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20th Century Fox presents
Planet of the Apes (1968)

"I'm a seeker, too. But my dreams are different than yours. I keep thinking somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than man, has to be."
- Taylor (Charlton Heston)

Review By: Robert Mandel   
Published: August 01, 2000

Stars: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans
Other Stars: James Whitmore, Linda Harrison, James Daley
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Manufacturer: Digital Video Compression Center (DVCC)
MPAA Rating: G for (nude male buttocks)
Run Time: 01h:51m:54s
Release Date: August 15, 2000
UPC: 024543007913
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

It's not often that I don't defer to my venerable crew when it comes to good cheesy movies, and despite my rash of really bad luck with movies I once loved as a child turning into self-torture episodes over my own childhood stupidity, I could not help but keep this milestone series to myself. (It didn't hurt that my fiancée, who is about as sick of DVDs as one might imagine, nearly ordered me to keep this set in her little greedy way, "You ARE going to keep this set, right?" Wash me in shock and wring me out happy!)

In 1968 several issues lay front and center in the national, if not global, consciousness, and most are represented in this film and the others of the series. I cannot tell you the last time I watched these movies in full, and I have forgotten far more than I remember. What I find most interesting is that these films take on serious discussion, filled to the brim with social consciousness and poignancy. Today you have all action and no relevance. All gadgetry and no import. At the crux of these films however, and yes they have enough action to keep those bored with social consciousness and import involved, lies an interesting philosophical debate on the nature of man. From the near casino odds of evolution, anti-nukes, free speech, space exploration, man's future in a godless society, man's inherent evil and violence—yes, The Planet of the Apes is more than a cheesy movie, it is more than a mere reflection of its times, it is an exploration of the essence of mankind.

When astronaut Taylor (Heston) and fellow crew members crash land on an apparently desolate planet in 3978AD, more than 2,000 years after they took flight, the search begins for vegetation and water for mere survival. While they find both, they also come upon a race of primitive human-like creatures unable to communicate verbally or through written forms. What they discover soon after is so topsy-turvy Gilbert and Sullivan (well, at least Gilbert) would have been very proud. The apes rule this "upside down world"; the orangutans, the apes, then the chimpanzees to be exact about the pecking order here.

While trying to escape the apes' forces (riding horses and shooting rifles), Taylor is wounded in the throat and captured. Still wearing his astronaut suit, he and his comrades come under the microscope of two chimpanzee scientists, Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall). Sensing Taylor's difference to all humans without ever hearing him speak, the two are excused of blasphemy for presenting the belief that Taylor can speak and think—unheard of for a human—before a assembly of orangutans helmed by the President (James Whitmore), but controlled by the influence of Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans). When Taylor, at a most pregnant moment, is able to speak, he invokes one of the most remembered lines in all of moviedom: "Take your paws off me you damn, dirty ape!"

It is slightly amazing the many fine actors Fox was able to convince throughout 5 films to dress and redress everyday as dirty apes for weeks at a time, but despite fine repeat appearances by McDowall, Hunter and Evans, none adorn the screen like the larger-than-life Heston, with his Clint Eastwood (down to the cigar) meets Star Trek persona; his righteous, John Wayne Moses in outer space.

While the effects are often cheesy, the writing is not only superb, but handles difficult subject matter with aplomb (religious tenets, character archetypes, philosophical tracts) and it is fairly funny as well. The script is complex, yet simple; on the one hand it is life-affirming, on the other it conjures up a post-apocalyptic hell. After the assassination of Kennedy, the tumultuous 60's and 70's was a dark period in our history, and the human race, perhaps Americans in particular, felt insecure about the fate of humankind. Unlike most movies today (one thinks of Contact as the exception), science fiction films back then still aspired to more than effects and gimmickry—they stood to inspire, to uplift the spirit, to make one's imagination fly, or to generate inward, spiritual thought by allowing a society to reflect upon itself.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I was expecting a mess when it came to this non-anamorphic transfer, but my jaw nearly dropped right from the opening. The source print contains a few anomalies as will be mentioned later, but is either remarkably clean, or Fox really went out of their way to ensure a restored print nearly to that of pristine master. With the exception of rather few scan lines despite the lack of anamorphic treatment (excused only because Fox HAS turned the corner and could not go back on pressing these), a few frame "over-exposure" (22m:23s) sequence, a few seconds of jittering (37m:23s), minor aliasing distortion, light speckling, and occasional graininess, this is otherwise a spectacular presentation of a 32-year-old film. Detail is excellent nearly throughout, from Heston's sweaty body, to the individual facial expressions of the apes, on through the lovely canyon scenery. You will be amazed how well this looks, at least on a 45" 4:3 television. The lack of anamorphic treatment is about all that's keeping this transfer from our highest rating...and even now it is darn close.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Both the 2.0 and 5.1 mix are good, but the latter's imaging and directionality are more powerful. The 2.0 disc is more center channel focused, and even the 5.1 disc focuses a lot of information here, but the soundstage is far fuller in the latter, particularly concerning bass content, with a wider range including LFE. Where the 5.1 stands out against the 2.0 track is its interpretation of Jerry Goldsmith's (Patton) haunting score, which loses some of its force in the translation to 2.0. Fox finally includes remote access on a major disc. Thanks! A nice job updating this track.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Escape From the Planet of the Apes
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery (behind the scenes, before and after, concept drawings)
  2. Weblink to Fox Home Video's Website
  3. Cast listing
Extras Review: The concentration here will be the on disc extras. The 6th disc in the set will be reviewed separately, so see that review for more information. There is a mixed bag of so-so extras included here, and I am interested to see if these will be repeated on disc 6. There is a disappointing list of only the top members of the cast, and trailers for all 5 films in the series. Weblinks to Fox Home Video are included, but the nicest (albeit short) supplement is the photo gallery that includes shots of Dr. Zaius relaxing in a chair, Heston playing Frisbee, and before-and-after shots of the 3 main apes. Subtitles are included in English and Spanish, and are located outside (beneath) the 2.35:1 viewing area.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Planet of the Apes might be the manifesto for those nutty bands who lay chained across animal research laboratory driveways, or break-and-enter them to free animals from their tortuous confines. It might very well be a metaphorical proof of evolution. It might be a non-subtle argument for the separation of faith from science. It might be an atheistic rail against organized religion and other rigid hierarchical institutions. It might very well be the greatest anti-war chant of its generation. It might contain liberal heresies of all kinds—but while Planet of the Apes might be an enduring, cerebral classic, any film with Charlton Heston is also just campy good fun. Highly recommended.


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