Planet of the Apes (1968) starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harrison directed by Franklin J. Schaffner Movie Review

Planet of the Apes (1968)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes (1968)

Taylor Seeks Liberty

Col. George Taylor (Charlton Heston - Major Dundee) is one of four astronauts heading off on a long mission in to space, but six months after launch their ship crash lands on an unrecognizable planet. Taylor along with Landon (Robert Gunner) and Dodge (Jeff Burton) are the only survivors and start searching this planet for the necessities when they discover two things; there are humans on this planet but they are mute slaves to a superior race of Apes who rule the planet. When the apes stage a hunt Taylor is captured but his throat is hurt in the process leaving him mute as well, but his appearance of being smart make two scientists Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) interested in him, even more so when he tries to escape and gets his voice back much to the shock of the Apes. With some wanting him killed Zira and Cornelius try to protect him along with Nova (Linda Harrison) who had been given to him in the hope that he would mate.

As a rule I don't watch a great deal of sci-fi or at least sci-fi which isn't intended as comedy because it is simply not my thing and find it hard work. It is why despite being a hugely popular movie I have avoided "Planet of the Apes" because although an action movie it really didn't look my sort of thing. But having finally watched it I was pleasantly surprised by the clever and entertaining drama which despite being over 40 years old still works.

Planet of the Apes (1968) starring Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore

Now "Planet of the Apes" takes some time to get going as we have a drawn out introduction which sees the spaceship crash and then the survivors explore the planet. It serves up some terrific cinematography and some nice action but it goes on and on and seems to be going nowhere. But then we get the moment of awe as several things are thrust upon us at once; we meet what look like prehistoric man but a mute breed and then we meet the apes who hunt them down and who can talk. It is powerful stuff with nicely shot actions sequences which makes wading through that drawn out intro worth while.

After that we get more action and drama but we also get the entertaining side of this race of Apes who are in charge of this plant and treat humans in the same ways humans treat others. Yes that means "Planet of the Apes" is allegorical as things such as racism and superstition are all played out but with apes being the ones in charge. At times this side of the movie whilst entertaining is too forced and has that feel of being a set piece thought up in the writer's room and not considered if it was really part of the story.

Of course with "Planet of the Apes" being sci-fi there is the special effects side of things which frankly is expectedly dated. But the make-up work is fantastic to the point that the actors playing various ape characters are unrecognizable and look unsettling real. Combined with the wonderful locations and interior sets and "Planet of the Apes" still looks great. Of course there is Charlton Heston as our action hero and whilst he appears as a bit of an arrogant so and so early on his performance grows on you.

What this all boils down to is that "Planet of the Apes" was much better than I expected it to be with great action and special effects still working well despites its age. But it does suffer from what to me often feels like forced allegory which doesn't always have a point other than to be clever. On the subject of clever, the twist ending scene is simply genius.