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Planet of the Apes

October 14, 2010

480. Planet of the Apes
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
USA, 1968
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Ally
First viewing




I hate every ape I see,
from chimpan-a to chimpan-zee.
No, you’ll never make a monkey out of me.

~ Troy McLure as ‘The Human’
in Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want To Get Off!


A crew of astronauts test the time dilation phenomenon by traveling close to light speed. They set off in 1972 and crash land on an unknown planet in the year 3978, having aged just 18 months themselves. They assume initially that the planet is deserted but soon find that it’s inhabited by intelligent apes who have enslaved the primitive, mute humans.

Taylor (Charlton Heston) is shot in the throat and captured by gorillas. He is then nursed and studied by scientist Zira (Kim Hunter), a chimpanzee. She is thrilled to discover that, once his throat is healed, Taylor can talk, think and reason. Zira and her fiancé, archeologist Cornelius (Roddy McDowell), think Taylor might be proof of their theory of evolution but their boss, orangutan Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) — who is also Chief Defender of the Faith — considers their assertions to be heretical.

Essential Scene:

The astronauts — Taylor, Landon (Robert Gunner) and Dodge (Jeff Burton) — were swimming when their clothes were snatched. Until now they had assumed the planet was uninhabited. They follow the trail of rustling leaves and shredded clothes. It leads them to a field where primitive humans are gathered, eating the crops.

Taylor: Well at least they haven’t tried to bite us.

Dodge: Blessed are the vegetarians.

Taylor: They look more or less human, but I think they’re mute.

Landon: We got off at the wrong stop.

Taylor: You’re supposed to be the optimist, Landon. Look on the bright side. If this is the best they’ve got around here, in six months we’ll be running this planet.

It's armageddon. As in, "armageddon outta here!"

A horn sounds in the distance. The humans are spooked. They run through the corn fields. The astronauts follow. Horses chase them. Guns are fired. The hunt is on.

Taylor hides in the corn and looks up as the horses gallop past. He sees the riders for the first time. In a film called anything other than Planet of the Apes, this would be a surprise:

A damn dirty ape.


If you’ve managed to live this long without knowing the ending of Planet of the Apes, and want it to remain that way, do not read this section.

Like Alien, I never really got a “first viewing” of Planet of the Apes. Anyone who watches The Simpsons knows by now that the planet in question is a post-apocalyptic Earth, as revealed by the ruins of the Statue of Liberty on the beach. In fact, the good people at 20th Century Fox are so certain you already know this, the Statue of Liberty is prominently featured on both the DVD box and menu. To my mind this is akin to selling Citizen Kane in a sled-shaped box, but that’s by the by. Whether you see it coming or not, it’s a classic Twilight Zone twist — and when I saw that Rod Serling co-wrote the film, it suddenly made a whole lot of sense to me.

Oh my God, I was wrong
It was Earth all along
You’ve finally made a monkey
[Yes we’ve finally made a monkey]
Yes you’ve finally made a monkey out of me.

~ Troy McLure as ‘The Human’

Spoiled twist aside, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Planet of the Apes. The apes’ society mirrors our own in interesting ways. For one thing, they’re racist bastards — chimpanzees are considered inferior to orangutans — and Dr. Zaius’s religion causes him to stubbornly reject and even impede scientific progress. I also got a kick out of Jerry Goldsmith’s atonal score, which is surpringly avant-garde for a Hollywood film of the time.

However, upon researching Planet of the Apes, I was disappointed to discover two of my favourite actors turned down roles; Edward G. Robinson as Dr. Zaius — who initially accepted but later pulled out due to poor health — and Ingrid Bergman as Zira. That’s not to say Maurice Evans and Kim Hunter were bad. But damn, such a missed opportunity. Still, it’s a damn fine piece of 1960s science fiction.

But I think I’ll give the sequels a miss…

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