Planet of the Apes is the classic tale of an upside down world where apes are the dominant species. It’s a concept that could have very easily been campy, but everything behind the scenes ensured that wouldn’t be the case. Respected actor Charlton Heston stars in what is perhaps the most iconic (non-biblical) role of his career. Ironically he’s the only major celebrity not wearing a monkey suit. Although the makeup may seem dated by today’s standards, it was groundbreaking at the time. Sure the mouths sometimes didn’t move properly. It didn’t stop the film from winning an honorary Oscar for Best makeup.
Coupled with thought-provoking themes of class, humanity, war, and even faith, and Planet of the Apes became one of the most talked about movies of the late 60’s. My parents first introduced us to Planet of the Apes at a very young age. With all its profanity, blood, and nudity, Planet of the Apes is the most intense G rated movie ever made. Strangely enough the original, along with the series it spawned, has become my families most consistently watched sci-fi movie franchise…
Planet of the Apes follows a crew of astronauts that crash land on an unknown planet in the distant future. Taylor, Dodge, and Landon are the only ones to survive. Since I missed the opening on my first viewing, I never realized they had a female crew member who didn’t make it. They wander the vast desert in hopes of finding some semblance of life. Only to discover a race of primitive humans that cannot speak. We’re introduced to the apes in the most well executed way possible. When a horde of apes on horseback hunt the humans with nets and rifles.
Taylor and his crew get caught in the crossfire, leaving a now mute Taylor as the lone survivor. He discovers a society of apes consisting mostly of chimpanzees, armed gorillas, and wise orangutans. While treated like an animal at first, Taylor’s intelligence leads to his study. Zira and Cornelius find a way to communicate with him, but it’s not long before Dr. Zaius takes notice. He uses everything in his power to convince them not to seek answers. All that disappears when Taylor speaks for the first time. The scene is as shocking as it is powerful when he says the now iconic line, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”
Unfortunately this just turns Taylor’s world into a madhouse. With his fate in the balance, Zira and Cornelius free Taylor and his mate Nova in hopes of finding answers at the Forbidden Zone. They’re ambushed by Dr. Zaius and his soldiers, but it’s not long before he’s subdued and the truth begins to come out. After sharing an awkward kiss with Zira, Taylor and Nova travel even deeper into the Forbidden Zone. Although they may not like what they find.
SPOILER ALERT! In what most would call the greatest twist ending in film history, Taylor finds a now buried Statue of Liberty. Learning at last that it was Earth all along. It’s Heston’s delivery of “You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you all to Hell!” that really sells the impact of the moment. Although it’s unlikely apes could ever surpass humanity, the thought that we could be the ones to destroy our planet is a distinct possibility. Planet of the Apes gave us a world closer to our own than we thought.
Followed by: Beneath the Planet of the Apes