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Planet of the Apes

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Planet of the Apes

The Ever Expanding Universe of Simian Adventure

Follow the winding and ever complex path of simian hyper-evolution, from Pierre Boulle's landmark novel The Monkey Planet, to the very first Planet of the Apes film epic that stunned audiences way back in 1968.  Journey through time and space via the infinite lanes of the various alternate realities showcased in the Apes movie sequels, the live action and animated TV series, and back again and again, through the cyclical waves of disparate, yet perhaps somehow interlocking worlds of POTA comic books, film adaptations, fanzines and collectible toys.

   
Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Battle for the Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes -TV Series
Return to the Planet of the Apes
Re-imagining the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes - Books
Fans of the Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes - Stars
Planet of the Apes Toys

Rise of the "Monkey Planet"

Pierre Boulle, Creator of the Planet of the Apes Mythos

First published in 1963,  La Planète des Singes by French novelist, Pierre Boulle first went on to become a ground breaking series of American motion pictures that were released from 1968 to 1973 by 20th Century Fox.

Most would argue that the first film (Planet of the Apes) is the best adaptation of the book to date  - despite the fact that it differs in a number of significant ways from Boulle's original tale.

In the hands of director Franklin J. Schaffner
(Patton) and screen writers Rod Serling (of Twilight Zone fame)
and Michael Wilson (Bridge on the River Kwai), Boulle's story became a mesmerizing dystopian epic that starred Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, noted Shakespearen actor Maurice Evans and screen legend Charlton Heston.

The subsequent films in the series (Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes) brought the story arc introduced in the first film full circle and led the way to a short lived Planet of the Apes televison series in 1974 (also starring McDowall).  An equally short lived animated series (Return to the Planet of the Apes) followed in 1975 and a "re-imagined" motion picture of the same name, directed by Tim Burton, was released in 2001.

Over the years the Apes saga has spawned numerous books, comics, magazines and a wide range of merchandise, including several lines of action figures of various sizes.  Even after more than four decades, Planet of the Apes, in its various collective forms, has legions of devoted fans who have contributed to a number of excellent Internet fan sites that have cropped up over the years.  Of particular note are the online Wiki (The Sacred Scrolls),
The Planet of the Apes Media Archive, The Forbidden Zone (billed as "One of the oldest and most complete Planet of the Ape sites on the Net") and the always impressive group of costumed Ape impersonators from  Apemania.com.

Thoughts on the Plots of the Planet of the Apes

"Why weren't there any baboon characters in the original Apes films and TV series?" a fellow Planet of the Apes fan once asked.  Hmmm.  Good question, but I am not sure if we could honestly or accurately say that there actually are any surviving baboons in the post-apocalyptic world on display in the original Apes films.


A yucky baboon character from Rick Baker's re-imagined POTA - NOT the work of John Chambers

From time to time, I come across someone who casually criticizes the makeup originally designed (and much of it sculpted personally) by John Chambers, but the fact is, when Chambers received the assignment in the late 1960s, he was asked to design "evolved," futuristic apes, not primitve 20th century simians.

Therefore, given the fact that the chimp and orangutan noses designed by Chambers were smaller, more protuding and perhaps a bit more "human-like" than their real life counterparts makes a great deal more sense.  But then... what species evolves that much in the only twenty centuries that are supposed to have passed by in the first two Apes films?  Questions, questions!


Primate evolution at its finest - Just look at those cute little, slightly protuding, chimp noses!

These are not inaccuracies or flaws so much as they are missing pieces of the most fascinating cinematic and literary puzzle of my entire life.  Further, if I'm not mistaken, for example, the script for the original wasn't even fully finalized at the time, so Chambers had to pretty much go with the big three, most well known great apes that would be getting screen time.  By the same token, one could also ask why Bonobos, the smaller cousins of Chimpanzees, weren't also depicted in the film.

Even more, why didn't the apes swing in trees more often, or violently leap into their saddles like in Tim Burton's unfortunate 2001 "re-imagining"?  The point is, that the point is most likely moot, given that 20th Century Fox cut the budgets of all future sequels and even the first film's biggest star (Charlton Heston) was reluctant to reprise his role for future, hopefully more detailed views of the post-nuclear simian part of earth we see in the 1968 film.


"Please... don't... make... me... do... a... se-quel...."

So the brief GLIMPSE of that fascinating ape society seen in the original films and TV series was never properly expanded upon anyway.  In other words, even most life-long Apes fans like myself can hardly imagine what a orangutan female from the classic films would have looked like, much less Zaius' granddaughter.  YET... he DID have a granddaughter, because she is mentioned in a line of dialogue near the end of the first film.  "What does this prove?  My granddaughter plays with human dolls?"

How about Urko's wife Elta from the Planet of the Apes TV series?  We never did definitively see any gorilla females either, but they must've been hanging out somewhere in Ape CityCentral City or wherever (and I'll bet not all of them were stereotyped soldiers or policemen).  And who says Elta was a gorilla anyway?  Though naturally, my guess is that she most likely was.


And come on... why get your picture taken, if not to show off to all the gorilla girls back home?

In any case, like our common human ancestors, I don't think that if you broke it down into sub-species, you could fully represent any and all simian groups in a brief two hour period that was never intended to be a documentary, but more a plot driven futuristic tale that was ultimately more about the modern hominid we seldom remember is actually at the forefront of the great ape family: mankind.


There must be SOME gorilla and orangutan females running around down there SOMEWHERE!

The Ultimate Apes Film Collection

This POTA DVD collection, first released in the mid 2000s is quite comprehensive, and is a definite must have for any serious Apes fan.  The wonderful ape head packaging alone (featuring a life-like miniature bust of the Caesar character from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, is enough to justify the asking price (usually around $100 US, more or less).

Although the set was released before the Blu-ray craze hit, it is notable in that it was the first cinematic Apes collection to feature an extended version of the fifth film, Battle for the Planet of the Apes (with restored scenes deleted from the original theatrical release) and the 1973 Filmation produced Return to the Planet of the Apes cartoon series.

The fantastic promo image a left was produced in the U.K. (as clearly evidenced by the price listed).  It's a highly impressive one-page ad, if for no other reason than that it does such an excellent job of capturing the essence of the original 1968 film and presents several of the main characters in a way that isn't often seen in classic Apes advertising.

Channel of the Apes

On November 27, 28, 29 and 30 of 2008, the Fox Movie Channel presented all five of the original theatrical films in wide screen format in celebration of forty years of the Apes franchise.  Five additional films edited together from selected episodes of the 1974 television series were also screened.  Hopefully, we'll continue to see tributes to Planet of the Apes like this well into the next decade and beyond.

The Fox Movie Channel goes ape!

Planet of the Apes and all related characters, marks and images © Copyright 20th Century Fox

Click here, you damn dirty APE!

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