Planet of the Apes (1968)
Dir: Franklin J. Schaffner
What can be much said about this film without spoiling one of the most well-known spoilers in film history?…
Simply, a small group of astronauts on a scientific journey crash-land on a planet 2000 years into the future, only to find that the planet is ruled by primates who dominate human beings harshly as animals.
As this film was made in the late 1960’s, the Apes are played by humans in extensive prosthetics and make-up. Their transformation was so considerable and ground-breaking for its time, that it won the Academy Award for make-up effects, and deservedly so, though they look somewhat crude by modern standards. One of the limits of the prosthetic faces is that the mouths have a very small range of movement, which lets the film down somewhat when the ape scientists are marvelling at how Bright Eyes / Taylor (Charlton Heston) is able to mimic the movements of speech.
However, there is a nice sort of charm to this, that the make up was done physically, which adds something extra to the film when watched back now. The bits of the film that let it down more for me, were where it aimed to be overly weighty. It opens in space on a spacecraft, with Taylor delivering a very poignant monologue about mankind’s propensity towards violence, even before the opening credits have started. It then raises many huge questions through the length of the film, that were then developed with four sequels over the course of the next five years, plus a television series,and then a remake in 2001.
Now those questions are being re-examined afresh with a rebooted franchise… which I’ll now take a look at!