Saturday, July 15, 2017

Movie Review: Planet of the Apes (1968)

This sci-fi film began a massive franchise that spawned a new look at evolution and provided an awesome twist. George Taylor (Charlton Heston) is a space pilot floating through space at the speed of light which alters time and moves them forward centuries. When the spaceship crash lands, the crew discovers one of their members has aged to death and their ship is sinking. The three remaining crew members abandon ship and paddle towards land. The environment is strange and desolate and director Franklin J. Schaffner does a great job creating an eerie aura to the foreign planet. Landon (Robert Gunner) is worried about their new life and wants to know where exactly they are while George insists they are far away and will survive by any means necessary. Dodge (Jeff Burton) seeks life on this new planet as a means of survival for as long as they have left.

The crew treks across the barren landscape and find strange scarecrows along with water. Humans native to the planet shred their clothes but are unable to communicate. A strange sound sends them all fleeing and apes on horseback with guns chase them down. Dodge is shot and killed during the skirmish. George notices Nova (Linda Harrison) but is also shot in the throat. The scientist ape Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter) gives George a blood transfusion and notices something different about him. His throat prevents from speaking so Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) does not believe they are intelligent. George is attacked by other humans and tries to write in the dirt but Dr. Zaius cover it up. He finally steals a pen and paper and writes a message for Zira.

Zira's boyfriend Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) believes it's a trick, but also thinks flight is scientifically impossible. Using hand motions and writing, Taylor explains his situation. Dr. Zaius orders him to be gelded so Taylor escapes but is pretty conspicuous as the only human. After a chase, he's caught but he shocks all the apes when he talks. The apes have shoved Nova into the cage with her for them to mate but she is taken away. Taylor is put on trial by Dr. Zaius, Dr. Maximus (Woodrow Parfrey), and other orangutans. He tries to prove his story but finds that Landon has had his brain cut open. The trial continues but the apes' dogma does not let them accept any of the evidence presented by Zira, Cornelius, and Taylor. Dr. Zaius plans to experiment on Taylor.

Zira sends her nephew Lucius (Lou Wagner) to help Taylor escape. Taylor insists on bringing along Nova. Cornelius brings the supplies and the scientist apes and freed humans head to the dig site where Cornelius has proof of future civilizations of humans and primitive apes. Dr. Zaius knew of this evidence but still does not accept the proof after being captured by Taylor. The apes allow Taylor to head into the Forbidden Zone and start his own life. Dr. Zaius insists on blowing up the cave of proof and trying the scientists in court. George discovers the Statue of Liberty in the iconic final shot realizing that he just traveled into the future.

Nearly fifty years later, this film is still quite amazing. I remember being stunned by this film when I first saw it and enthralled with the whole idea of a planet of evolved apes. The adventure keeps the story moving along with the large philosophical and science fiction ideas throughout it. Heston delivers some very quotable lines and the makeup job on all the actors who play apes still looks pretty great today, if not a little silly. This film reminds me of a time long before I was born where the special effects were all practical and the films played with big ideas instead of just spectacle. It also started a franchise that is still popular five decades later and may live on for centuries.  

No comments:

Post a Comment