“Take your stinking paws off me, you d***** dirty ape!”
This is one of my parent’s favorite films so I grew up watching the whole series-although I only ever watched Beneath the Planet of the Apes once as it freaked the living daylights out of me.
I remember this film being a major part of my childhood and watching it again and again.
So back in 2016, they rereleased this in theaters and I took my mom for her birthday. When they rereleased Psycho (1960), I took notes in the theater (in the dark) and transcribed them into the post you can read.
I had planned to do the same here, as you know-kill two birds with one stone. Unfortunately, I lost the notebook and my notes.
I always planned to review it, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. But then when someone donated the full original series to the library, I thought what better time than the present to review the whole series? (Fingers crossed I can do it) And I plan (fingers crossed) to review a Planet of the Apes film every Wednesday.
I was going to watch the film, when unpacking some boxes I found my original notes.
So I plan to transcribe them.
Yes, notes I made three years ago, in the dark, in handwriting that my sister describes “as pretty to look at but hard to read”. Maybe its crazy, (yeah totally) but you know me-I love a challenge. So here we go!
First off, the makeup is amazing. This was before they had a category in the Oscars or else this would have won hands down.
It took a while to get this filmed made as everyone said no. No one would sign on until Charleston Heston agreed to play George Taylor. Both Edward G. Robinson and Burt Lancaster were considered for the part, but I can’t see anyone else but Heston as Taylor.
If it wasn’t for him this film never would have been made.
They had to create a special makeup, one that was porous so the people could sweat through, they sweated A LOT as this was filmed in a desert area.
So looking back, this film came out only one year before we go into outer space. Weird, huh.
So the film is set in 1972 Earth time, but on the ship, because of space travel, it is the year 3978. The musical theme is pretty creepy, setting you up well for the film that lies ahead.
Weird to think that while they are traveling, hundreds of years have passed.
“George Taylor: The men who sent us on this journey are long since dead and gone. You who are reading me now are a different breed – I hope a better one. I leave the 20th century with no regrets. But one more thing – if anybody’s listening, that is. Nothing scientific. It’s purely personal. But seen from out here everything seems different. Time bends. Space is boundless. It squashes a man’s ego. I feel lonely. That’s about it. Tell me, though. Does man, that marvel of the universe, that glorious paradox who sent me to the stars, still make war against his brother? Keep his neighbor’s children starving?
They end up crashing the ship and that’s as much as I can get from my notes. Too much time has passed, I can’t read what I was writing. I’m going to have to scrap this plan and rewatch it. I love the film, so it is no big loss.
That opening monologue makes w think of that Twilight Zone where the guy is speaking into his radio and he crash lands on the plane and meets the girl, calling her Eve.
It must be so weird to talk to these people, when the ones you knew and sent you on this mission have been dead for thousands of years.
So there are three men on the mission and one woman. Even as a kid I always thought that was odd and I found even more so as an adult. If they took their own “Adam and Eve” wouldn’t it make much more sense to have more than one woman?
The music intro with the names is so weird-a mix of spacey and tribal. It perfectly sets you up for the ride ahead.
As they are coming toward a planet the plane spins here and there-twist and turns as it crashes and jeez, is it painful to watch. It rather gives me a headache and in the theater I remember I felt a bit queasy.
The three men survive, but the woman’s bed was cracked and she aged and died. When I was a kid I always felt she drew the short stick, but as an adult realizing that whole “Adam and Eve” plan, plus what is too come-I think she was actually pretty lucky.
The crash means they need to get out quick, so the abandon the girl to her watery grave and head out on a raft.
George Taylor: Okay we are here to stay.
How awful to be stuck on an unknown planet and to never be able to go back and no clue if there is anyone coming after you. I mean the whole Earth could have imploded after they were gone!
So I have watched this film a GAZILLION times, I mean I literally can’t tell you the number as it has been so many-I don’t even know. But this is the first time I have caught this scene when they are talking and Dodge says, “its not where we are but when we are.”
There were the seeds foreshadowing the end in this film all along.
So all they have are supplies for three days, one gun, and a silver metal backpack. Why did they design it that way? It doesn’t look very logical, useful, or comfortable.
So as they climb to search for some mark of land or civilization in this desert, they talk bit. They have been away from “their” Earth for over 2000 years. Landon has hope they could return and see their friends and family, but Taylor is more realistic. He thinks any shred of what they knew is gone (which makes a lot of sense. I’m writing this and the world has changed a lot from 19 AD) and he finds no point in thinking about it as they can’t get back. (I want you all to remember how he feels as this point in the film).
Wherever, or whenever, they are all there is is empty land. Rocks, desert, and sand as far as the eye can see. Empty. Dry.
But they have the strangest weather-lightning and thunder no rain, no moon, clouds during the day. Where…when…are they?
Taylor and Landon fight-Landon the hopeful while Taylor the sarcastic. The way the two talk reminds me of that Twilight Zone episode when the guys crash land on he planet with the tiny people.
By the way have I mentioned that 1) I ABSOLUTELY love The Twilight Zone, and 2) Rod Serling helped write the screenplay for Planet of the Apes, and 3) Today just happens to be the anniversary of The Twilight Zone appearing on TV. Happy Anniversary to you, and thank you Rod Serling for being a true American treasure.
Sorry, back to the film. So Dodge finds a weed and gives them hope, where there is one there is another! And water!
As the day turns to night and their silhouettes stomp across the land the music starts up-and starts putting you in the mood that something is not right, something about this is about to be the opposite of what they wanted.
As they walk something is watching them top the cliffs? Friend or foe? You know me, I’m always go on the side of caution I think it is someone not to be trusted, a foe!
As they continue they find these weird cross things…scarecrows? Upon closer inspection they are. They just march past them and it clear none of these guys were a historian or art historians or else they would know that these mean something bad and to turn away. See this is why historians are important!
But because they aren’t they go charging past this warning and into the waterfall below, disrobe, bathe/swim-we see Charleton Heston booty.
Landon sees a footpeint in the mud-human footprint. They then spot someone stealing their clothes and they follow. They find a trail of their belongs wrecked and torn apart. Their clothes are in pieces but they do find enough to cover themselves to pass the censorship.
Although, now that I think about it. Weren’t these clothes supposed to be suitable for space travel? Why would they tear so easily?
We see humans hanging out in trees and cornstalks, collecting food, and eating fruit. They appear to be vegetarian. That’s good to know. If you end up on an unknown planet/area-its great if the people aren’t going to eat you.
Then a roar is heard and all scatter. Our three heros are at a loss, but if the natives are running for their lives-they figure they best get out too.
Something is coming, slashing the stalks, on horses. but what? Even though we know it is planet of the apes, I love how they drag it out and really played it up for us. So then when you see them, you are just like wow!
Even after all these years the makeup is amazing, they look so real. I know everyone and everything is so into CGI, but I don’t like CGI. I think it looks so fake and unreal to me. I like the old school Ray Harryhausen and the makeup effects done in this. It looks real and tangible. CGI always looks like it isn’t on the right plane. Like when you draw something but it is floating the in the midde of your paper instead of being on he ground with weight.
The apes hunt the humans catching them in nets, shooting a few. It is really amazing the way they mimic big game hunters.
All are captured and brought and carted to cages, Taylor gets hurt in the throat and can’t speak for a while.
As an adult watching this you see that there are a lot of undertones of other things going on in this movie. The doctor’s argue about funding, support, and promotions. The “quota system” has been abolished and yet there are those who rank on the bottom that stay there (the chimpanzees). The male doctor tells the Zira to try and get Dr. Zauis, who is in charge of funding to give them more as “you made it.” Almost as of he is insinuating that she got passed through because she is a female trying to fill a quota. Not every film can, but this is able to present real life issues in scifi.
Dr. Zira is an animal psychologist, who won’t take anything from that other doctor-don’t mess with her. Dr. Zira is studying humans believing them to be more intelligent than the others believe. A lot of her thoughts and tests remind you of how they test apes and teach them sign language or other things. This film is that good.
Dr. Zauis is an orangutang and at the top of the power system. He wants everything to remain the same and tells Dr. Zira she is wasting her time-experiment on the brain more than anything else, He would prefer the human race to be exterminated as they ravage their crops. It makes me think of Wyoming and the debate between the farmers about the wolves among their cattle.
Dt. Zira tries to match up Taylor with the woman who they used to give him a blood transfusion. Its so weird that she is trying to breed them, but it is done with animals every day.
Dr. Cornelius is he fiancé of Dr. Zira, and played by Roddy McDowell who I just adore.
Taylor wants to talk to them, but he can’t as his throat is still healing, He tries to sign but they ignore him. He tries to write it on the dirt, but it is brushed away. He gets in a fight with another guy over his “mate”, and this scene always makes me think of Bambi with the deers.
Dr. Cornelius is an archeologist who wants to do another dig into pre-civilization. Dr. Zauis sees part of what Taylor wrote and doesn’t act too surprised about it covering it up. Interesting…
So the Chimps are the intellectuals and scientists, the gorillas the muscle being the army and security, and the orangoutangs run everything in politics and the church.
Back at the cage Taylor steals Dr. Zira’s notepad and pencil when she comes close to the cage writing:
“MY NAME IS TAYLOR.”
She goes to show her fiance, but he doesn’t believe it. He thinks he was taught tricks like for the circus and it is crazy to believe he went to public school in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Falling out of the sky, that’s crazy.
He builds a paper airplane and they are amazed, there are no planes or cars or such in their society. And even after seeing all that Cornelius still doesn’t believe he was in the forbidden zone (past the scarecrows) which no one can survive,
Dr Cornelius has an idea that apes evolved from humans and Dr. Zira thinks that Taylor is proof and the will believe him as it is the truth.
Hhahahahahahahahjahhahahahahaha this is why you all need a historian.
Dr. Zira wants to shake the world, but Dr. Cornelius doesn’t feel the same way. He wants to be comfortable as their life is moving forward. Their discussion is interrupted by Dr. Zauis and his companion who came to see Dr. Cornelius.
Dr Zauis sees the airplane right away and destroys it. Hmmm…but again he’s not surprised. What does he know?
The next day the apes come for Taylor as Dr. Zauis wants him lobotomized. Hmm…what does he know?
Taylor however escapes. I have always loved this part. He runs through the village which is very basic and rocklike. It’s interesting how Dystopian stories are either super high-tech, or they take place in a world that has regressed. He run scaring people and attacking to try and escape.
He runs through the Flintstone like dwellings-outsmarting the apes at every turn. In the museum he finds his fellow astronaut, Dodge-taxidermied.
But while he runs and runs his luck does run out as he is surrounded by apes-having things thrown at him. They eventually catch him and then he yells out to everyone, in front of everyone-all shocked and amazed. One of my favorite parts.
He returns to his cage with his “mate”trying to talk to her but it is hard as she doesn’t speak.” Weeks later they separate them and take Taylor to the tribunal. All orangoutangs are the judges as they control everything.
They put Taylor in front and rip the clothes off Taylor. He stands there as they argue around him. He has rights as he’s a man. Taylor tries to defend himself, but they muzzle him.
I love when Taylor questions their “equality” as it seems some apes are more equal than others-Animal Farm reference.
Taylor writes a statement about him from being from outer space and they toss it. They refuse to believe anything he says. They search for Landon to back up his story, but his shipmate has been lobotomized.
[to Dr. Zaius after he finds a lobotomized Landon]
George Taylor: You did it. You cut up his brain, you bloody baboon!
They return to the “trial” and say he suffered a skull fracture. Yeah right, they are just suppressing the truth. Cornelius tries to help by sharing his idea that Taylor comes from the Forbidden Zone.
He found proof of another culture before he apes, human. They think that Taylor came from there.
Dr. Zira tries to share, but the orangoutangs will not listen. She argues that if they are certain that he isn’t from space, the only logical explanation is that Taylor needs to be from our planet. So if he is from the planet than that means all huamns should have the same abilities.
Oh jeez what a can of worms.
They live him in there with Dr. Zauis who reveals he knows he is Taylor is more than what they were saying and that they are not only going to expriment and kill him, but he’s perfect to take down Dr. Cornelius and Zira. He tries to make a deal to figure out who his tribe is to try and take them down.
Dr. Zauis admits that they did know Landon talked but he wanted to protect their society and destroyed him. Dr. Zauis still doesn’t believe him from space. He gives him six hours to admit where his people are-or all are dead.
That night, a young chimpanzee comes with an order to move Taylor to the zoo. The chimp knocks out the gorilla guard, as he is revealed that he is Dr. Zira’s nephew Lucius.
They rescue his “female,” Nova a well. They give Taylor some clothes to wear, but he doesn’t want to as it stinks. Dr. Zira has to push him as most apes think all men look alike and if they have any hope of succeeding he needs to look the part.
I don’t know why he gets so whiney, they are trying to save him.
They drive away and meet up with Cornelious who brought extra horses for the humans. Cornelius ad Dr. Zira hav been indicted for hearesey. They decided they need to go out to the Forbidden Zone to find human remains to save themselves.
Taylor plans to go to go back to where his ship crashed, and asks about the river and the forbidden zone but no one knows why or where it goes. It was all determined long ago in the sacred scrolls.
A they travel and make camp, Taylor stops to shave his beard (why?). They are all amazed and Cornelius says it makes him look less intelligent.
I love Cornelius. He’s my favorite character as Roddy McDowell is awesome. Dr. Zauis and his apes follow them but Taylor is a great shot. He takes Dr. Zauis hostage. They strike a deal that if they have proof Zauis will let them off the hook. Lucius has to stay behind to watch the camp-and he acts like all angry teens. the man is trying to keep him down. Guess it doesn’t change which planet or decade you are from.
They go into the cave and find the ancient culture more advanced, like dark ages. So much technology has been lost through time. Dr. Zauis says that the Geologists on his staff would laugh at Cornelius’ dating-yeah because they are controlled by you.
They find a doll by the fossil of a man but no ape. Dr. Zauis just turns him down, but Taylor finds false teeth, fabricated heart valve, and eyeglasses
Nova plays with the doll and it says Mama. All I can think is it must have been a really well put together doll to last throughout so many years.
They then hear gunshots and go to try and help Lucius. Taylor fakes he is injured and takes Zauis hostage again. Taylor ties up Dr. Zauis while Zira and Cornelius are a little lost at what is happening.
Taylor points out that men were here first and that Dr. Zauis knews it all along. Dr. Zauis reveals that he is right.
Taylor decides to ride off and follow the shore. He invites Zira and Cornelius but they can’t leave, they can’t give up on their planet.
Taylor and Nova take off and I always like how this didn’t have a happy ending-they left it open ended. We don’t quite know what will happen next.
Dr. Zauis shares that the humans destroyed everything. The Forbidden Zone was destroyed when it used to be a paradise. But Taylor is still unsure. A planet where Apes evolved from men? Can that be? They take off into the forbidden zone.
Dr. Zauis seals up the cave and then decides to put Dr. Zira and Dr. Cornelius on trial for heresy.
Taylor and Nov ride off – and the landscape, but as they ride they find something so terrible it makes Taylor scream in shock.
“George Taylor: You maniacs, you blew it up. Damn you. Damn you all to hell.”
It is the head of the statue of liberty! He never left his planet. Dodge was right they went through time, not space!
So the writers wanted something big to end on-and this is highly disputed who really thought up the ending. The “official” answer is that they were trying to figure out how to show that they were on Earth the whole time and were having lunch at a deli in NYC and saw all the Statue of Liberty souvenirs and it struck them! The perfect way to show it was a destroyed Statue of Liberty.
It doesn’t matter to me, I love it and think it is just as amazing as when I first watched it.
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For more Charlton Heston, go to Work Will Always Be There But You Might Not Be: The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
For more Roddy McDowell, go to That Darn Cat
For more dystopian future films, go to This is a Bad One, the Worst Yet. I Need the Old Blade Runner…: Blade Runner (1982)