run time: 112 mins
considered: Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi
director: Franklin J. Schaffner
starring: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harison, Robert Gunner, Lou Wagner, Woodrow Parfrey, Jeff Burton, Buck Kartalian, Norman Burton, Wright King, Paul Lambert
movie summary: The United States has always been had the desire to travel and discover the furthest reaches of space. A group of astronauts led by George Taylor (Charlton Heston) board a spaceship and head into deep space where they seem to travel through time even though it’s only been 18 month in human time. Their ship crash lands into a lake in the middle of a landscape none of them recognize. Taylor along with his shipmates John Landon (Robert Gunner), and Dodge (Jeff Burton) climb out of their ship and swim to land in order to check their supplies. Dodge figures the land is un-inhabitable so the three of them begin to walk across the hills and deserts in hopes of finding signs of life.
It is the year 3978 AD, roughly 2,006 years from the last time these three were on Earth. On their journey across the deserts they stumble across a fresh water lake that they decide to bath and clean up in. While in the water their clothes are stolen which leads the three astronauts to chase the thief’s into the woods, while in pursuit they come across a pack of humans hiding in a cornfield. Out of nowhere a group of gorillas riding on horseback carrying firearms ambush the humans capturing them all up in nets. Before Taylor can understand what is going on he is shot in throat while one of his crew mates is killed and the other suffers a major head injury. He is dragged to a prison cart and thrown in with other humans who can not talk. Taylor’s throat is bleeding out, he’s lost his ability to talk, and has no one to communicate with.
In Ape City, Zira (Kim Hunter) is an animal psychologist who has been working with humans for years. She takes care of Taylor’s wound and takes a liking to him because he has a fighting personality and appears to be different from the other humans. In an attempt to communication he survives a beating to grab Zira’s notepad to write his name on it. Zira is shocked to learn he write, never mind read, and speak. She convinces her husband Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) that Taylor, also named Bright Eyes, is the perfect human to study. He would be able to provide her all the details of their race and what they are capable of. When Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) learns that Taylor may be the smartest human they ever captured he orders his brain to be cut open and ripped apart. To avoid being brought to a museum and put on display, Taylor escapes the cage and runs around the city before getting recaptured. He yells out “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape” which sends everyone into shock.
No one had ever heard a human speak until that very moment and everyone was taken back by what he said. A tribunal is called immediately to deal with Taylor and to determine what he has said about humans is real or not. During the trial Taylor pleads his case but the orangutans will have nothing of it and point to the great scrolls to explain that Taylor is lying. During the night Zira employs her nephew Lucius (Lou Wagner), to break him out of prison along with his girlfriend Nova (Linda Harrison). Cornelius meets the pair and offers to take him to the Forbidden Zone, a place apes have never been, in an attempt to help him find the answers he’s been looking for.
my thoughts: In 2001 I went to the theatre in Boston to see Mark Wahlberg star in the remake of Planet of the Apes. I never really got into the Planet of the Apes saga until this past summer and felt it was time to finally sit down and try my hardest to enjoy the five movies that changed cinema history. Anyone interested in watching the original Planet of the Apes from 1968 needs to understand that back than the special effects were state of the art and the make up with out of their world. Most of us are spoiled today with computer generated characters that look more real life then most humans do, but in 1968 these apes wore real costumes and make up, there’s no CGI which made their appearance more authentic. Their ape characters are so real that this story comes across as really believable, that one day apes could rule the world.
Charlton Heston was already a famous movie star before he took on the role of George Taylor. No matter where the franchise goes in the future, he is always looked back upon as the leading star, that without him the original movie wouldn’t have been successful and spawned a sequel and others without his star power. He has always played a rugged tought guy who doesn’t take any crap from anyone. He was the perfect leading guy to challenge the apes, and although he spends the majority of the movie not speaking, when he does he threatens to bring down everything apes have come to know which makes him the biggest threat their society has ever faced. Taylor will fight until the bitter end in hopes of discovering the truth of where he is, how he got there, and how the apes came to be so superior.
Although Kim Hunter steals the show as Zira, I actually enjoyed her husband’s character Cornelius’ character played by Roddy McDowall. She has a soft spot for humans, willing to study and try to understand humans no matter the risk to her life or career. Cornelius comes across as the level-headed ape who is very well-educated and uses those smarts to keep his wife in line as well as keep his superior apes happy by doing whatever they asked of him. He is like a scientist who knows more than the average ape but keeps his mouth shut of his discoveries because of the consequences. There is a hierarchy amongst the apes and he’s nowhere near the top, but if he just puts his head down and does what is required he can live happily ever after. There are many other characters that impact the story like Maurice Evans’ Dr. Zaius and Linda Harrison’s Nova, but they come across as minor characters in the overall plot that really focuses on three people who will try to change their destiny’s forever.
The only thing I wanted to point out that I disliked about the original storyline and the remake from 2001 is the time travel aspect. I fell in love with the new movies from 2011 and 2014 because of how realistic the story is, that we as humans, created super intelligent apes that break free, begin to form colonies, and avoid being around humans. What I think sucks about the original movie is everything is centered around light year time travel which is so unrealistic even for 2014 let along 1968. I know that time travel is the basis to almost every single sci-fi movie/book ever made but they could have come up with a story without using spaceships that travel 2000 years into the future. It was a great concept that sold tickets and put people in seats, I just wish they would have come up with a better introduction.
my final thoughts: For the fans of the original Planet of the Apes series this is by far the best movie of the franchise. For those of you who are not familiar with the story or movie but love Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, take a minute to go back in time to an enjoy a classic movie that changed things forever. This movie used to be on Netflix but has since been taken off. I’m sure if you wanted to watch it someone you know has a copy so just ask them to borrow it because it is worth a watch.
my star rating: 7 out 10
rottentomatoes.com: 89% out 100%
rogerebert.com: 3 out 4
2 thoughts on “Planet of the Apes (1968)”
Interesting to see the original (and by far the best) Apes movie get a mention here.
As a writer myself, the dialogue from this 1968 Classic is exceptional.
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I love that the original had that slow, languid, atmosphere in the beginning – it made the discovery of the Apes very jarring. Great review 🙂