Planet of the Apes (40th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray] (1968)

Actors: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore
Franklin J. Schaffner
AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
English, French, Spanish
Aspect Ratio:
Number of discs:
20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date:
November 4, 2008
Run Time:
112 minutes



Planet.jpg (11371 bytes)A killer movie or boxed set can make the decision to plunge into Blu-ray much easier. With a beloved classic or eagerly anticipated cult film beckoning you from the web-pages of Amazon, that extra investment may suddenly seem like something you can't live without.

And certainly the enhanced capabilities of Blu-ray can make a technically impressive movie positively glow. On the other hand, Hollywood has become quite adept at repackaging old DVDs in order to hustle extra copies onto viewers who were perfectly happy with the versions they had. In some cases, Blu-ray is just another excuse to play that shell game again: adding modestly improved sound and picture quality to what is essentially the same collection of bells and whistles.

So it is with the Blu-ray of Planet of the Apes, a gorgeous package which nonetheless bears a suspicious resemblance to the 35th Anniversary DVD from a few years ago. To be sure, this is one of those movies on the short list that justifies an upgrade all by itself. It has lost none of its power despite the mediocre sequels, ill-conceived remakes, and long-forgotten TV spin-offs that sprang up in its wake. Its storyline - about an American astronaut (Charlton Heston) who crash lands on a world populated by intelligent simians - expertly blends adventure, social satire and chilling philosophical meditation to deliver one of the best science fiction movies ever made.

The production values alone make an upgrade worth consideration. Director Franklin J. Schaffner invests his primate universe with an intoxicating blend of savagery and plausibility. The apes' culture is fascinating in its complexity, while the make-up effects from John Chambers have become the stuff of legend. As if that weren't enough, we also get a 23-year-old Linda Harrison decked out in Raquel Welch's cave girl bikini… and if she can't entice you to invest in 1080p resolution, you need to find another hobby.

THE DISC: The difference in quality between a Blu-ray and a regular DVD is marginal, but certainly noticeable. The images and sounds are pristine, and the addition of new technical features - such as the ability to browse the menu while the film itself keeps playing - make maneuvering through the disc's features much easier. Beyond the basic improvements of the format itself, however, the Blu-ray has little to distinguish it from the 35th anniversary DVD.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, for the DVD itself is terrific and all of its goodies are duplicated here. A lengthy list of special features covers all parts of the production: documentaries, concept drawings, still photos, outtake trailers, and a rare and wonderful make-up test with Heston and Edward G. Robinson (who was originally cast as Doctor Zaius). Multiple audio tracks are included with the film itself, including commentary from stars Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter, a discussion of the make-up from Chambers, and composer Jerry Goldsmith talking about the film's unique score.

Their collective comments are fairly sparse - wide swaths of the audio tracks hold nothing but empty space - but they're still quite illuminating, and all of them convey the sense of pride the participants share in their association with this film.

WORTH IT? It's outstanding stuff… and yet it still makes a conundrum for those looking at the Blu-ray as a possible option. If you already own the 35th anniversary DVD, this version is notable only because of the improved picture and sound (a bare minimum of additional extras are included as well, but not enough to merit a purchase by themselves).

RECOMMENDATION: Hard-core Planet of the Apes fans may consider the improved look worth the extra investment, but taken on its own, it's probably not enough to justify the leap to Blu-ray. For those who don't own the 35th anniversary edition, however, then this version is an absolute must-own. As is typical of our brave new home entertainment world, the question is how much you are willing to pay for essentially the same product… and whether you already have it in some other form.

- Rob Vaux



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