Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.
Thursday, 21 April 2011
Planet of the Apes
After a 2006 year voyage through space - in which they only age 18 months - three astronauts (Charlton Heston, Robert Gunner, Jeff Burton) crash land on a desolate planet where humans are mutes, hunted by a brutal race of apes that can talk. Taylor (Heston) is the only one captured who truly survives, and when the apes discover he is the only human in "history" who speaks they are shocked when he tells their leader Dr Zaius (Maurice Evans) that humans were once an intelligent species and goes out of his way to find proof that they were before the "history of the Apes", which dates back a mere 1300 years.
In 1968 audiences were so used to their science-fiction being low-budget film-making, all wobbly sets and taccy costumes. What would they have expected from a film about a planet occupied by almost human apes. The puppetry and models of an older film like King Kong (1933)? No. Fur being stuck to the faces of Maurice Evans and others? Most likely. What we get though is a huge surprise. The makeup in this film is exceptional for the time, beautifully crafted and designed with great care and attention to detail, so that all the fur moves and nothing looks out of place or too much. Were it not for the speech one would think we were watching real life apes. The make up does restrict the opening and closing movements of the jaw slightly, but it genuinely is exceptional, and for it's day was so magnificent and impressive to audiences that John Chambers won an Honorary Oscar for Outstanding Makeup Achievement. Coupled with the savage behaviour of said apes, I wouldn't be surprised if younger viewers of the day got scared due to thinking these were real apes gone homicidal and spiteful.
The makeup may be something to make our jaws drop, but the actors behind the makeup still stand out and give superb performances. Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter give very sympathetic and heartfelt performances as kindly ape couple Cornelius and Zira, and the pair have a lovely on screen relationship; while Maurice Evans is very cold and authoritive as Dr Zauis and brings a great sense of wisdom to the character with a powerful performance. Charlton Heston, however, steals it all, bringing an enormous amount of drive and determination to Taylor, in a performance brimming with raw energy. Taylor is a character we are drawn in by from the word "Go" and by following him through almost every second of the film we are made to love this character and yearn for him to succeed.
Our characters are also put against an exceptional backdrop. The planet is much made up of bleak deserts with mountains and great big forests that seem very desolate, and such a bleak and perilous place really puts some fear for the characters you love quickly in your heart, and provides the perfect setting for such danger for our humans to experience. And as for the history, thanks to more the fact that humans have been intelligent and at the very least able to speak since Adam and Eve were first created multiple millenia ago, you do wonder whether Taylor is right about the humans on the planet as the history of the Apes says they have been savage mutes for a good 1300 years, and it seems impossible to think of Earthly humans ever being like that. Therefore the major twist in the final seconds of the film comes as a huge surprise and a bit of shock also. I won't spoil it for you, you just have to watch it.
An absolutely outstanding film, it has more than deservedly stood the test of time, and has spawned a legacy that has seen four sequels (1970-3), a TV series (1974), a cartoon series (1975), a remake (2001), a very memorable musical parody in A Fish Called Selma - a 1996 episode of The Simpsons (1989-), and a prequel due to be released later this year.
Stars: Charlton Heston, Maurice Evans, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Linda Harrison, James Whitmore, James Daly, Woodrow Parfrey, Lou Wagner, Robert Gunner, Jeff Burton, Buck Kartalian.
Oscar: Honorary Award for Outstanding Makeup Achievement (John Chambers).
Oscar nominations: Best Costume Design (Morton Haack), Best Score (Jerry Goldsmith).