Blog Directory CineVerse: Monkey business

Monkey business

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

by Erik J. Martin

Back in 1968, the world had gone bananas over what was to become our favorite sci-fi doomsday “hairy” tale: “The Planet of the Apes.”

Based on Pierre Boulle’s novel “Monkey Planet,” “Apes” stars Charlton Heston as George Taylor, the leader of a trio of astronauts who crash land on a post-apocalyptic world where talking apes have evolved from men and are the master species, while homo sapiens are regarded as inferior savages and slaves. The cast also includes Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter as friendly simian scientists Cornelius and Dr. Zira, and Maurice Evans as the esteemed Dr. Zaius.

“Apes,” which benefitted from a talented cast and crew that included director Franklin J. Schaffner, co-writer Rod Serling, and composer Jerry Goldsmith, became a much-talked about cinematic sensation upon its release 30 years ago. As 1968 progressed, the movie picked up steam as a cult classic, as well as Oscar nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Original Score. Four sequels (1970's “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” 1971's “Escape From the Planet of the Apes,” 1972's “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” and 1973's “Battle for the Planet of the Apes”), a short-lived “Planet of the Apes” television series and a follow up-made-for-TV movie (“Back to the Planet of the Apes”) in 1974, and a Saturday morning cartoon series, followed. While McDowell appeared in most of these Ape reincarnations, Heston only returned for “Beneath the Planet of the Apes.”

“Planet of the Apes” is perhaps most famous for its shocking twist ending, and for oft-quoted Heston lines like “Get your stinking paws off me, you damned, dirty ape!” Apocalyptically prophetic, the film’s social commentary remains as relevant today as it did in the Cold War climate of 1968.

A bit of gorilla trivia: Edward G. Robinson, who starred with Heston in 1956's “The Ten Commandments,” was originally cast as Dr. Zaius, but backed out when he learned about the rigors involved with preparing and wearing the lifelike simian makeup and costumes.

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