After travelling for centuries in suspended animation, a group
of astronauts crash land on a mysterious planet. Searching
for signs of life, they find themselves in a bizarre upside-down
world in which talking simians rule and humans are treated
like animals. Taylor and his crewmates will not be the last
unlucky astronauts to find themselves trapped on the Planet
of the Apes...
Taylor (Charlton Heston) might have put it: They finally,
really did it... The maniacs! They brought out a box set of
all six Planet of the Apes movies and both television
series, after releasing most of them individually and in a
previous box set of the first five movies. God damn you, 20th
Century Fox! God damn you all to hell!
so the above paragraph is largely recycled from the introduction
to my review of 2004's two-disc 35th-anniversary edition of
Planet of the Apes, but since Fox has previously released
most of the material in this novelty ape-head box set, that
seems only fair. However, if you don't already own all the
Apes movies on DVD, then this individually numbered
limited-edition digistack is well worth adding to your collection,
particularly the first film.
In the absence of a cinematic re-release, the stunning cinematography
of the original Planet of the Apes, under the supervision
of director Franklin J Schaffner, is best viewed on as large
a television screen as possible, while the 5.1 soundtrack
does justice to Jerry Goldsmith's innovative and memorable
musical score. Listen out for instrumentation that mimics
the sounds of the apes themselves.
John Chambers' special makeup effects, which won an honorary
Oscar, have also stood the test of time across the entire
initial movie series. Having to get by without the benefits
of modern gimmicks such as animatronics or CGI, Chambers created
inventive chimp, gorilla and orang-utan masks that allowed
the actors a high degree of expression and performance.
the first movie has a weakness, it is the hammy acting of
its main star, but then I suppose this was necessary in order
to divert the audience's attention from the scene-stealing
apes. Heston truly chews the scenery as he yells out such
borderline comical exclamations as: "It's a madhouse!" and
"You cut out his brain, you bloody baboon!" But can we imagine
any other actor pulling off that unforgettable line: "Get
your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!"
is ably supported by Roddy McDowall as Cornelius, Kim Hunter
as Zira and Maurice Evans as Dr Zaius, all under heavy ape
makeup. Linda Harrison, as the mute human savage Nova, manages
to convey a range of emotions and intentions without ever
uttering a word.
script, by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, based on the novel
by Pierre Boulle, is rich with biting and satirical commentary
on racism, animal rights and vivisection.
talking of commentaries, this film has three of them. In the
first audio commentary, Goldsmith discusses his incidental
music. The second is cobbled together from interviews with
makeup artist Chambers and actors McDowall, Hunter and Natalie
Trundy. Rather annoyingly, there are lengthy gaps in the second
commentary, which makes you wonder why more interview material,
perhaps from other personnel, could not have been spliced
in as well. There is also a dense and insightful text commentary
by Eric Greene, author of Planet of the Apes as American
Myth, which whizzes by so quickly that you might need
to pause the movie in order to catch all the details.
first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, is less
coherent than its predecessor, but still has enough wit and
charm to carry off its rather silly premise. Questions that
the discerning viewer might raise include: where did the mutant
humans get the latex for their masks from and, more importantly,
why wear them at all? Also, the original movie was set in
3978, according to the chronometer in Taylor's spaceship,
so why does Brent's (James Franciscus) chronometer read 3955?
I theorise, since Escape from the Planet of the Apes
agrees with the date given here, that Taylor's chronometer
its silliness, Beneath has a special place in my affections,
because the true faces of those human mutants scared me to
death as a child.
returned in a reduced role as Taylor on the understanding
that he would get killed off at the end of the film. And what
better way to ensure that you can't come back than by blowing
up the entire planet?
how do you continue a successful movie franchise if you've
destroyed its whole world? The answer is Escape from the
Planet of the Apes, a truly charming reversal of the premise
of the original movie.
the time-travelling Cornelius and Zira are the astronauts
stranded in a strange land when they touch down in 1970s America.
