Planet of the Apes

Year: 1968

Production: Apjac / 20th Century-Fox

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Starring: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore

Screenwriter: Michael Wilson, Rod Sterling

Based on La Planete des Singes (1963) by Pierre Boulle

112 minutes; Color


Astronauts crashland on a planet where intelligent apes of three species rule over human savages. One astronaut is killed, one lobotomized, and the survivor (Heston) is put in a zoo. There follows a long middle sequence whose satire, alternating between sharp and heavy-handed, suffers from an attempt to have it both ways: sometimes ape society - in its racism, its snobbery, its casual cruelty - is seen as a reflection of our own excesses; yet sometimes the humans are seem as crass and insensitive alongside the apes, who perhaps have made a better fist of things than we ever did. After unsuccessfully trying to persuade his captors that he is an intelligent being, the astronauts is befriended by two chimpanzee scientists (McDowall and Hunter) who accept his story; with their help he escapes. The final sequence has him fleeing to the Forbidden Zone with a female "savage" and - in a wonderful image (perhaps inspired by Hubert Roger's cover for Asimov's Science Fiction magazine Feb 1941) - coming across the half-buried Statue of Liberty projecting from a sandy beach. He realizes that he is still on Earth but in the far future, having unknowningly passed through a time-warp.

The film is well directed, and the ape make-up by John Chambers is mobile and convincing, and deservedly won an Oscar. A commercial success, Planet of the Apes was one of the 1968 films that made that year a turning point both for the increasing maturity of sf cinema and for its popularity. Planet of the Apes inspired 4 sequels - Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1969), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) - as well as 2 tv series, one live-action and the other animated: Return to the Planet of the Apes, 13 20min episodes (1975). Books spun-off from the animated series include 3 published by William Arrow, #1 and #3 being by William Rotsler and #2 by Donald J. Pfeil: Visions from Nowhere (1976), Escape from Terror Lagoon (1976), and Man, the Hunted Animal. (1976)

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

Related links:
Classic Science Fiction Reviews at scifi.com


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