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Planet of the Apes(1968)
Three astronouts after a crash landing find themselves stranded in an upside-down planet--a place where talking apes are in charge and mute humans are hunted and enslaved by the tyrannical primates.
For more about Planet of the Apes and the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray release, see Planet of the Apes Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 6, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
» See full cast & crew
Planet of the Apes Blu-ray Review
Discover one of cinema's most enduring Science Fiction masterpieces all over again on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 6, 2008
Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!
A world of confusion, fascination, fear, and startling discovery await audiences on the Planet of the Apes. The 1968 Science Fiction classic starring Charlton Heston (The Omega Man) remains today a landmark of cinematic achievement. The film offered audiences overtones of social commentary presented in such a way as to seamlessly blend into the action and adventure, allowing audiences to focus on the film's plot and excitement. Only later, after your heart slows, your nerves settle, and you no longer bite your finger nails, may you begin to contemplate the deep political and social messages offered by the film. The film is also a technical achievement, nominated for two Oscars for both its costuming and score, and presented an honorary award for its seamless makeup effects.
George Taylor (Heston), captain of a deep space exploration vessel, is preparing to enter cryo-sleep for the extended journey home, 700 years after he and his crew left Earth. The ship crash-lands on a mysterious world sometime after Taylor enters cryo-sleep. According to the ship's internal clock, the time is 2,000 years after initial take-off. While Taylor and two crewmen awaken to escape the crashed ship, they discover a fourth crew member's desiccated body shows signs of having been long dead, certainly since Taylor entered cryo-sleep. Taylor and the two other astronauts escape the sinking vessel. They begin a long search, trekking across rocky desert and mountainous terrain, looking for life, water, and perhaps civilization. After reaching vegetation and water, Taylor and his crew soon find themselves -- along with a primitive, human-in-appearance tribe -- on the run from armed, intelligent apes atop horseback, hunting down and herding the humans like cattle. The apes capture Taylor, but not before shooting him through the neck, leaving him unable to speak, and, the apes assume, as mute and unintelligent as the other humans in ape captivity. Nevertheless, Taylor manages to begin communicating with two ape scientists -- Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) -- who slowly but surely begin to accept him as an intelligent individual rather than as a scientific curiosity. When Dr. Zaius -- an ape with more knowledge of who Taylor is and where he may have come from -- learns of his ability to communicate, he does all he can to silence the human, and ensure ape superiority across the land.
Any analysis of Planet of the Apes lends itself to a discussion of a deeper social meaning that is not-so-subtly veiled behind the film's action and drama, the film a fine example of true Science Fiction, a genre that most commonly functions as a messenger for social sense or implication. With the space shuttle returning to Earth, his crew in deep sleep and himself preparing to settle in for the long journey home, Taylor speaks his thoughts into the ships flight recorder, wondering what kind of world he will return to -- and contemplating the world he left behind, now hundreds of years past. He speaks of war and famine, offering none-to-subtle insights into what was, at the time of the film's release, a world of great upheaval, of chaos, of conflict both internal and external, fighting enemies and ideologies both halfway around the globe, and halfway down the street. The simian society Taylor discovers is one resembling various stages of mankind's development -- dealing with issues of societal order, slavery, equal rights, scientific discovery and religious belief. He begins to piece together a world none too different from his own, contrasting with his own externally, but bearing a striking resemblance beneath the immediate superficialities of simian culture and appearance.
Planet of the Apes is a commentary on social order, one that considers the importance the apes atop simian society place on maintaining their status, a right and privilege they hold above all else, to the exclusion of scientific discovery or proven or counter-proven postulates of religion that may threaten their standing. Ape society revolves around a scripture-based religious text that is strikingly similar to the Bible in some regards, recounting a creation story not much different than that told in the Book of Genesis, but also one foretelling of the coming of a man who may upset the order of the ape. Meanwhile, those scientists who speak contrary to the creationist theory -- instead espousing a theory of evolution, in this case a theory postulating that ape evolved from man -- is viewed as sacrilege. Like all good Science Fiction, Planet of the Apes offers social commentary in the guise of action and adventure in a world similar to our own but with obvious changes that reflect and exaggerate the issues the film comments on. As such, it is no wonder that the film is hailed as brilliant Science Fiction, one of the genre's finest offerings and an important film both cinematically and culturally.
