7 July 2013

Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes 1968
  • Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
  • Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle
  • Cast: Charleton Heston, Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Charlton Heston – Hamlet, Soylent Green, El Cid, Ben Hur
    • Roddy McDowell – Overboard, The Poseidon Adventure, Inside Daisy Clover, Cleopatra, The Longest Day
  •  Why? A classic, cheap box, remembered liking it.
  • Seen: Once or twice back then. Now: July 5, 2013.

      Charlton Heston is so bad it’s embarrassing but then he usually is.  He’s meant to be a macho jerk here, I suppose, and he certainly is.  The gender stereotypes are generally irritating – the dewy eyed mute human babe that Heston falls for and masters, the dead (conveniently) astronaut whose role on ship was to become the Eve of the new human colony, the cutesiness of Dr. Zira – but OK, it was the 60’s after all.
What is somewhat surprising is that so much of the film still works.  The simian religious fundamentalism that denies evolution parallels that of humans in real life even more strikingly today than in the 60’s and the canny old orangutan priest-scientist has a point in trying to keep “man” (in this case the use of the masculine seems to be relevant) under control because of his innate violent, oppressive and murderous ways. Naïve and oversimplified of course but rather effective in keeping old Charlton in his place.
The impressive ending, the image and a-ha feeling which has stayed with me all these years, is still impressive though the surprise aspect is gone and Heston’s unconvincing ranting and swearing (which I don’t remember) rather ruins it.
A fun movie at times with dramatic landscapes (Death Valley? Gobi Desert? Afghanistan? – who knows? They didn’t give a lot of credits in those days) but it’s hard to really care about the characters. I wonder how the other four movies are.  We’ll find out in the next four Fridays.
2 * of 5

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