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Planet of the Apes - 1968

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Enter "A World Gone Insane!"

Planet of the Apes (1968), is a fascinating film that single-handedly addresses culture shock, race relations, social injustice, nuclear proliferation and sociopolitical hypocrisy - all via scifi action adventure and Swiftian political satire.  This, as the film's star, towering screen legend Charlton Heston put it, was the first of the "space operas," nearly a full decade before Star Wars.

Add writers Rod Serling and Michael Wilson (from a novel by noted French author Pierre Boulle), director Franklin J. Shaffner (Patton), Shakespearean actor Maurice Evans and powerful supporting roles by Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and James Whitmore, groundbreaking makeup by John Chambers and, yet still... one of the greatest endings in movie history, and you've got a film that holds up remarkably well to this very day.

POTA -1968 - The first of the cinematic space operas of the latter half of the 20th century

This timeless classic from 20th Century Fox is essentially the tale of a "harsh, embittered" astronaut who accepts a veritable one way mission to a distant star in search of "something better than man."  What he finds however, challenges every idea he ever had about civilization.

ANSA astronaut Colonel George Taylor prepares to embark upon the classic hero's journey

What ultimately becomes of Colonel George Taylor is perhaps best described as a viceral study of the kind of dramatic societal upheaval that the western world, and in particular, the United States, was undergoing in the latter half of the 20th century.

Pierre Boulle's 20th century Odysseus narrowly escapes a watery grave

In Charlton Heston, we see the same, familiar and heroic image of a larger than life screen titan, in the beginning still standing tall, as if chiseled from Biblical stone, much as he had previously been seen set against the backdrop of such immortal classics as Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments.  This time however, our stalwart man of action is quickly and quite literally turned upside down and thrown headlong into a strange alien landscape, to face amazing trials as never before.

At first smug & perhaps a bit too full of adventurous hubris...

Taylor is soon symbolically stripped of his very humanity

As the story moves forward, our protagonist, a smug, perhaps arrogant man among men of the 20th century, finds himself not only grossly culture shocked by the sudden appearance of a race of intelligent, talking apes (of all things), but he is even eventually robbed of the power of speech - the very characteristic that, apart from having opposable thumbs and the ability to walk upright, so quintessentially defines what it means to be a sentient, modern human being.

Taylor injured...

And robbed of every shred of human dignity

Then, in perhaps the most telling chapter in the story of all, the dumb struck Taylor, reduced to a state of wretched animalistic rage, utters one of the most memorable lines of the entire five film series arc.  "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn, dirty ape!"

The fallen angel curses those that have enslaved him

In the end, is our beloved hero (antihero?) really a modern day Odysseus, reminiscent of the one seen in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey?  Or is he a rebellious angel, fallen from grace and unable or simply unwilling rather, to accept his place in the lopsided hierarchy of the far flung future foreshadowed in the Planet of the Apes?  Surely, in a place where man is the lowest order of living thing and apes are the masters, Taylor would much rather "rule in hell" in the desolate Forbidden Zone beyond the precarious borders of Ape City.

Taylor is truly upside down in a world that is an anchronistic mix of past and future

Perhaps most striking is the fact that even though the majority of the story is supposed to take place in 2673 AD, Taylor finds himself somehow also sliding back in time to a 19th century Earth-like existence, surrounded by horses and buggies and antiquated ideas about religion, science and history.

The hero is forced to confront the ugliness within himself by being faced with it from without

"A planet where apes evolved from men?"  Surely, there must be answer.  Perhaps the true heart of the matter lies in the classic journey of the hero.  For the story may be less about apes than Taylor's own personal riches to rags to riches to rags progression towards a kind of bitter self-actualization that he himself could have originally only imagined in his wildest nightmares.

Cornelius, Zira & fallen hero George Taylor, the all too human protagonist of Planet of the Apes

Independent Filmmaker Hervé Attia Goes Ape!

The following video by Hervé Attia showing the filming locations used in the 1968 original Planet of the Apes is impressive enough, but the independent filmmaker doesn't stop there. This amazing movie fan has an impressive list of videos on his YouTube Channel (On The Set - HerveAttia's Channel) that depict himself against the backdrop of scenes from numerous classic films, such as Conan the Barbarian, E.T., Rebel Without a Cause, the Rambo franchise, The Shawshank Redemption and The Terminator.

This incredibly studious filmmaker's personal quest to visit the original shooting locations of all his favorite movies is laudable enough, but the high levels of professionalism and craftsmanship that go into his fascinating video logs smacks of museum quality preservation. You can also follow Mr. Attia on Facebook to stay up to date about his ongoing valiant quest to recapture timeless moments of classic movie magic.

Planet of the Apes Movie Posters

This is my favorite poster from the original film.  It really does an excellent job of depicting the science fiction and adventure elements of the story.  And remember, this was very nearly a decade before Star Wars took the world by storm in 1977.

Planet of the Apes Poster

This is probably the most widely recognized classic Planet of the Apes poster from the original film.  Simple, but quite effective.

Planet of the Apes and all related characters, marks and images © Copyright 20th Century Fox
Planet of the Apes soundtrack music by Jerry Goldsmith

Click here, you damn dirty APE!

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