Aside from its brilliant integration of social commentary, Planet of the Apes is also a stunning achievement from a technical perspective. The filmmakers have created a fascinating and believable world of simian existence, one that complements the secrets of ape and man revealed by Dr. Zaius throughout the dramatic third act. The apes use a mixture of primitive and crude technology while employing some quasi-modern tools and techniques. Primitive transportation methods are used regularly in simian society while they regularly perform complicated yet somewhat experimental surgeries with evolved medical equipment and techniques; apes house human animals in crude cages yet regularly employ modern cartridge-based rifles. Nevertheless, concepts such as flight confuse the apes; the concepts involved in folding and flying a simple paper airplane is as foreign to them as, say, a working teleportation device may yet be to modern man. The make-up used to create the apes is remarkable, remaining even today as a landmark of cinematic trickery, the film's artists creating beings unlike any ever seen before, and never once is the audience taken out of the film because of poor or phony makeup. Nominated for the Best Costume Design Oscar and presented an honorary award by the Academy for John Chambers' outstanding makeup design, Planet of the Apes remains a visually stunning hallmark film even 40 years after its theatrical release.
Planet of the Apes Blu-ray, Video Quality
Planet of the Apes reveals its secrets on Blu-ray in what is an exceptional 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer, no surprise coming from Fox. Detail reproduction throughout the film is exceptional. The film's opening sequence occurs inside a space shuttle, a set that is sparse, pedestrian, and nearly monochromatic, but functional. In hindsight, it looks extremely outdated and goofy, but like the sets on the original "Star Trek" television series, there is a certain charm to it. Despite its uninteresting visual appearance, the disc shows off all of the nuances of the set well, from the black and silver metallic captains chairs to the overly large and antiquated buttons and readouts. After the ship crash lands, the disc never falters in revealing the natural detail and beauty of the mysterious planet. The rock cliffs, the dirt-laden and rocky desert floor, and the water itself look marvelous. As more life and vegetation is discovered, the transfer continues to look sharp. The dense greens fill the screen with the first-seen bold and abundant colors. They look bright and natural, each sporting individuality and distinctiveness one from the other, simply not appearing as a smudge of green pigment. Facial detail is marvelous; the beards, the fine detail, and even the sweat glistening off the skin of the crashed survivors is lifelike. Flesh tones, too are rendered with a natural appearance. Ape makeup has never looked better; even under the 1080p spotlight, the seamlessness remains remarkable. Save for a few long-distance shots later in the film during the court room scenes, the imagery lacks any hint of softness. There are some small pops, speckles and stray hairs on the print, but nothing to be concerned about. If anything, they add to the old-time feel of the visuals and the nostalgia of the film. Planet of the Apes also features a fine layer of grain, and the overall experience is theatrical in feel. This is yet another film that begs to be displayed on the largest of screens, particularly considering the quality of this Blu-ray release.
Planet of the Apes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Planet of the Apes arrives on Blu-ray with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack, and Fox has also included the film's original mono soundtrack. The DTS track is fairly good, perhaps a bit rough around the edges and sometimes ear-piercingly loud at reference volume, but it supports the original material very well. Nevertheless, despite the 5.1 monicker, this is a very center channel-centric soundtrack. Rarely does the track spread out across the front, let alone into the rears. The crash-landing sequence is loud and high-pitched, almost an annoyance at reference volume, but considering the disoriented and confused visuals, it works well to add to the sense of panic and to the out-of-control, foreboding moment. As the film moves on, sound effects start to spread around the soundstage if only reservedly; a brief thunderstorm as the astronauts search for civilization is the most engulfing moment of the early part of the film outside the crash. Regardless, there isn't much in the way of subtle environmental nuances in support of the action or discrete rear-channel effects. That's not a bad thing; a poorly done, "forced" multi-channel remix that throws sound around just for the sake of making listeners turn their heads would ruin the experience. Dialogue reproduction is fantastic, clearly the strongest element to be found on the disc. Likewise, Jerry Goldsmith's (First Blood) Oscar-winning soundtrack is rendered exceptionally well. As long as listeners don't expect from Planet of the Apes a rip-roaring, head-turning, action movie extravaganza soundtrack, and instead prefer one that remains faithful to the original intent of the mix, Planet of the Apes's Blu-ray audio presentation is not only adequate, but is probably the best the film is ever going to sound.
Planet of the Apes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Planet of the Apes swings onto Blu-ray as a jam-packed special edition. An animated ape introduces viewers to the plethora of supplements that await. Before the film begins, viewers may choose to view the film with an introduction from the animated ape Lawgiver (1080p, 0:24). Leading things off are two feature-length audio commentary tracks, the first featuring actors Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, and Natalie Trundy, joined by makeup artist John Chambers. The track doesn't begin until more than 3 minutes into the film, allowing Charlton Heston's soliloquy to be heard without interruption. The track is compiled from individual interviews with the participants, though expertly so, without sacrificing the flow or haphazardly jumping from one subject to the next. Composer Jerry Goldsmith provides the second audio commentary track. Unfortunately, the composer's comments are sparse, though he offers some insightful information along the way. This track would have been better served as a single audio interview piece rather than its current state, broken up and only playing here and there over the length of the film. Also included is a text-based commentary track by Eric Greene, author of 'Planet of the Apes' As American Myth. While interesting, the text moves at breakneck speed, a blink of an eye will interrupt the flow and coherency of the text. Science of the Apes Bonusview is a Blu-ray profile 1.1 feature that presents viewers with a series of video-based footage that plays over the film. Topics include the purpose of space exploration, the science behind space travel and some of the ideas presented in the film, speculation into the future of the planet, the similarities between human and apes, natural selection, inter-species interaction, and more. Also available separate from the film for those without BonusView-enabled players, all 31 featurettes are available from the disc's main menu, each presented in 480p standard definition, and play for 38:53.
