Retroplex Cinema: The Planet Of The Apes Saga Part 1 - Planet Of The Apes (1968)

Welcome to a special edition of Retroplex Cinema!  Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes hits theaters next Friday so we take a look back at the original Planet Of The Apes saga over the next three weeks in a special multi-part edition of Retroplex Cinema.

Part 1 - Planet Of The Apes 
Part 2 - The Sequels
Part 3 - The Television & Cartoon Show

Planet Of The Apes (1968) is a science fiction classic and one that if you haven't seen by now, you are definitely missing out.  Be warned that there may be spoilers in this article, so if you haven't seen it, be prepared!  The film was based on a novel by author Piere Boulle, and starred Charlton Heston, one of Hollywood's biggest stars of the time.  The film was a huge success by 1968 standards and would spawn four sequels, a television show, an animated series, and a 2001 remake.  Those will all be discussed in parts 2 and 3 of this special Retroplex Cinema.  The original 1968 film tells the story of an astronaut crew who crash-land on a strange planet in the distant future. Although the planet appears desolate at first, the surviving crew members stumble upon a society in which apes have evolved into creatures with human-like intelligence and speech. The apes have assumed the role of the dominant species and humans are mute animals wearing animal skins. Quite a bold and fascinating concept especially for the 1960's.  The civil rights movement was in full swing, political times were changing constantly, and everyone it seems was finding their place in society.  Planet Of The Apes was almost the perfect allegory for the time.

     The script was originally written by Rod Serling but had many rewrites before eventually being made.  Upon the advice of Charlton Heston, the producers chose Franklin J. Schaffner to direct the film. Schaffner's changes to the script included creating a more primitive ape society, instead of the more expensive idea of having futuristic buildings and advanced technology. Filming took place between May–August 1967, mostly in California and Arizona, with the opening scene shot at Lake Powell, Utah. The film's budget was around $5,800,000.  A highly expensive film for that time!
      Planet of the Apes was released on February 8, 1968 in the United States and was a huge commercial success, gaining $32,589,624 at the international box office. The film was groundbreaking for its prosthetic makeup techniques by artist John Chambers, and was well received by critics and audiences.
    The basic plot is as follows:  In the year 3978A.D. a spaceship with a crew of 4 crashes down on a distant planet. One of the crew members had died in space and the other 3 head out to explore the planet. They soon learn that the planet is much like their own. They then find the planet is inhabited by intelligent apes. One of the men is shot and killed and the others are taken to the apes' city. There, one undergoes brain surgery and is put into a state of living death. The other befriends some of the apes but is feared by most. After being put through ape trial he escapes with a female human native to the planet. After helping his ape friends escape a religious heresy trial he escapes out into the wilderness with the female. There he learns the planet might not be so distant after all.  Sounds simple yes, but the depth of a story like this has to be seen to truly appreciate it.  Like we said earlier, if you haven't seen this film yet, then you are missing out!  It truly is a classic piece of science fiction!
     The film still resonates today with it's meanings and philosophical ideals.  The phenomenon of Planet Of The Apes still survives in evidence of the new film hitting theaters next Friday.  Planet Of The Apes has spawned comics books, novels, toys, lunch boxes, parodies, and like we said four sequels, a television show, a cartoon, and a remake.  The sequels are titled Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, Escape From The Planet Of The Apes, Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes, and Battle For The Planet Of The Apes.  In the next part of this special Retroplex Cinema we will take a brief look at each sequel in the series.    Until part two though, check out the images below of the original novel, a couple of comic book covers, and the original trailer for Planet Of The Apes!  You can purchase the original film on Blu-Ray or DVD from TMIAJ, or buy the complete box set on Blu-Ray or DVD also!