Planet of the Apes
Reviewed by Brian Moore
Rating: 4 Beans
pes build the cities. Apes grow the food. And apes control the guns." So goes the original trailer for "Planet of the Apes", which, for all of its many faults, has the virtue of clocking in 110 minutes shorter than the movie.
You couldn't ask for a better pedigree than this -- based on the novel by Pierre Boulle ("Bridge on the River Kwai") with a screenplay co-written by Rod Serling and blacklisted screenwriter Michael Wilson, and filmed in the turbulent 60's. Stars include (as if I had to tell you) NRA president
Charlton Heston, whose appetite for firearms seems second only to his appetite for scenery chewing;
Roddy McDowell, beloved child star of horse and dog movies; and Kim Hunter, Oscar winner and also casualty of the blacklist. And the director Franklin J. Schaffner who went on to helm "Patton" and "Papillon". On paper, this was the greatest science fiction epic of its day.
And then one digs a little deeper. While no one admits out loud that this movie is a true stinker, what happens to the career of those involved. Michael Wilson writes "Che!" and is thus blacklisted for a good reason, namely the inability to write. Charlton Heston goes insane and makes movies such as "The Towering Inferno" and "Motherlode", becoming the cartoon character we now know and love. Kim Hunter drops off the radar screen. Roddy McDowell discovers that the bottom of the cinematic barrel holds riches beyond the dreams of avarice, and also as the satanic foil to a deistic Mr. Roarke on "Fantasy Island". And who could forget Mr. Schaffner, who brought us "Yes, Giorgio"? The only one who emerged unscathed was Rod Serling, who went on to scare the pellets out of the youthful me with "Night Gallery".
So, you remain unconvinced, accepting the murmurings of your compatriots, whose praise is carried on breath stinking of stale beer and illegal cigarettes? Truly, you ask, a movie so revered cannot possibly be Beanworthy, can it? And you ask this question in the era of "Titanic", and still you are surprised? Very well, let us now analyze this classic movie, this "Planet of the Apes"...
Four astronauts are launched into deep space on a spaceship rife with faulty equipment. The crew consists of three men and one woman. So, is this really a good manifest for a deep space mission? What was the plan here? Was she expected to partner with all three men, none of them, or one of them,
leaving the other two to, um, fend for themselves?
Well the point is moot, as the astrobabe died in her stasis tube. So much for the lowest bidder concept.
And furthermore, the man in charge spends half of the movie bitching about how humanity is a stinking rotten cesspool, which is fine by me but only proves that the psych screening on NASA deep space missions
remains at the high standards set in "The Three Stooges in Orbit". To make matters worse the ship crashes into a lake and sinks. It is at this point that we begin to wish that the escape hatch hadn't opened.
Our three survivors swim for shore. To make a bad story short, they find that apes are in control, and humanity consists of herds of moronic cornfield dwellers. In this way, it deviates little from your average Midwestern state. The humans are chased down and hunted for sport -- including Our Hero Colonel Taylor (Heston), shot in the neck and thus sparing us briefly from the series of poorly worded expressions of confusion, surprise, and sanctimonious grandstanding yet to come. This, needless to say, is my favorite part of the movie.
Enter Ape City, a planned community based on the civic majesty of Imperial Rome and the construction techniques of Eight-Year-Olds. Taylor is taken to the human testing laboratories of Dr. Zira (Hunter), where it is discovered that a) unlike all other humans, he can talk, and b) he has absolutely nothing to say. Oh sure, he gets a little uppity when he discovers that his fellow astronauts have been either used for experimantal brain surgery or stuffed and put on display in the museum, but otherwise Heston's conversations consist of threats and self-righteous posturing. Come to think of it, not much different from the Heston of today.
Well, a whole bunch of crap happens over and over, with the artistic subtle undertones of the racism and disgruntled youths of its day completely obliterated by the hamhanded overtones of the racism and disgruntled youths of its day. Then (SPOILER ALERT -- whoop whoop) Taylor discovers that it was Earth all along, leading to a collective duh from the viewing public. I must admit that when I first saw the ending of this film it scared the living shit out of me. Then again I was five years old and Nixon was president. So hey, if your five years old and the president's a lying crook -- guess what, you're in luck! -- prepare to be scared shitless. Otherwise, buy a lot of beer and prepare to laugh until you don't at "Planet of the Apes". Or, as I prefer to call it, "Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Home Game". Enjoy.
Post Scriptum: Given the amount of bile I heap upon this movie, many may be wondering why it only receives 4 Beans. The answer is simple: there are four sequels and I graded on a curve. Believe me, if you've seen "Conquest of the Palanet of the Apes", you'll know why I need to conserve my Beans for that review.
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