Rewind Reviews – Planet of the Apes (1968)

Posted on 6 September 2018
By Andrew Siddall
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Some of the most influential sci-fi films came out in the late sixties, with this being one of them. In 1968, we saw the start of one of the most interesting and compelling film series. In this Rewind Review, we travel to the Planet of the Apes.

Based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Pierre Boulle, Planet of the Apes follows a group of astronauts as they crash land on a strange world where a race of highly intelligent apes have assumed the role of the dominant species, and humans are nothing more than mute creatures.

In the lead role, George Taylor, is Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur). Although his performance can be a little over the top at times, he manages to craft a realistic character who is trying to come to terms with where he is. The character is portrayed brilliantly in a way that lets the audience connect with him.

One of the first characters he meets is animal psychologist Zira, a chimpanzee played by Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire). She has a very important role to play and manages to find a way to be relatable.

Zira’s fiancé is archaeologist Cornelius, played by Roddy McDowall (A Bug’s Life). He works alongside his wife to try and convince their people to help Taylor. He has just as important a role to play as Zira, with him being the one to make a case for him. Roddy McDowall does a great job and adds a little extra to the film.

The movie isn’t full of characters trying to help Taylor, with orangutan superior, Dr. Zaius, played by Maurice Evans (The Jerk), who wants Taylor castrated. In many ways, he is the villain of the film, he views humans beneath him and believes they deserve to be treated as such. This is a character that represents the worst of humanity.

Waking up aboard their spaceship in the year 3978, Taylor and his two surviving crewmates land on an unknown planet. Whilst searching their new surroundings, they are caught up in a hunt by armed gorillas on horseback. With Taylor sustaining injuries to his throat, he tries to communicate with his captors and tell them he is just as intelligent as them.

It’s a slow moving story with lots of thought-provoking questions which it doesn’t necessarily answer. Humans, in this world, are primitive, treated as vermin and kept locked up in cages to be killed, enslaved or experimented on, and when one (Taylor) starts showing signs of being intelligent, they question what to do with him.

This movie came out years before computer technology had really taken off, so all of the apes are brought to life with actors wearing masks. Today it might not look great, but back then, it was good enough to receive an Academy Award. Each character is given their own style and look which helps give them their own unique presence.

It seems like an odd choice to have the film take place in the middle of a desert-like location and not in a dense jungle. It makes sense later on, and helps evoke the alien feel to the planet, making the astronauts seem out of place.

The score was created by music legend Jerry Goldsmith (Alien, Mulan), which utilises a lot of percussion instruments. It has a jungle-esque theme to it and manages to sound very alien and threatening at the same time. It’s a great soundtrack and enhances the movie wonderfully.

In the years that followed, there were four sequels to this film with varying success, along with two different TV series in the mid-seventies. This movie series has managed to garner a new audience with each generation, with Tim Burton’s good but confusing remake, and the modern near-perfect reboot trilogy starring motion capture guru, Andy Serkis.

It is a series that keeps on going with a thought-provoking question that is still just as relevant today as it was in the sixties and the big twist is still just as shocking. This is truly a must-see for sci-fi fans and movie lovers.

Purple Revolver rating: 4/5. “It’s a mad house!”