Beyond the Forbidden Zone Adventure Game is a text-based game where players must navigate a character through the planet of the apes by answering various science- and survival-related questions. A Public Service Announcement From ANSA (1080p, 6:06) is a mock PSA that informs viewers of the purpose behind the American National Space Administration. Evolution of the Apes (1080p, 23:37) takes an entertaining and in-depth look at the history of what was to become the first modern Science Fiction film franchise, including a fascinating segment on the impact of Rod Serling's work not only on Apes, but his reasons behind creating "The Twilight Zone," some original concepts for the film and the faithfulness to the original novel, the project's budget difficulties and studio transition, the film's political undertones, and more. Impact of the Apes (1080p, 11:39) takes a look at the merchandising and marketing of the film, a journey that takes audiences from the early promotions to the various toy lines inspired by the film. Behind the Planet of the Apes Documentary (1080p, 2:06:44) is an interactive documentary that runs the gamut of the production of the film. The piece examines the involved make-up process, casting the film, set design, life on the set, shooting locations, technical challenges in filming some of the film's most important scenes, the studio's insistence on producing a sequel, and a look at the lengthy franchise and numerous additional films and series to come. Played in a window in the left hand side of the screen, the right side includes a list of text- and video-based features, including biographies of the primary cast and crew, timelines, video clips, and more. Please note that this documentary is available without the interactive content. When played alone, the feature is presented in 480p standard definition. Behind the Planet of the Apes Promo (480p, 2:19) is a preview for the feature-length documentary.
The Archives of the Apes is a series of seven features. Original Makeup Test With Edward G. Robinson (1966) (480p, 9:34) is a vintage feature that begins with a description of the film set to an artist's rendering of the story that sets the stage for the makeup test scene. Roddy McDowall's On-Set Footage (480p, 20:14) is a narration-less vintage video segment that showcases the application of ape make-up, behind-the-scenes footage between shoots, and more. Dailies and Outtakes (no audio) (480p, 19:50) is a series of footage from the shoot, showcasing the set-up and action of various scenes from the film. N.A.T.O. Presentation (1967) (480p, 10:30) is a series of clips from the film, concluding with Charlton Heston's sales pitch for the film. Vintage 'Planet of the Apes' Featurette (1968) (480p, 4:42) is a brief summation of the entirety of the special features, looking at the film's make-up application process and recounting the film's synopsis. Concluding this Archive section are the film's teaser (480p, 2:18) and theatrical (480p, 3:05) trailers. The Galleries of the Apes is a series of still galleries. One of the finest features on the disc is the first gallery, The Ape. Here, viewers may peruse an Ape-produced newspaper with stories that relate to the film. Interactive Pressbook features a series of images from the original press materials, some of which are clickable for easier reading. Advertising and Lobby Cards features a brief series of posters and images created for the film's marketing. Makeup showcases various appliances worn by the actors in the film. Costume Design Sketches is a group of sketches featuring concept ideas for the film's wardrobe selections. Props looks at a few of the objects used throughout the picture. Behind-the-Scenes is a series of still images from various aspects of the production. Finally, Planet of the Apes is D-Box motion code enabled.
Planet of the Apes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A classic in every regard, Planet of the Apes' influence on the Science Fiction genre, movie marketing and promotional tie-ins, and its status as one of the pioneers of movie franchising through sequels remains today the de facto standard in how movies are made, marketed, and revisited. Featuring exceptional makeup, pacing, acting, storytelling, action, and commentary, Planet of the Apes is never a cinematic disappointment. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release of this landmark film is, in a word, extraordinary. Featuring excellent picture quality, a solid lossless audio offering (with the inclusion of the film's original monaural soundtrack) and a wealth of bonus materials, the disc is nothing short of a must-own. The film and its several sequels are available on Blu-ray individually or as part of what is perhaps the most remarkable multi-disc release the format has yet seen, and Planet of the Apes, one way or another, is a film deserving of a spot in every Blu-ray collection for its entertainment value, integration of political and social commentary, high-quality presentation, and plethora of bonus materials. Planet of the Apes receives my highest recommendation.
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