The clash of ape and contemporary human cultures provides
humour that is similar to that of the subsequent Star
Trek VI: The Voyage Home. By the end of the
movie, though, matters have taken a more serious turn as bigotry
and xenophobia rear their ugly heads to poignant and dramatic
of the Planet of the Apes has a very different feel to
its immediate predecessor. A dark allegory about race riots,
this film is both brutal and bloody, and is the most adult
of the Apes movies. Unfortunately, despite its strong
central theme, the notions of the pet plague and the resultant
ape training are never entirely convincing, and this sadly
undermines an otherwise promising project. Conquest
also looks and feels dated, but it manages to just about conquer
for the Planet of the Apes begins to set the scene for
the development of the mutant human society seen in Beneath
and sows the seeds for the reverse human/ape racism that we
encountered in the first film. There's also the neat idea
of a never-ending time loop in which Taylor arrives in the
future, Earth is destroyed, Cornelius and Zira are propelled
back to Taylor's time and start up the process of the rise
of the apes all over again.
Unfortunately, due to budget restrictions, this is a meagre
offering that looks more like a TV movie than a big-screen
epic. For some reason, the mutants aren't even able to play
back live-action clips from Escape (due to rights issues,
perhaps?) - instead, static frames accompany the dialogue.
There are more chronology concerns for the series as the mutants'
records indicate that Cornelius and Zira came from 3950 rather
than 3955 (but this can be attributed to a damaged recording).
And Caesar's (Roddy McDowall) famous battle cry, "Fight like
apes!" is spoiled by his lower-jaw ape appliance starting
to fall off, revealing his own mouth underneath.
saga could have accommodated one more instalment, showing
the final descent of man and the ascent of ape culture, but
it was not to be. However, we do get an element of this in
the 1974 television series, which seems to be set in a transitional
period during which humans are subjugated by apes but haven't
yet become mute savages.
the opening episode, Escape from Tomorrow, contains
dialogue that suggests the television series is set ten years
after the first movie. Chief Councillor Zaius (Booth Colman)
mentions astronauts arriving on the planet a decade ago. However,
if that is so, then this must be some alternate future in
which the Earth was not destroyed and in which humans never
lost the power of speech (or rapidly regained it by following
More likely, Zaius is referring to different spacemen. After
all, the first two movies and both television series have
each shown separate astronaut crews arriving on the planet,
so who is to say that there cannot have been more of them?
Alternatively, perhaps Zaius is aware of and concerned about
the future arrival of Taylor, thanks to records dating back
from Cornelius and Zira's time in the 1970s, but he speaks
of astronauts in the recent past because he knows that the
whole and complex truth would be less likely to be believed.
The year shown on the ship's chronometer in this instance,
3085, indicates that we are about 900 years before the events
of the first two movies and that Chief Councillor Zaius is
a different character to the Dr Zaius seen in those movies,
quite possibly an ancestor of his.
time the astronauts in question are Alan Virdon (Ron Harper)
and Peter Burke (James Naughton). Unlike the self-centred
characters of Taylor, from the first two movies, and Leo Davidson
(Mark Wahlberg), in Tim Burton's 2001 "re-imagining", Virdon
and Burke are very likable characters, which means that you
care about what happens to them from episode to episode. It's
a shame this series got cancelled after 14 episodes and we
never found out whether or not they managed to find a way
back to their own time.
and Naughton are ably supported by Roddy McDowall as yet another
chimpanzee, Galen (presumably an ancestor of Cornelius or
a descendent of Caesar). In many episodes the regulars are
hounded by Spock's dad himself, Mark Lenard, who is splendidly
villainous as the gorilla General Urko.
the lack of a movie-sized budget, the Planet of the Apes
television show manages to appear fairly glossy. The production
values are aided by the crafty use of stock materials from
the movies, such as the spacecraft prop and shots of Ape City,
both used in Escape from Tomorrow. For the most part,
the ape masks look as good as they did in the movies, though
occasionally - especially during location scenes - Galen's
mouth stays open as his lower jaw hangs down, and the chimp
Dr Zoran's (David Sheiner) mouth isn't very mobile in the
episode The Cure.
