It all begins with Planet of the Apes, released in 1968 and directed by Frank Schaffner, better known for Patton, made two years later. It's easy to see why the film was a critical and commercial success (the 7th highest grossing film of the year). It was the first big studio science fiction film in over a decade and had a star cast, including Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowell, and Kim Hunter. Shakespearean actor Maurice Evans replaced Edgar G. Robinson at the last minute due to Robinson's ill health. Evans does a fine job but it would have been fun to watch Robinson in ape makeup.
|The spaceship Icarus brings three US astronauts to a strange planet.|
Forced to abandoned their sinking craft, they make it to shore and begin to walk, hoping to find food and shelter. The land is desolate and desert-like, but eventually takes on a verdant character. When they pause to take a dip in a pool, humanoid creatures steal their clothes. They give chase, finding a tribe harvesting food. It appears the astronauts will survive. Suddenly there is a noise, causing the humanoids to flee in panic. Armed gorillas riding horses attack, killing several of the tribe and one of the astronauts. The rest are captured like wild animals; a gun shot grazes Taylor in the throat, leaving him wounded and speechless.
The hunting sequence and sudden appearance of the gorillas is the best scene in the film, as much a shock to 1968 audiences as the characters in the film. Jerry Goldsmith wrote a thrilling innovative musical film score using ram horns and other odd instruments. It is most effective here. Schaffner does a wonderful job creating suspense in the scene, taking his time to reveal what's attacking. All we see at first is something moving through the corn and high grass, beating the vegetation with sticks to drive Taylor and company. We know it's dangerous by the reaction of the tribe. Schaffner smartly intermixes overhead and ground level shots to enhance the dramatic feel, and uses hand-held cameras and odd angles to capture the disorientation of the prey.
|Linda Harrison as Nova.|
|Heston with McDowell and Hunter.|
|One version of the original poster for the film.|
"That's what I'm worried about. Later. Later we'll do something about pollution. Later we'll do something about the population explosion. Later we'll do something about the nuclear war. We think we've got all the time in the world, but how much time has the world got? Somebody has to begin to care."Like the first two films, this one has a surprising climax. Zira keeps the saga going by secreting her newborn (Caesar) in a traveling circus. It is a nice step up in quality from the second film, and introduces the concept of whether man, or in this case an ape, can change the future and thus later history. Depending on how one interprets the sequence of events that follow, you might conclude that Caesar in fact does just that.
|Strange visitors from the future.|
Caesar takes charge twenty years later in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the best of the sequels. He leads a revolt against humans, setting in motion the geneses for the planet of the apes. Though the action here takes place on a relatively small scale--reflective of the declining production budget--there are lots of explosions and fire as police in the city try to halt the riot. It is considerable more violent than the earlier entries in the series.
|Caesar leads his armed apes against humans.|
|Claude Akins as the militant General Aldo in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.|