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20th Century Fox presents
Behind the Planet of the Apes (1998)

"We didn't want audiences leaving the theaters thinking anything but that they had been entertained."
- Richard Zanuck, downplaying critical analysis of the series

Review By: Robert Mandel   
Published: August 12, 2000

Stars: Roddy MacDowall
Other Stars: Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, Linda Hamilton, Nancy Trundy, Richard Zanuck
Director: David Comtois, Kevin Burns

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 02h:06m:39s
Release Date: August 15, 2000
UPC: 024543007913
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-BC+ B

DVD Review

A most prolific actor, whose career spanned 6 decades, in his later years Roddy MacDowall was forced into typecast roles of little significance, and one forgets the wide range of his abilities he portrays throughout this series (most likely the reason he stuck with such an "apish" role). From the subservient Cornelius in 1, replaced due to scheduling conflict in 2, returning in 3 as the whimsical and heroic Cornelius in 3, the naïve then cold, strong and unapologetic leader as Caesar in 4, and finally the royal, quizzical, intellectual, defiant King Caesar in 5. This series is a testament to his skills, and I think he deserves his props. Luckily for all us all, and appropriately, he died only after providing fine narration for this entertaining documentary.

So I could approach the five films in a fresh manner, I didn't bother to pop in the sixth disc until I had written all five reviews. I didn't even realize that this contains only this documentary, originally aired on AMC, ala the infamous Alien 4th disc, but because there are two hours allotted to tell the story of the making of The Planet of the Apes quintilogy (can I coin this word?), this disc is worth buying the set, even if you are forced to buy a movie you don't like (it, as with the Alien 4th disc, will be limited, and only available with the set). As with anamorphia (this is my word, too...and no, it is not a river in Egypt anymore...) and supplemental features, Fox took their criticism for the Alien 4th disc constructively, and are supplying extra discs directly with the sets (ala X-Files: Season One).

As I said, the documentary is given enough time to be fairly thorough with its coverage of the five films, including behind-the-scenes footage, test footage, and wonderful cast and crew interviews. I am always wary of giving too much away, but you will find out how they ate lunch in front of mirrors, how the lunch time brought class separation where the cast humans ate together, the chimpanzees ate separately, as did the Orangutans and Gorillas! How Natalie Trundy was the wife of Arthur P. Jacob (Producer) and was the only actor besides MacDowall to be in at least 4 of the 5 films, playing Albina in 2, Dr. Stephanie Branton in 3, then Lisa in 4 and 5. You'll discover how Charlton Heston ran through poison ivy while filming, and that the beautiful Linda Harrison was Richard Zanuck's girlfriend at the time, and had actually been part of a test shoot with James Brolin, in which he played Cornelius and she played Zira.

Richard Zanuck also speaks to the fact that this was always meant to entertain, and that people have been reading more into the films then he claims is there, but frankly, that's a bunch of hooey. There is little doubt about the amount of social commentary and philosophical discussion about the essence of mankind taking place throughout the series. Monkey Planet author, Pierre Boulles, did not think his novel could be made into a film—thank goodness he was in error. The Planet of the Apes is a rich tapestry describing the climate of the times, and this documentary does a fine job in describing how the whole thing started, bloomed and repeated, and why it continues to help define what true Sci-Fi is supposed to be about.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes

Image Transfer Review: The image, intended for TV, is not without a few flaws, but is overall very good. The colors are sharp and well rendered, fleshtones appear normal, and black levels are very good. Being mostly 4:3 this is a non-anamorphic transfer, and scan lines are evident. The worst part of the transfer are the occasional full screen film clips (particularly at the opening), and the not yet restored footage used (in widescreen), which at times appears murky or overexposed. What it does do is serve to remind us how lucky we are to have these films presented as lovely as they are, despite the lack of "anamorphia."

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: There is little to write about here, due to the documentary nature of this disc. The narration is coded to the center channel, where it is clear and audible. The scenes from the film do not seem as well presented in this mix as they do on the DVDs, which again seems only natural due to content and timing here. No real complaints.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet fo the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Trailer for Planet of the Apes interactive game
  2. Planet of the Apes cross promotion trailer
Extras Review: Hmmm. How does one grade the extras on an extras disc? The trailers are all very well and fine, but I'm fairly well sick of them by now—not to say they shouldn't have been included here. The game looks similar to Doom in visual style, but I couldn't tell if the game would be fun or appealing. I guess that doesn't say much for the advertising, eh?

It is fairly hard to believe we couldn't get a single damn dirty commentary, let alone one damn dirty bio or filmography for the cast and crew. I really enjoyed the documentary, but for 5 films this is all Fox could come up with?

Oh, I'm not really complaining, or I'd have had to cancel my vacation just to get through the rest of the content had they put any more on this "extra" disc.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

I'm really not complaining, because this is a peculiar case where a bonus disc is available only for those who buy the limited set, so the quality of the content overrules the quantity of the content by far. You can't purchase this alone, but I'm pretty sure people would if they could.


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