Planet Of The Apes (1968)
Plot: An astronaut crew crash lands on a planet in the distant future where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species, and humans are the oppressed and enslaved.
Our movie begins with Captain George Taylor chilling in the space ship, leaving the last log before he goes into hypersleep. All this space stuff and time bending has made him feel lonely. Just soliloquying about humanity while smoking a cigar. Stuff you do while in space. We're shown the rest of the crew, who are already in hypersleep.
The title sequence is a very basic, "music over credits" type of thing, with the background being flying through the cosmos. The music is weird, though.
The ship comes in for landing, and we get some great nature shots of what appears to be Arizona. Somewhere in the Southwest. The men all have beards upon waking up. The one woman aboard the ship has turned into a mummy/witch thing. With a bizarre sound effect to let you know she's dead. As if you couldn't tell. Oh no, the ship has sprung a leak! Man, imagine that. You float through space for two thousand years only to drown in a lake. The ship says it is 3978. That can't be right. Love all these helicopter shots. The Southwest is so cool. I need to go back.
Well, they didn't drown in the lake and made it to land. They've got three days of supplies. Landon plants an American flag, which makes Taylor lose his god damn mind with laughter. Taylor is kind of a dick. He seems to enjoy pointing out that everyone's family and loved ones are dead 3000 light years away. What the fuck, man. He's riding the shit out of Landon. We find that Taylor hated earth, thought humans were worthless, and has always thought there was something better than man. You don't say. Dodge is the knowledge freak of the group. And Landon, well, he just wants to live forever. OH SHIT, A PLANT. THERE IS LIFE ON THIS PLANET! And...scarecrows?
Past the scarecrows is a water fall. Greenery. So, naturally, they skinny dip and have a good time. Wait. Why are they reacting to this water like its this blessing? They landed in a god damn lake. They find foot prints and then someone (or something) steals their gear and clothes.
These primitive humans are hanging out around a field when suddenly, APES ON FUCKING HORSES WITH FUCKING GUNS. The build up was great, too. The people are doing their thing, acting like monkeys in the wild, and then they go silent. A loud roar or horn sounds and everyone takes off running. Big sticks are hitting through the corn, but you can't see anything yet. Then you hear the horses. Then you see the horses. Then you see and hear the guns. THEN you find out it was god damn monkeys the whole time. All of the humans were capture or killed. What a great scene. Tremendous build up. We're at 30 minutes into the movie before you even see an ape, and they show up on horses and with guns.
Taylor is being treated and getting a blood transfusion after being shot in the neck. The chimps appear to be the medical class, but are looked down upon by the orangutans. Taylor can't speak because due to the gun shot. The other humans appear to be mute besides grunts. Dr. Zira is an animal psychologist and seems to think Taylor is a special case. She names him Bright Eyes. Dr. Zaius (leading member of the Ape National Assembly, Minister of Science, and Chief Defender of the Faith) thinks he's a piece of shit. He hates all humans, it seems. It's a question of simian survival, y'all. Zira puts the girl in the cage with him as a "gift", I assume hoping she'd get to see them bone down.
Zira has her man, Cornelius, who is an archaeologist. They seem very much in love. This fucking human broad ruins the writing in the sand that Bright Eyes had made to prove he wasn't some dumb dumb. You son of a bitch. A fight breaks out in the cages and Bright Eyes gets taken away. Zaius erases the rest of the writing before anyone can see it. This mother fucker knows humans can talk. I think he knows more than he's letting on, friends. Taylor is able to grab a pen and paper and write that his name is Taylor. THE HUMAN THINKS HE'S PEOPLE. Despite Taylor answering all the questions, Corny isn't quite convinced that this isn't just a trick. Apes evolved from humans, after all. Bright Eyes must be some kind of missing link.
Taylor escapes from his holding cell and makes a break for it. A damn kid blows his cover during a wake. BIG BOOT! Big Sexy George Taylor. Oh no. That ape has a family! He was thrown from the top of the amphitheater thing. Good god. You'd think this entire city of apes would be able to catch this one human, who was just recently shot in the neck and has been floating in space for 2000 years. OH MY GOD HE TALKS. "Take your stinkin' paws off me you damn dirty ape!" The whole city is legit shook. "You hairy freak!" "It's a mad house. A MAAAAAAD HOUUUSSSE!!!!!"
