To combat the fact that I’ve reviewed a lot of foreign films and docs recently, I want to do a couple of genre pictures that I love so y’all won’t think I’m a “film snob”. Actually, calling me a film snob is one of the worst insults you could deliver. I like it all, as long as it’s good.
I love genre pictures and The Planet of the Apes (1968) has one of my favorite premises in movie history: a world run by apes, where humans are the animals who reside in zoos, cages or live in the wild, trying to avoid being captured. That’s genius, folks, pure genius.
The idea of 'apes as humans' is so engrossing to me that I can ignore the couple of dated moments or the overacting by Charlton Heston ("Get your stinkin' paws off me you damn dirty ape!"). Those elements actually add to the film’s overall charm.
Set late in the 38th century, Heston plays Taylor, one of three astronauts who crash onto an unknown planet. The men begin to look for other forms of life and when they find it, aren't they surprised when a bunch of apes ride up on horses carrying and shooting off rifles in their direction? Taylor gets a confused, stunned, what the hell is goin' on look on his face when the apes start to speak to one another. Friggin’ genius!
Planet of the Apes is a real classic of the period, when science fiction meant ideas, unlike today, where effects are at the forefront of any sci-fi movie. Planet of the Apes can mean a lot of things and makes statements on evolution, race relations, science and the role of man/ape, oppression and class. Or, it can just be an entertaining yarn about apes controlling man in the future.
Co-scripted by Twilight Zone's Rod Serling, the film has his earmarks all over it, as it is full of his paranoid vision from the get-go. The DVD has all the trailers from future ape films and boy do they get cheesy, so unworthy of following this first film. So ignore the films that followed and just think how great the first one is.
I have a very fond memory from my youth connected to the Ape films. I was 11 or 12 and sick, home from school. At around 10 in the morning the TV began an all day ape festival with all the films from the series. I lost myself for the next dozen or so hours in a haze combining my illness and the ape universe. I so loved these films that day I was happy to be ill. Decades later, I still love Planet of the Apes.