The "Planet of the Apes" Franchise (1968 - 1973) Mar 7, 2017 18:22:21 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Mar 7, 2017 18:22:21 GMT -5
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes.
Planet of the Apes has the premise that probably should've inspired a Saturday Night Live skit before a convincing, feature-length film, much less four sequels within a five year period. It echoes the kind of film that if it hadn't been a formidable franchise back in the 1970s, it might not have ever seen production in the modern day. Think about it; imagine the original Planet of the Apes franchise didn't exist, would you be so inclined to spend hard-earned money on a world inhabited by intelligent apes?
Franklin J. Schaffner's science-fiction landmark is a pretty standard, unsurprising affair, aside from how it takes a wacky premise and gives it such a straight-laced execution. It focuses on an astronaut crew led by George Taylor, played by Charlton Heston, that crashlands on a planet following one-hundred years passing back home on Earth. The planet looks like a remote island, ala Lord of the Flies, until Taylor and his team, Landon (Robert Gunner), Dodge (Jeff Burton), discover the only inhabitable life on the planet, aside from subhuman slaves, are anthropomorphic apes.
The apes have discovered a way to meet or, in some cases, surpass the intelligence of humans far enough to enslave the human race. Humans are mute and nameless, servants to the ape rulers that brandish swords and other heavy artillery while riding horseback around an otherwise desolate island. Taylor assumes the thankless task of trying to communicate with the apes to strike some sort of bond, in addition to befriending a female slave he nicknames Nova (Linda Harrison).
The apes have also formed a caste system of sorts, starting with the gorillas at the bottom, who serve as police officers and hunters. From there on, the system works upwards, with orangutans serving as politicians and lawyers and chimpanzees playing intellectuals, scientists, and philosophers. Writers Michael Wilson and Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling pen a screenplay that keeps its socially relevant undertones downplayed in the context of greater science-fiction adventure and a committed performance by Heston.
Just nine years after playing Judah Ben-Hur in William Wyler's sprawling, biblical epic, Heston is acting as the mediator between ape overlords intent on wiping out all control humans have manifested over animals and other elements of nature. His performance is impressive, actually, mostly in the regards of him delivering on the convincing and dramatic level we're used to seeing Heston. Where most actors would likely see the role of a stranded astronaut victim to a planet of controlling apes, Heston sees it as a challenge and a welcomed one at that.
Planet of the Apes has the typical elements of science-fiction films from the 1960s through the 1980s, where the first act is largely made up of lengthy, extreme long-shot establishing shots that show the slow-moving descent of either spaceships or humans across a limitless terrain - that terrain being a solar-system or the soggy sand of a remote beach. The repetition is there for much of the first half, regardless of how incredible the special effects are (it prompted the same effect Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture and Tron had for me, where I found my attention span waning from staring at drawn-out scenery for so long).
There is an enjoyment element present, however, probably more than there ever should've been for a film with this title and this concept. The concept represses most laughs (except when an ape spouts the line "man see, man do," which I find more memorable than Heston's "damned dirty ape" quip) by carrying on with competent action and fairly good depth to a story that could've been woefully inert and sterile. Thank whoever you feel should be credited with that, but don't thank whoever purchased those ape-masks and decided to linger on them with closeups for a decent portion of the film.
Starring: Charlton Heston, Robert Gunner, Jeff Burton, and Linda Harrison. Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner.