Retrospective: Planet of the Apes (1968)

In the run up to the release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I'm going to take a look at each of the films in the fantastic series. I'll skip the animated and live action television series and just focus on the films. I guess it makes sense to start with the first film in the series, huh?

Based on Pierre Boulle's novel, La Planete De Singes, The Planet of the Apes is regarded as a landmark piece in the sci-fi genre. Both Blake Edwards and J. Lee Thompson (Who'd later direct two sequels) were approached, before the role was ultimately given to Franklin J. Schaffner. The film focuses on an American crew of astronauts who crash land on a mysterious planet, thought to be desolate. However, they soon discover that a society of highly evolved apes live on the planet, with humans as their mute slaves. The concept is ripe for 1960s sci-fi with it's strong elements of paranoia, animal cruelty, religious undertones and a splash of 1960s camp.

The cast is lead by chizzle-jawed megastar, Charlton Heston, who is truly on top form - bringing a vast amount of realism to such a madcap concept. We're also introduced to the two stars of the series - Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter as Cornelius and Zira, two kind hearted chimpanzee scientists who help the astronauts when the rest of their society condemns them. The Planet of the Apes also features the iconic Dr. Zaius (who's now a megastar himself after The Simpsons) played by Maurice Evans in a wonderful almost thespian performance.

The Planet of the Apes was completely ahead of it's time. The innovative make-up design of John Chambers was far superior to any other effects produced in the 1960s. The locations are spectacular - with southern Utah being transformed into another world.

It's truly one of the finest pieces of science fiction cinema!

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