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November 01, 2008

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Aaron Hillis

Here's that Twilight Zone / POTA mash-up I mentioned last night: http://theforbidden-zone.com/media/tzone.shtml

lazarus

Personally, I've always preferred the third film (Escape From...) and the fourth (Conquest Of...) to the original. Bringing the intelligent apes back to our "present" pushes the racism/xenophobia subtext right to the forefront, and the follow-up which shows HOW the apes took over is actually pretty intense. The endings of both films are just as cynical and chilling as the original's money shot. Roddy McDowell gets better with each installment (changing roles here between the two films), and both have, you know, MONTALBAN.

One of the few series of films that didn't follow the diminishing returns route, though the final installment (Battle For...) is pretty hard to defend.

The TV show wasn't bad, either.

vadim

As a historically deprived young 'un, it's actually pretty OK. It's got decent tension between the dated-but-revealing elements and the actually clever stuff. Plus I'm still weighing the potential merits of Franklin J. Schaffner, auteur. No, really...

Tony Dayoub

This film is eminently defensible, as is the rest of the series (maybe with the exception of "Battle"). The first film works on multiple levels, be it an allegory (which is the most obvious), misanthropic nihilism, a commentary on Heston's predilection on playing messianic protagonists (as Failla points out), apocalyptic forewarning, or even something as simple as a ripping time-travel sci-fi yarn (more airtight than the "Back to the Future" flicks, for sure).

And it has one of the most unique protagonists found in movies up to that point (please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on this one because I really am interested in finding out). Taylor is one of two misanthropic protagonists I remember (the other being Jimmy Stewart's Rupert Cadell from "Rope") that is then forced to defend humanity's virtues in order to prevail in his role as hero.

Campaspe

For me, Planet of the Apes resides in a different, but equally special and peculiar category of film appreciation: a movie whose virtues I can see (kind of) but I still hates it. Bored the stuffing out of me, Charlton or no Charlton.

EXCEPT, of course, that ending, which really does make the whole goddamn movie. Absolutely Glenn, it's one of the most kick-ass, twist-of-the-knife finales any of us will ever see.

bill

Tony, I like your comparison of Heston in "Apes" and Stewart in "Rope". I'll have to watch "Apes" again with that in mind, as it's been a very long time.

Phil G

I've love the series, more from nostalgia than anything else. I grew up in Phoenix, and when I was a kid there was a Saturday morning movie series called "The Great Beyond". They mostly showed old horror and sci fi movies, everything from Val Lewton and the Universal horror pictures to the Hammer movies to THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS to Roger Corman. The Planet movies were shown regularly, and my mom and I would watch them every time. Even though I own them on DVD, I only watch them when we're visiting my parents and one happen to pop up on TV. The movies themselves have always been one of those things that I loved as a kid, but looking back at 34 I just can't see what I saw as a eight year old. Instead of being just good stories, the racist/xenophobic subtext that lazarus refers to is like a hammer to the head. The movies try to hard to be socially conscious and meaningful to the times. I was oblivious to it at the time, but it cringe inducing now.

Tim Lucas

I love the way Heston says "Space is... bound-less" in his opening soliloquy. I have a soft spot in my heart for these movies, which were the closest thing I had to a serial experience in my childhood. Hammer's Dracula, Frankenstein and Mummy movies may have been sequels but weren't often sequential. I can remember taking a tape recorder to the drive-in with me when I saw CONQUEST and replaying Caesar's revolutionary speech all the way home. "And where there is fire, there is smoke. And in that smoke, from this day forward..."

The fifth film is actually conspicuously more entertaining in its longer cut, which (unless I'm mistaken, I'm not morbid about the Apes films) remains available only as part of a Japanese laserdisc set.

Robert

I agree the original Planet of the Apes is a classic (Jerry Goldsmith single handedly change film music forever with this picture). However, I always found its first sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes the most ambition of the series in both its story and imagery. And certainly not wanting to take anything away from Roddy McDowall's and Kim Hunter's contributions to the series, but it is James Gregory's menacing performance of General Ursus (INVADE. INVADE. INVADE) that still stays with me today.

Steven Hart

Funny how quickly the Tim Burton remake as dropped from everybody's memory. And interesting that Charlton Heston was pretty much the only A-list actor of the time who took science fiction seriously. Not just SF, but usually downbeat, dystopian stuff like "Soylent Green" and "The Omega Man."

When Heston went on his jihad against rap music and claimed "Cop Killer" was bad because of its nihilistic message, I wondered why nobody asked him to justify blowing up the world at the end of "Beneath."

lazarus

Tim, I'm pretty sure the current DVD release of Battle For... IS the extended cut, though IMDB only shows it as being three minutes longer (96 min) than the theatrical version. The UK theatrical release was 86 min, which is why some may think that Japanese version is 10 min longer. I'm not sure how much better it could be with just a few minutes added, but I need to see it again anyway.

Steven Boone

As black kids who devoured the Apes films whenever they showed up on local TV in the '70s and '80s, my siblings and I just dug the thinly veiled Black Panther iconography. There is nothing on this earth cooler than gorillas in leather vests charging on horseback. The cropped, contrasty, poorly telecined prints you were apt to see back then just gave the visual metaphors that much more stark, graphic punch. Like a Che or X silk screen tee come to life.

But, yeah, Serling was not Mr. Subtle. The film is beloved mainly for that ending and a pleasing convergence of concept, art direction, costume design, widescreen lensing and Goldsmith's jungle gym score.

exliontamer

I re-watched the five PotA films on AMC over Thanksgiving weekend after having avoided them for a few years (overexposure, don't you know). I was surprised at how bitter and sardonic the original film is -- it leaves us almost nothing to hang on to, obviously, but the fact that the ape civilization plays as a sad, cruel joke on humanity really surprised me. "Beneath" left me cold: visually flat and prone to "Aliens" syndrome, i.e., a virtual remake of the first film with increasingly outre elements piled on in order to distract from uninspired plotting. "Escape," which I'd previously hated, struck me this time as a return to form -- jokey, borderline camp for sure, but true to the tone of the original and just as scathing. The series could've ended there, with that weird, made-up real chimp blabbering "mama" over and over, but "Conquest" is still my favorite due to its unremitting bleakness (the tacked-on ending notwithstanding). "Battle" I still can't stand; it's like the fifth season of "The Wire" -- pointless, empty, and dull, and John Huston ain't no Montalban.

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