The 'Apes' saga is one of Hollywood's best known film series.
It's five movie string was a mixed affair but during its protracted
run managed to garner both critical acclaim and box office
success - the two basic ingredients for enduring celluloid
first film, Planet of the Apes, still stands the test
of time - improving with close inspection and repeated viewing.
It's faultless internal logic and stylish presentation mark
it out as a classic and there can be few people who didn't
gasp at the movie's climax - unless someone had already spoilt
it for you. There are also few films that speak so eloquently
about the evils of racism.
first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, is less
coherent but still has just about enough wit and charm to
carry off its rather silly premise. Charlton Heston reprised
his role as the lost astronaut stranded on a monkey plant
on the understanding he'd die at the end of the film - and
what better way to ensure you're dead than by blowing up the
world? Beneath is slightly silly but nonetheless enjoyable.
But there is one question - where did the mutant humans get
the latex for their masks and more importantly, why wear them
in the first place?
from the Planet of the Apes, derided by some critics at
the time of its release, actually fares rather better than
expected. The clash of ape and contemporary human cultures
parodies racism and bigotry with some sly and smart observations
and the central ape performances are well observed and often
more human, so to speak, than the humans. Escape is
flawed but not fatally.
of the Planet of the Apes has a very different feel to
its immediate predecessor. A dark allegory about race riots,
the film is both brutal and bloody - unfortunately, it is
never fully engaging. Despite a strong central theme, the
pet plague and resultant ape training is never wholly convincing
which sadly undermines a otherwise promising project. Conquest
looks and feels dated but manages, just about, to overcome
fifth and final movie, Battle for the Planet of the Apes,
starts to set the scene for the development of the mutant
human society seen in Beneath and sows the seeds of
the reverse human/ape racism that we encounter in the first
film. Unfortunately, it's a meagre offering that looks more
like a TV movie than a big screen adventure. It's not wholly
devoid of entertainment value but it contains little of any
saga could have accommodated one more film - the final descent
of man and the ascendancy of Ape culture, but it was never
to be. However, the five Ape films are a testament
to the idea that science fiction can mix entertainment and
social observation to create something bigger than its parts.
And the proof of this can be found on the final disc in the
box - Behind the Planet of the Apes. The documentary,
although already widely shown on TV, is a joy to watch. If
only all film-related documentaries were this good.
the box set offers excellent value and good entertainment
although only discs one and six are truly indispensable.
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