Monday, Feb 8, is the start of the Chinese New Year. For those of you not acquainted with the Chinese New Year, it follows a lunar calendar and has a 12 year cycle with each of the 12 years named after an animal. Ex: 2005 was The Year of the Rooster, so next year the cycle will start all over again with the Rooster. It cycles through from Rooster to Monkey (or any variation depending on which year you start counting), and includes, among others, the Year of the Dog, Ox, Tiger, Dragon etc.
2016 is the Year of the Monkey. By strange coincidence, 1968 was also the Year of the Monkey. I say "strange coicidence" because 1968 was also the year that the first Planet of the Apes appeared in theaters. Yes, the start of a franchise that included 5 original movies, a short-lived live action TV series, and a cartoon show, also short-lived, indeed began in the Year of the Monkey. I think that it's just kismet, therefore, that , having just bought the DVD set of the TV series, and, already having the original 5 movies, that I should celebrate the new Chinese New Year with a series of blog postings on that incredible franchise. So over the next week, I will review the franchise from beginning to end. (Not the reboot, just the originals).
|It's a madhouse! A madhouse!|
Although the makeup was primitive by the standards eventually used in the movie, it convinced execs that it could be done seriously. The green light was given and filming began in 1967. As to why Maurice Evans, as opposed to Robinson, eventually played Dr. Zaius, there are two stories. The traditional story, one that Heston told, was that Robinson felt he was too sick to go through the rigors the makeup would have required. Another source I read said he was booted out because he refused to shave off his beard, and the beard was interfering with a good makeup.
As stated earlier, the first movie eventually premiered on February 8, 1968, and the rest is history.
The Planet of the Apes (1968)
The movie begins with astronauts Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunner), Dodge (Jeff Burton) and Stewart (Dianne Stanley) in deep space, having been in suspended hibernation after 18 months. The spaceship, due to some unseen problem, crash lands in a lake in the middle of a desert-like area. A malfunction in the life-support system kills Stewart, but Taylor Landon and Dodge escape, just before the spaceship sinks into the lake.
|L-R: Charlton Heston, Robert Gunner, Jeff Burton|
The three wander across the desert, and eventually find greenery, and some very primitive humans. They barely have time to digest this event before apes on horses attack the humans, shooting some and capturing others alive. Dodge is killed, and Taylor is shot in the neck and captured. He is taken to the ape city where he encounters Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter). He tries to communicate with her, but at first she is only intrigued by the uniqueness of his actions. See, in this world, humans are mute and caveman-like, so an intelligent human is not something with which the apes have any experience. She eventually discovers he can write and brings it to the attention of her colleague and boyfriend, Dr. Cornelius (Roddy McDowell). Both are chimpanzees, who are the scientists of the ape world.
|Roddy McDowell as Cornelius and Kim Hunter as Zira|
|Maurice Evans as Zaius|
|"Get your stinking paws off me. you damned dirty ape!"|
Spoiler Alert!!! If you are one of the ½ dozen people in the world who don't know how this movie ends, stop reading now.
Cornelius shows Zaius the artifacts he found which prove his theory, but Zaius refuses to believe the evidence. After a brief skirmish with Zaius and his gorilla entourage, who had come to the site to recapture the three, Taylor eventually is free. He rides along the beach with his female friend Nova (Linda Harrison) and rounds a bend to discover the truth of how this planet came to be.
|Damning them all to Hell|
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
The movie picks up where the original left off, with Taylor riding off into the unknown. After seeing the destroyed Statue of Liberty, he continues on with Nova, and encounters some strange phenomena that are revealed to be illusions. He disappears in front of Nova, and the scene cuts to a crashed spaceship which only has two survivors. The captain dies, but Brent (James Franciscus) survives. He encounters Nova, who of course, is still mute, but she is wearing Taylor's dogtags. Brent convinces Nova to take him to Taylor. She takes him to the outskirts of Ape City.
|Brent sees monkeys|
|Cornelius, Brent and Zira|
There is, at this same time, a war fomenting. General Ursus (James Gregory) is spouting vicious war propaganda, identifying some threat that exists in the Forbidden Zone. He has, as a witness, one soldier (out of a dozen) who has returned with outstanding stories of what he saw in the Forbidden Zone.
|Ursus urges WAR!|
They eventually find an underground human civilization that has developed post nuclear war. The humans have developed psychic abilities, and worship a nuclear bomb as a god.
They know of the impending war from the apes above ground and are preparing for it. But they claim to be peaceful. Instead of killing their enemies, they use their psychic abilities to get their enemies to kill each other. But this doesn't seem to work on the apes. The ensuing battle seems to be going the apes way until Taylor releases the god from his captive shell.
It should be obvious at this point what the underlying political message was in Beneath. The anti-war Vietnam protests were raging at the time. There is even a parallel scene within the movie of some young chimpanzees protesting the war as the gorillas march out to war. There is also a rather overt message against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Well that's it for today, kiddies. Be sure to come back later for more exciting monkey stuff. Drive safely.