A planet where apes evolved from men? There's got to be an answer.
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"I can't help thinking that somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than man. Has to be." - George Taylor
In 1966 Franklin J. Schaffner had purchased the rights to what he thought would make excellent movie. Pierre Boulle's novel "La Planete des singes." He peddled the idea to almost every studio in Hollywood, but nobody wanted anything to do with his "Monkey Planet." Studio executives thought the idea of talking apes would be laughed at. A ray of light came when he presented his idea to both Arthur P. Jacobs and Charlton Heston. Both signed on to produce and star in his movie. Now he had what he needed a huge star and some credibility. This got him in the door with Fox and got him his chance. Once again there were hesitations. What if the apes looked too fake? Could it be believable? A test scene was shot to test early ideas for the ape makeup. The test would feature Heston, Edward G. Robinson as Dr. Zaius, and Linda Harrison as Zira. It worked. The makeup test proved it could be done without looking cheesy. The movie was a go.
The next major hurdle would lie in the story itself. The Boulle novel featured the apes as a highly advanced civilization with modern vehicles and cities. The early Rod Serling scripts followed these themes. However the budget that Fox had assigned was not sufficient enough to handle both huge effects and a huge makeup tab. The makeup was crucial to the success of the production. The apes had to be more primitive. Michael Wilson was brought on board and together with Serling the two hammered out the finished screenplay with the apes having a more technologically challenged society. With this and John Chambers makeup ready the production began. The film with all it's technological difficulties was completed on time and on budget.
The film would center around George Taylor (Heston) an astronaut who had given up on mankind and traveled the stars to find out just what else the universe had to offer. He and his crew of three, one woman and two other men, traveled to the deepest reaches of space in suspended animation. Something would go terribly wrong with their spacecraft and it would crash-land off course on some unknown world. The three men would survive. The woman died in her sleep a year or so prior to the crash. The three survivors would march across a hostile desert before reaching a plush oasis with food and running water. A relaxing dip in the pond would lead to the group loosing their clothes and their first meeting with a group of primitive humans. Was this the best this planet had to offer?
A moments peace would be short lived. The humans would seem to be the hunted on this new world. As scared tribesmen would run in every direction the astronauts would get their first look at the dominant species. Apes! A desperate chase would ensue. One astronaut would be killed. Another netted. Taylor would end up shot in the throat and knocked out.
He would awaken days later in a cage in some sort of animal hospital. He would be under the care of a kind chimpanzee doctor named Zira (Kim Hunter). Zira had a kind heart toward the humans she worked with. She believed humans could be civilized. A notion laughed at by her fellow doctors. She saw something in Taylor.
Taylor would manage to escape. He would be chased throughout the Ape city and eventually be captured. That is when he would seal his fate a utter his first words. "Get your paws off me, you damned dirty ape!" A human had spoken. The apes were terrified. Taylor would be tried as a heretic. His fate would be experimental brain surgery to find out what makes him tick. Dr. Zaius would see to it personally. He knew more than he would let on.
Zira and Cornelius would free both Taylor and Nova. Their only hope would be to reach Cornelius's dig deep in what the apes call "The Forbidden Zone". A vast area of land that nothing lived in. The desert Taylor and his group had traveled across days earlier. Once there Cornelius would show Taylor the artifacts he had found proving an advanced civilization that preexisted before the apes. Zaius and his gorilla army would soon find them. Taylor would manage to take Zaius hostage. At gunpoint he would reveal the truth. Man was indeed there first and that he had destroyed his society. Taylor would agree to let Zaius free for his safe passage into the forbidden zone. Zaius would agree. Both out of fear of man and with the hope that he would die in the desert. He would bid farewell to his new ape friends and venture forth with Nova. Zaius would destroy all the evidence of the human society.
This would lead to one of the greatest scenes in movie history. The half buried Statue of Liberty on the beach to end the film. Taylor would then recite one of the most memorable lines in cinema history once he realized that he was on Earth and that mankind had destroyed itself in some nuclear nightmare.
"YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! DAMN YOU! GOD DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!!"
"Beware the beast man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him, for he is the harbinger of death." - The Sacred Scrolls
1. During lunch periods and breaks in shooting the actors portraying a certain species would all hang out together. Gorillas with gorillas, chimps with chimps, and orangutans with orangutans. Funny how that would naturally happen since class and race diversion was a underlined theme in the film.
2. Although Charlton Heston's character is listed in the credits as "George Taylor", the name George is never mentioned in the actual film. He is always called just "Taylor."
3. Roddy McDowall often drove home in his ape make up to freak-out other drivers.
4. John Chambers's ape make up was first used as an ape-faced alien in the popular science fiction TV show "Lost in Space."
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Directed By: Franklin J. Schaffner
Written By: Michael Wilson and Rod Serling
From the Novel: "La Planete des singes" by Pierre Boulle
Charlton Heston as George Taylor
Roddy McDowall as Cornelius
Kim Hunter as Zira
Maurice Evans as Dr.Zaius
James Whitmore as President of the Assembly
James Daly as Dr. Honorious
Linda Harrison as Nova
Robert Gunner as Landon
Lou Wagner as Lucious
Woodrow Parfey as Dr. Maximus
Jeff Burton as Dodge
Buck Kartalian as Julius
Norman Burton as Leader of the hunt
Wright King as Dr. Galen
Paul Lambert as Minister
Diane Stanley as Stewart
AKA: Monkey Planet (1968)
Runtime: 112 Minutes
Sound: 4-Track Stereo
Released: February 8, 1968