Planet of the Apes
U.S.A. / 1968
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Charlton Heston
Roddy McDowall
Kim Hunter
Color / 112 Minutes / G
Format: DVD(R1 - NTSC)
20th-Century Fox Home Entertainment
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35th Anniversary Edition (2004)

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    6   10 = Highest Rating  
Guest Review by Lucas Micromatis
With Tim Burton's revision hitting theaters and a reissue of the DVD set on the horizon, it seems appropriate to take a look back at the original Planet of the Apes. Adapted from the novel Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle, the first film started a phenomenon which sparked four sequels, a TV series, a Saturday-morning cartoon series, tons of memorabilia, and even a brief musical adaptation on The Simpsons.
    Planet of the Apes is an undisputed science fiction classic for many reasons. On one level, it is a pure fantasy escapist entertainment. Astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston, The Omega Man) crash-lands on a mysterious planet where evolution has apparently reversed: apes dominate man. Subjugated and feared by his captors because he is the first human with the power of speech, Taylor struggles to escape this "madhouse" with the aid of two sympathetic chimpanzee scientists, Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter). Of course, his struggle leads to a zowie of an ending a Twilight Zone-ish twist which surely must have pleased co-scriptwriter Rod Serling, and which still packs a punch.
    On another level, though, Planet of the Apes clearly reflects the turmoil and strife uprising during the 1960s. The film attacks and satirizes various issues war, civil rights, etc. dominant in the public consciousness. While the satire seems cheap today and elicits more groans than knowing laughs (yes, the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" bit is a tad silly, though I enjoy it), it still does not detract from the overall power of the film. A great part of its success
must be attributed to the astounding make-up work of John Chambers, highly deserving his special academy award. While primitive by today's standards, the ape make-up was an incredible achievement of its day and still impresses. Kudos must also go to some remarkable performances from the ape actors. McDowall and Hunter shine through their facial appliances, as does Maurice Evans as one of the best sci-fi villains ever, Dr. Zaius. Heston, who chews the scenery with such aplomb and is given reams of instantly quotable lines, owns the role of Taylor and gives it his all.

The DVD, though skimpy on extras, is well-presented. The film looks and sounds fantastic; the remastered Dolby Digital Surround audio track breathes new life into this oft-seen classic. (The 2:35:1 Widescreen transfer is not anamorphic, unfortunately.) The animated menu screens feature various samples from composer Jerry Goldsmith's excellent, groundbreaking score. An extremely limited photo gallery is included, a paltry effort considering the wealth of material on this film. Fortunately the disc does come with the theatrical trailers to all five of the Apes flicks, a nice touch. I just wish Fox hadn't given away the surprise ending on the packaging. There's got to be at least some folks out there who haven't seen the movie yet. 7/30/01
UPDATE A 2-disc special 35th Anniversary edition of Planet of the Apes was released by Fox in 2004. In addition to a remastered anamorphic transfer and a Dolby 5.1 Surround audio mix, this new, definitive edition is loaded with extras: the 2-hour documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes, two audio commentaries, a text commentary, outtakes, featurettes, galleries, trailers and more. EC rates it a solid "10". - Ed.