Almost 50 years later, this iconic classic is still a delightfully quotable fan favorite that turned out to be the beginning of one of the first science fiction movie franchises that is still popular today.
Who would have suspected Planet Of The Apes would prove to be a big deal in science fiction movies it turned out to be? Afterall, it had all the earmarks of being just another ‘B’ science fiction film. I remember reading the English version of the 1963 French novel La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boulle, the book that served as inspiration years before, after stumbling across it in my school’s library. I loved it, the surprising, yet simple twist at the end took me completely by surprise. (In my defense I was still a kid, and my still maturing brain never saw it coming) That book represents the significant contribution the French have made and continue to make to the genre of science fiction.
It was a departure from the Andre Norton YA books I was reading at the time. This story was like a bombshell going off in my brain, and it helped cement my love for the genre. It captured all the promise of reading science fiction and the delights it held in store, just waiting for me to discover them. It wasn’t my first encounter with the fantastic genre I love, I had already begun to read Heinlein, Clarke, and others, but it was a signature moment, a milestone on my journey into becoming the sci-fi nerd I am today.
With a screenplay written by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, and directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. Planet Of The Apes stars Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison. As I have said before, sometimes we get lucky, everything comes together in the right place and time, and the result is a great movie. In this case, I can’t imagine the cast being better than this one is.
Anyone not familiar with the story this movie tells about a space exploration mission that goes off the rails, and what happens next, are few and far between. Planet Of The Apes is an unmistakable product of the era that it was born in, a time when we were all still relatively innocent in our way of looking at the world.
Heston is as close to perfect in the role of George Taylor, as is everyone else in their characters in the film. The makeup for the apes, and special effects in this gem, although dated now, (and thankfully CGI-free), are nothing less than marvelous and only add to the movie’s charm. A 2001 remake directed by Tim Burton and starring Mark Wahlberg, with updated makeup for the apes was not nearly as memorable, or enjoyable, despite the more modern touches.
The same applies to the dialogue. Planet Of The Apes is probably one of the most quotable science fiction movies ever made, and lines like, “It’s a madhouse! A madhouse!” “Take your stinking paws off me; you damned dirty ape!”. Also “You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!” , and others, have been etched in the minds and memories of millions of fans the world over for going on half a century.
Films like this are rare and by definition only come along only once in awhile. Planet Of The Apes was the first in a series of five films made between 1968 and 1973, all produced by Arthur P. Jacobs and released by 20th Century Fox. The role of the time-tossed astronaut in the second film, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes (1970), was portrayed by James Franciscus.
One has to wonder how this movie would be received today. I cannot emphasize enough how strongly I feel about the crappy, cynical attitudes of genre fans these days. They mercilessly nitpick at every detail, thinking that makes them appear more sophisticated. It is a miracle when a film like this comes along, the multiple elements that combine in just the right way to result in a movie like this depends as much on pure dumb luck, as it does on the many talented people it takes to make a film. Any film. Fans today unreasonably expect every movie to be somehow perfect, and when it isn’t, they respond as if they have been somehow betrayed and turn mean.
It is remarkable that a film nearly fifty years old still has as much charm and appeal today or maybe even more than it did when it got made. Planet Of The Apes is a true classic and a terrific film.