quality of the presentation is fairly good, though the opening
and closing of each act are prone to dirt and scratches on
the film. The soundtrack is slightly out of synch during the
opening act of The Tyrant.
main reason for owning this box set (unless you really want
an eerily realistic ape head staring at you from the shelf)
is the 1975 animated series Return to the Planet of the
Apes, which has never before been released on DVD.
mind Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes - this is the
first "re-imagining" of the Apes franchise. Return
comes closer to the technologically advanced apes of Pierre
Boulle's original novel than any other screen version. It
also draws inspiration from the first two movies (the lagoon
site of the spaceship's splashdown, the character names of
Cornelius, Zira, Zaius, Nova and Brent, and underground-dwelling
mutant humans) and the live-action television series (the
name General Urko and the fact that more than one of the astronauts
is certainly not the same planet that we have seen in previous
productions, unless this is some alternate post-Battle
version of the world, which was not destroyed in 3955 (the
date given here is 3979) and in which the apes possess technology
that is roughly equivalent to that of 20th-century humans.
I suppose if the latter were true, then Nova (voiced by Claudette
Nevins) and Urko (Henry Corden) could be descendents of the
characters we have seen before. The Homo sapiens of
this world are referred to as humanoids rather than humans.
in other respects this series is less inspired. The production
values are relatively poor, with reuse of backgrounds and
lack of movement rendering the action dull and slow. The plots
are further hampered by long sequences of repetitive actions
or views with no dialogue. The train escape in the episode
The Unearthly Prophecy and the balloon flight in Terror
on Ice Mountain are notable offenders, both of which allow
the viewer ample time to take a quick toilet break without
having to pause the DVD!
voice work is also rather monotonous and unemotional, particularly
in the case of the human(oid) characters. In the actors' defence,
they are seldom given good dialogue to work with - the astronauts
(voiced by Nevins, Austin Stoker and Richard Blackburn) say,
"What's going on?" quite a lot.
more disappointing is the quality of the transfers. The majority
of the episodes are faded, unstable and covered in dirt and
scratches. This is highlighted by the prints of River of
Flames and Mission of Mercy, which are of almost
pristine quality. When you consider the miracles that are
currently being worked restoring old Doctor Who stories
for DVD, Fox really should have tried to tidy up these episodes.
its favour, Return to the Planet of the Apes offers
a few moments of genuine wit and intelligence, such as when
the apes discuss a movie called The Ape Father or the
works of William Apespeare, and when an ancient parking meter
announces, "TIME ELAPSED", echoing the fate of human civilisation
as we know it. Also, unlike the animated Star Trek,
or indeed most live-action shows at the time, there's a distinct
running order to the series, with many episodes ending on
a cliffhanger and/or building upon events from previous instalments.
The final episode, Battle of the Titans, not only comes
to a reasonable conclusion but is also a veritable continuity-fest.
Burton's Planet of the Apes movie, though described
as a "re-imagining" rather than merely a remake of the 1968
original, retains several notable elements. For example, the
simian society seen here is a low-tech one akin to its late
1960s-early 70s counterpart, as opposed to the futuristic
civilisation of Boulle's novel. The apes' favoured mode of
transport is still horseback (incidentally, whereas the origins
of the apes and the humans are explained, it is never revealed
horses came to be on the planet, which this time
is not the Earth).
2001 movie also reprises certain iconic lines of dialogue
from the 1968 film. In a couple of instances, the species
of the speaker has been changed, and in one case the speaker
is Charlton Heston himself, in a cameo appearance as the father
of the villainous chimp General Thade (Tim Roth). Oh, the
irony of the gun-loving Heston portraying a character who
vehemently condemns such instruments of violence!
differs significantly is the structure of the plot, which
takes a major detour from that of the original film. Unlike
Heston's astronaut, Mark Wahlberg's Davidson has no shipmates
to fall by the wayside. He is a loner from the outset. The
human slaves, including love interest Daena (Estella Warren),
possess the power of speech, which enables them to function
as characters, in ways that were simply not possible with
the savages encountered by Taylor. Unfortunately, Davidson
himself is a rather bland and unwilling hero compared to the
defiant Taylor. The gorilla Attar's (Michael Clarke Duncan)
change of heart is also rather abrupt.
It is no secret that the original film's shock ending, which
itself deviated from Boulle's novel, has been replaced by
a new twist. Though outrageous and apparently nonsensical,
there are clues throughout the film that offer possible
explanations for that final scene.
values have, of course, improved considerably since the '60s
and '70s. No disrespect to Chambers' pioneering work, but
Rick Baker has built upon these foundations admirably to allow
the ape actors a fuller range of facial expression. Baker
also ensures that each mask is unique and individual (as described
in one of the behind-the-scenes features). To add to the effectiveness
of the actors' transformations, they were also coached on
how to reproduce realistic simian movements (which is the
subject of a further, though slightly over-long, documentary).
changes to our understanding of primate behaviour also influence
the characterisation. Now we know that chimps are capable
of great cruelty, hence the villainy of Thade, while gorillas,
though formidable, are essentially peaceful creatures, hence
the honourable Krull (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa).
the challenges posed by their roles, the primate performers
are given greater opportunities to impress than the supposed
leading man Wahlberg. Of the apes, Roth's Thade, Helena Bonham
Carter's sympathetic human-rights campaigning chimp Ari, and
Paul Giamatti's comical orang-utan Limbo are particularly
possibly the most remarkable transformation of all is that
of Tim Burton. This film possesses surprisingly few of the
offbeat qualities and none of the Gothic traits that are usually
exhibited in his work. Despite the occasional quirky moment,
such as the title sequence, an organ grinder with a human
"monkey", Ari writing with her feet, and Limbo hanging upside
down, this is probably the director's most mainstream movie
to date. However, though it fails to eclipse the greatness
of the original movie, it certainly isn't ape shit either!
special features include two separate feature-length commentaries
for Burton's Planet of the Apes by the (somewhat incoherent)
director and the musician Danny Elfman. You can also watch
the film in "enhanced viewing mode", which cues in additional
behind-the-scenes footage at pertinent points, sometimes as
inserts in the corner of the screen, sometimes by pausing
the movie to play a full-frame featurette. I remain unconvinced
about the usefulness of this mode, however. If you just want
information, then you have to sit through sizeable chunks
of the film to get to it. On the other hand, if you just want
to enjoy the movie, you don't want the dialogue to be drowned
out whenever an on-screen insert appears.
further disc contains more than two hours of documentary footage
about the most recent film - and that's not counting the various
trailers and extended scenes, one of which adds a little heat
to the "romance" between Ari and Leo. The interactive features
include multi-angle views of the production of several key
sequences, DVD-ROM features, and screen tests.
another disc (previously released as part of the Planet
of the Apes 35th-anniversary edition) offers various vintage
promotional featurettes and trailers for the first five movies,
plus behind-the-scenes looks at the making of Escape
and Conquest. This disc also includes galleries of
stills, concept drawings, movie posters (which are rather
too small to fully appreciate) and merchandise.
best feature of all is the two-hour documentary Behind
the Planet of the Apes, even though it has previously
been seen on television and was included in the five-movie
box set and the 35th-anniversary special edition. Hosted by
Roddy McDowall, this enlightening film takes us from the troubled
genesis of the first movie, through its production, to the
numerous sequels and television spin-offs. We learn some fascinating
facts, such as the real social impact that the various ape
makeups had on the interaction of the cast.
of the sources of the excerpts seen in Behind the Planet
of the Apes are also presented in full on this disc. There
is a ten-minute makeup test featuring Heston with Edward G
Robinson as Dr Zaius, which was filmed in order to persuade
reluctant backers that the movie would not look ridiculous.
There are also 20 minutes of super-8 home movie material shot
by McDowall, which includes an illuminating glimpse into the
lengthy makeup process the actor had to undergo, plus a further
20 minutes of silent "dailies".
you don't already own most of the stuff in this box set, then
it's well worth getting your stinking paws on it! I give it
a damn dirty...