After travelling for centuries in cryogenic suspension, three
astronauts crash land on a mysterious planet. Searching for
signs of life, they find themselves in a bizarre upside-down
world in which speaking simians rule and mute humans are hunted,
caged and used for experimentation...
astronaut Taylor (Charlton Heston) might have put it: They
finally, really did it... You
maniacs! You brought out Planet of the Apes on a double-disc
DVD with additional features, after releasing it as a single
disc and in a movies box set. God damn you, Fox! God
damn you all to hell!
if you don't already own this classic film on DVD, then this
special edition is well worth adding to your collection. In
the absence of a cinematic re-release, the stunning cinematography,
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.
Chambers' special makeup effects, which won an honorary Oscar,
have also stood the test of time. 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.
If the 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 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.
The 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, Disc 1 has three of them. In the
first audio commentary, Jerry 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 may need to
pause the movie to catch all the details.
2 is not as jam-packed with "never before seen" features as
the publicity department would have us believe.
best extra of all is the two-hour documentary, Behind the
Planet of the Apes, even though this has previously been
seen on television and was included within the six-disc movies
box set. Hosted by Roddy McDowall, this enlightening film
takes us from the troubled genesis of the first movie, which
had real difficulty finding a studio to back it, through its
production, to the numerous sequels and television spin-offs.
We learn some fascinating facts along the way, such as the
social impact that the various ape makeups had on the interaction
of the cast.
of the resources that are sourced as excerpts in Behind
the Planet of the Apes are presented in full for the first
time on this DVD. There is a ten-minute makeup test featuring
Charlton 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 Roddy McDowall, which
includes an illuminating glimpse into the lengthy makeup process
the actor had to undergo, and a further 20 minutes of silent
addition, there are various vintage promotional featurettes
and trailers for the first five movies. The special features
go a little bit off-topic with their behind-the-scenes looks
at the making of Escape from the Planet of the Apes and
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. The disc also includes
galleries of stills, concept drawings, movie posters (which
are rather too small to fully appreciate) and merchandise.
As I said earlier, this two-disc set is not as full to the
brim as Fox would claim, but at the asking price, who's complaining?
If you already own the six-disc movies set, then purchasing
this product will probably not be worth your while. Otherwise,
though, this is a prime opportunity to own a true landmark
in cinematic history.
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