Once he's back in his cell, Taylor talks about all that sweet earth trim he got. Nova (the human woman that he was paired with and has named) has no idea what he's saying. "You're not as smart as Stewart, but you're the only girl in town." Taylor is a real sweet talker. I'm starting to think he deserved all this. He's a bit of a cunt. Weeks later, Taylor gets his day in ape court.
You get to see Heston's ass again. As a non-ape, he doesn't have any rights under Ape Law. Well, that kind of makes sense. The prosecution contends that Zira did brain experiments to turn this man into a monster. "Some apes, it seems, are more equal than others." Damn, Taylor. Keeping it 100 at all times. You see, this charge against Zira is ironic, as the orangutans had Landon's brain operated on to REMOVE his ability to speak and think. The council literally does "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" on screen as Zira is going IN in them.
In his chambers, Zaius admits to Taylor that he knows Taylor isn't the only one of his kind, and the revelation of that would ruin the entire society. He has to uphold the Sacred Scrolls. Is Zaius an extremist ideologue, or an ape tasked with the responsibility to keep his simian society together?
Zira's nephew breaks Taylor and Nova out of jail. "Remember, all men look alike to most apes." So much 'cism. Zira, Cornelius, Taylor, Nova, and the nephew take the three day trek to the forbidden zone. Taylor thinks there might be another jungle on the other side of it. Corny and Zira are going to hide there as they are now fugitives and wanted for heresy. OH SHIT IT'S THE FUZZ. After a Mexican standoff, everyone goes into the cave to look for the evidence that the ape culture goes back longer than thought, and possibly, sprang from another group. We're on some ancient apes shit here, folks.
Corny is already into this, thinking there is more to humankind than what he's been taught. Taylor finds false teeth, glasses, and a prefabricated heart valve. Zaius can come up with alternate theories, because god damn it, IT DOESN'T FIT WITH THE SCROLLS. But then they find a baby tall that talks. Now, why would an ape make a human doll that talks? Well, we don't get an answer because the bullets start flying. Taylor takes Zaius hostage and gets a week of supplies and a horse in the exchange. He tells the nephew to never trust anyone over 30, and has what I believe to be the first inter-species kiss scene in American cinema.
The last shot of the movie is Taylor finding the half buried Statue of Liberty and realizing he's been on earth this whole time. Humans really blew it all up. GOD DAMN YOU! GOD DAMN YOU TO HELL!
That twist. Straight out of The Twilight Zone. Which makes sense, since Rod Sterling was a writer for this. I doubt anyone watching PotA is not going to know the twist ending just from cultural osmosis and references, but it still is weird that the cover for the home releases spoil the big twist ending on the cover.
This movie has #layers. A lot of themes running through it. There is the blatant racism of the apes over humans, but also a caste system within the apes themselves. You have the science/religion schism, with Zaius being the leader of both, and using one to protect the integrity and sanctity of the other (although with a clear bias towards religion). Zaius being either a religious zealot for his fear of humans and history, or being a well intentioned extremist just trying to keep his society and culture from being shattered by the revelations that humans started civilization, depending on which view you want to take. There is the idea of humanity itself being a plague on earth, as seen by their destruction of the planet. Taylor goes on this trip with the belief that humanity sucks and there is something better out there...then he returns home and finds his suspicions were proven true. Another running theme is the counter-culture message of "never trust the older generation". It was the 1960s, after all.
For the movie itself, I think the makeup still looks great. The ape faces are so expressive in the eyes and cheeks. I've seen masks and makeup from the 1990s and 2000s that look significantly worse. They must have been mind blowing at the time. Just wonderful. Sure, the mouths are a bit wonky. But it works. Everything in this works. Really excellent cinematography. Great helicopter shots, interesting angles and positioning, great editing. I love all the nature shots. The best scene in the whole movie is definitely the first appearance of the apes. Absolutely perfect. The build up and slow reveal was so good. Charlton Heston was...Charlton Heston. He was very over the top, but that's him. I think it's amazing that a movie with this concept really isn't campy at all. Heston is the only one that almost teeters over the edge and into camp. Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, and Maurice Evans are excellent as their respective apes. The music was also somewhat sparse, but very weird and interesting. Almost like apes made it.
This movie is great. A classic for sure. Wonderful.