|This 35th anniversary edition of the now classic science fiction thriller is a superb DVD for collectors and fans of the film; however, I do question the fairness of Fox Home Entertainment in releasing yet another DVD of this film. Just a short time ago we had a handsome boxed set of all five apes films with an added bonus disc of extra features, many of the same as the ones on this disc. Don t get me wrong, I love the film, and this DVD is terrific, but when is enough really enough?|
By now most film fans are familiar with the story of Taylor (Charlton Heston) a bitter astronaut anxious to leave earth behind, who crash lands with his crew on a distant planet millions of light years from earth. Their craft sinks; their supplies are low, so they begin crossing the desert in hopes of finding water, food and perhaps other life. In a corn field they encounter what they assume to be the governing species, humans without the power of speech, barely above being caveman. A growl is heard and the humans are soon running through the corn fields. In a stunning moment Taylor sees the dominant specie on the planet astride a horse hunting the running humans&apes.
Captured and wounded by the gorillas, Taylor is taken to the ape village where a society exists very much like that one he left back on earth. Befriended by two chimpanzee scientists, Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter) and Dr. Cornelius (Roddy MacDowall), Taylor plots to escape the village and strike out on his own. Stunned at his power of speech, the apes fear him and what he could mean to their race, particularly a wily old orangutan, Dr. Zauis (Maurice Evans). With the aid of his friends, Taylor is indeed able to escape the clutches of the apes who mean him harm, and with his female companion, launches into what is known to the apes as the Forbidden Zone . There he finds his destiny; on a lonely beach, sunk to her armpit in the sand is the Statue of Liberty, silently staring back at Taylor. Seeing this long dead icon lets Taylor know he is not on another planet but the earth of the future&he never left. While he was breezing through time in his space craft mankind wiped out the planet and allowed apes to take it over.
The ending of Planet of the Apes (1968) remains one of the great stinger endings of all time, a jolt that knocked audiences all but out of their seats at the time. The screenplay was written by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame, who adapted the book Monkey Planet, written by Oscar winner Pierre Boulle. Serling made the decision to give his film an anti-war statement, thus breaking the ape society into three distinctive groups. We have the orangutans who are essentially the government; the gorillas represent the army, and the chimpanzees who are the youth and hippies. The humans are a metaphor for the Viet Cong, as Serling sought to make a searing commentary on the war that was tearing the United States apart. If one looks deep enough into this film, the parallels are definitely there.
What is often forgotten about the original Planet of the Apes (1968) is just how tremendously good it really is. Charlton Heston gives what ,might be the finest performance of his career as Taylor, and under difficult make-up and masks, Kim Hunter, Roddy MacDowal and Maurice Evans are equally superb. The direction of the film is outstanding, as is the art direction and costume designs, and the spooky and unique music written by Jerry Goldsmith. The groundbreaking make-up created by John Chambers was awarded a special Academy Award in 1968, while the music and art direction picked up nominations.
Four sequels would follow this film, each progressively worse. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) and finally Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) provided 20th Century Fox with their greatest movie franchise until X Men came along. After the films had run their course, a television series ran for one year (mercifully) and then an animated series. In 2001, Tim Burton remade the film, casting Mark Walhberg and Tim Roth in a film that was something of a dud. Audiences complained loudly about the direction the remade took, and the execution of the film itself&it was quite ludicrous and makes the original look all the much greater.
This new special edition comes with commentary from the cast members, documentaries about the making of the film, screen tests and early make-up tests, trailers for the four sequels, and just about every piece of useless information about the films one can imagine.
The best thing about it is the clean transfer of the film in stunning widescreen, which alone is what makes the DVD worth a look. One of the greatest science fiction films ever made, and also one of the great satires of the sixties. Unsettling and disturbing, brilliant in every way.