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Planet of the Apes

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Planet of the Apes

Starring: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall
Director: Franklin Schaffner
Rated: G
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: February 1968
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Classic, Cult, Action

*Also starring: Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harrison

Review by Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

I might get burned for this but I consider "Planet of the Apes" one of the cheesiest sci-fi films ever made. Cheesy because the concept seems shallow, unrewarding and never takes itself too seriously. A planet full of apes who consider themselves superior to the human race is an idea worth exploring but it is not given the scope and intelligence it so richly deserves.

By now, the original "Planet of the Apes" has become a staple of American pop culture. The bare-chested Charlton Heston spouting such lines as "Get your paws off me, you dirty ape!" and yelling while being hosed down in his cell (Mr. NRA is also quite adept with a rifle) is the stuff of Americana at its hokiest. There is also the scantily-clad human female who mostly looks adoringly at Heston and smiles. The ape council played by such distinguished actors such as James Whitmore and Maurice Evans (who plays Dr. Zaius). There is also the wonderful team of Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter as the ape scientists who feel there is proof of a human existence long before the apes on their planet. And the final shocking image of the Statue of Liberty that remains the most memorable image in the sci-fi canon.

"Planet of the Apes" has a fascinating start as we see the astronauts, including Heston, land on the planet which is as dry and arid as any they had ever seen. Before long they discover humans are used as slaves by apes, thus realizing it is several hundred years into the future indeed. The apes also believe that humans are inferior because they can't talk yet Heston finally has the ability to speak after being tranquilized, uttering the famous line of dialogue. After that scene, things go downhill somewhat, alternating between unintentional humor and some rather sophomoric action scenes. None of it makes a whole lot of sense but there is an underlying social commentary taking place, mostly that the apes begin to see a human face in the humans they captured whom they consider ugly and bestial. It takes a while for them to recognize Heston is not like any other human. The racism angle, particularly for the time of the film's release, is clearly felt.

"Planet of the Apes" is puerile and cheesy but it is fun to watch. Heston overacts but is always a watchable presence. The apes are always credibly played by all the actors, and the late Roddy McDowall does come off best. But the concepts and ideas that were so fascinating to begin with are underdeveloped and unfinished. I still like some meat with my cheese.

Copyright 2001 Jerry Saravia

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