You may, or may not, remember when I started a list of my seven favourite films. I began this endeavour at the start of October, and lost motivation after my fourth article…
However! I’m back in action now, and this is the fifth film on my list of movies (which are in no particular order, expect the last one which is, of course, my favourite). So I hope you enjoy the read, and all I can do is offer an apology for taking so long to get back to this series.
“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”
Those of you who have read my review of ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ probably know that I have a lot of love for this franchise. But I’m not talking about the franchise as a whole this time, I’m talking about the original (and arguably the best) film that started it all.
‘The Planet of the Apes’ was based on the novel of the same name by Pierre Boulle, the same guy who wrote ‘The Bridge over the River Kwai’. While the film shares the basic, genius premise of talking apes and the struggle of communication, it differs from the novel a fair bit. I’ve read the book and I’ve seen the film and I have to say… I think I prefer the film. This is a rarity for me, because I can never read enough books, and I almost always prefer the written story with all its intricate details and full characterisation. It’s common for a lot of that detail to be lost in the translation to the big screen. However, sometimes a film comes along that not only meets your expectations, but exceeds them. I’m not saying that the film of ‘The Planet of the Apes’ is a whole lot better, it’s just the one I prefer.
One reason for this is the changes in the plot. Tim Burton’s awful early 2000s remake follows the book’s plot a little more closely, but still differs a fair amount (not in a good way), and while it’s still a fairly strong plot with a twist at the end, the original film just can’t be beaten by book or remake. As I’ve said, it keeps the same basic premise, however, there are a lot of key changes. I won’t dive into these as, while it’s an old film, you may not have seen it yet. If you haven’t, then what the hell are you doing reading this article for? Go and watch it!
I joke, please read this article.
It’s a science fiction classic, released in 1968 (the same year as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, making 1968 a great year for Sci-fi), and while some of the special effects are certainly dated due to its age, it’s very easy to look past this. In fact, the only effects that really look dated are the scenes in the spacecraft at the very start of the film, which are honestly only seen in the first ten minutes or so. Every other effect, costume, set and makeup (especially) are superb, and in fact the make-up artist, John Chambers, won an honorary Academy Award for his work on the film. From the beautifully barren landscapes of the “Forbidden Zone” to the rough, but intricate, cities of the apes, all the scene are iconic in their styles. One particular detail that has stuck with me all the years since I first saw this film is the appearance of the “Scarecrows”. They are some freaky set pieces.
The acting in this film is equally impressive, and while some may laugh at Charlton Heston’s manly-man character and his (admittedly) slightly over-the-top acting, the film would not be the same without him. He is such a quotable, classic character, and the impact both his performance and the character has had on culture is huge. For example, without Heston and ‘The Planet of the Apes’ you almost certainly wouldn’t have one of the funniest comedic characters ever conceived-Zapp Brannnigan.
Props also go to Roddy McDowall for his performance as Cornelius, and Maurice Evans as the cynical, and sarcastic Dr Zaius.
Not to get too pretentious here, but the film does have a poignant message at the heart of it, even if the punch is delivered by a shock twist. Heston’s character embarks on the mission to find life beyond Earth because he is tired of mankind and its faults, and he says that he wants to find a society or life that doesn’t get caught up in petty squabbles or seeks to oppress the individual. However, the society he and his companions stumble upon is the epitome of what he was seeking to escape. It’s also a fairly obvious commentary on animal treatment and hunting, with the roles of humans and apes reversed so dramatically.
Anyway, as I’ve said, it’s a sci-fi classic, a film that will last in memory long after it’s sequels and spin offs have faded in obscurity. The reason for this is that the script, the story and the portrayal of the characters are so timeless that generation after generation can appreciate the film despite the obvious ageing. That’s all I can really say about it, because, as with a lot of my favourite films, songs and albums, it has something about it I can’t really define that draws me to it. I highly recommend this film to you if you haven’t seen it, and if you have, watch it again! Time always lets you appreciate things from a new perspective.