. Not to ruin it for anyone, the ending is also one of the best in film history. This easily won my award for most entertaining and original story ever, because it captivated the imagination, especially considering the fact that it could actually happen (it’s a stretch, but…) This is a rather short response, but I could just go on and on saying how great it was, but it would only be redundant. Overall, this movie was absolutely incredible

9.5\10 stars (I’m a tough reviewer)

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Not the ’60’s & ’70’s cheesy film you may fear!

10/10
Author: Pates from Boise, Idaho
1 January 1999

No one I know under 40 had seen this film, though we all joked about it as being a stereotypical “bad” film based on rumors. the title, and clips seen here and there. Finally one weekend when I was working until 2:00 a.m. I went home and there was a sequel on late night TV, during the 30 year Planet of the Apes marathon. It made me curious about the original and I tracked it down. I have to say it blew me away!

The film is philosophical, creative, absorbing and scary. Excellent commentary on religion and just about everything else. I strongly recommend to anyone who has not seen it. So far I haven’t even been able to convince my friends to see it because there seems to be such a strong prejudice against it and some sort of entrenched belief it must be bad; in fact it is one of the finest films I’ve seen and I can see why it is a classic.

If you enjoy films that make you think you simply can’t dislike Planet of the Apes.

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A Landmark SF film

10/10
Author: haristas from USA
31 October 2002

1968s PLANET OF THE APES has been my favorite film since I first saw it in April of that year when I was eight years old. The movie had a huge impact back then and I cannot emphasize more the power to grip the imagination it had — and has — and the shock the final image of the movie was back then. I literally left the theatre stunned and speechless. No other movie of my youth had such impact, or created such suspension of disbelief. Over the past thirty-four years PLANET OF THE APES has attained classic status and it’s a tribute to the film’s excellence that there are so many comments left here on the Internet Movie Database that this film is better than the viewer thought it would be, or that it wasn’t campy or cheesy as they’d always thought, or that it was more intelligent and thought-provoking than most films they’ve ever seen, and that despite the studio stupidly putting the final shot — one of the most famous last shots in the history of American cinema — on the cover of the video, they were still stunned and haunted by it.

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PLANET OF THE APES is based on a 1963 French novel, “La planete des singes,” by Pierre Boulle, most famous as the author of “La pont de la riviere Kwai” (1952), which became the 1957 film THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. The story tells of a French journalist, Ulysse Merou, who, in the year 2500 travels with two companions in a near-light speed spacecraft to the red-giant star Betelgeuse in the constellation of Orion. There they find a sister planet to earth, Soror, and after landing on a remote plateau discover a race of human beings that are no more than animals, naked and unable to speak. The three earthmen are stripped of there clothes by the humans, who hate anything that isn’t natural. Their spacecraft is destroyed by the savage people and they are run off into the jungle. The next morning the tribe of wild humans are attacked by hunters, who are gorillas dressed like men, hunting like men, and acting and speaking like men. One of the earthmen is killed, another disappears, and Merou is captured, taken to a research lab, and subjected to scientific experiments.

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A sympathetic female animal psychologist, Dr. Zira, a chimpanzee, is intrigued by Merou keenness and soon learns that this man is highly intelligent and able to learn speech. With her help Merou learns all about the simian civilization on Soror, in which the apes live in modern cities, drive cars, fly planes, and watch TV, and where conservative orangutans, especially one named Zaius, so fear this intelligent human being that they seek to have him destroyed. With the help of Zira’s fiance, an archeologist named Cornelius, Merou unwittingly discovers a secret about the origins of intelligent life on Soror that’s so dangerous he’s forced to flee the planet of the apes and return to earth.

Boulle’s novel is a satire in the tradition of Voltaire that mocks humankind’s anthropocentric theory of the universe from which human beings derive their sense of importance, and is laced with the kind of harrowing ironies that Boulle was famous for.

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The movie based on this book is an ‘Americanized’ adaptation of it. Rod Serling did the first drafts of the screenplay, simplifying the plot by fitting it into the mold of his “Twilight Zone” TV series and introducing an anti-nuclear war theme not present in the Boulle novel. Because of budget constraints the modern ape civilization had to be reduced to a less technological one, something more reminiscent of ancient Greece. In fact, after Michael Wilson, who had also adapted Boulle’s “Bridge Over the River Kwai” to the screen, was brought in to do the final script drafts what emerged was a political allegory more akin to an Aesop fable than a Voltairian satire.

An improvement on the book was to turn the Merou character, now named Taylor, into a misanthrope and to reduce the scope of the story into a kind of ‘misanthrope’s comeuppance.’ Charlton Heston was a perfect choice to play the unlikable American astronaut, having essayed such similar ‘bastard’ roles in 1954s THE NAKED JUNGLE, 1963s DIAMOND HEAD and 1963s 55 DAYS AT PEKING, and the movie would be a lot less funny and pointed without him.

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Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter, as Cornelius and Zira, and Maurice Evans, as Dr. Zaius, enjoy some of the best performances on the screen, bringing the then-innovative makeup design of John Chambers to life under the intelligent and stylish direction of Franklin J. Schaffner. Also excellent in this Arthur P. Jacobs production for 20th Century-Fox is the veteran cinematographer Leon Shamroy’s Panavision lensing, which makes great use of remote areas of southern Utah around Lake Powell to suggest an alien world, and Jerry Goldsmith’s avant-garde musical score, which has become a landmark, cannot be emphasized more for contributing to the weird atmosphere and eerie mood of the movie. Rarely has a movie score so fit like hand-in-glove than this one.

PLANET OF THE APES was a box office smash in 1968, but if ever there was a movie that was more a victim of its own success it’s this one. Four sequels, two TV series, numerous novelizations and comic book adventures, and a lamentable remake in 2001 have been spawned by its popularity, most of which has been so inferior in quality to have tarnished the reputation of this classy and intelligent SF film landmark. Luckily the qualities of the film remind viewers again and again of what noted New Yorker movie critic Pauline Kael titled her review of this movie, “Apes must be remembered, Charlie!”

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