Geek-O-Rama On The Planet of the Apes

"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 try to communicate with Zira, but his throat injury would prevent him from speaking. This would have gotten him attention because no other humans could speak. Taylor would be presented with a young woman, Nova (Linda Harrison), for a mate. He would connect with her although she was a primitive. Zira would end up naming Taylor "Bright Eyes" because of his advanced skills and blue eyes. She would show him off to both her fiance Cornelius and her supervisor Dr. Zaius. Both would scoff at her notion that he was different than other humans. Yet Dr. Zaius would recognize the dangers in a advanced human. He would soon plot Taylor's demise. Soon Taylor would steal Zira's notepad and write his name. She then understood that he could communicate and that he would be in danger.

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.

Stop the Planet of the Apes. I Want to Get Off!

It's the part I was born to play, baby!

"I felt very intuitive that my particular personality and nature were like Nova"

During the late '60s and early '70s, Linda Harrison bade fair to be one of the screen's reigning beauty queens; as one of the three young starlets in the series Bracken's World and as the mute woman Nova in the first two Planet of the Apes movies, Harrison was a very attractive and visible young actress. Indeed, had she come along a few years later, when the ancillary market for television- and movie-related posters was more developed, she might have been a rival to the likes of Farrah Fawcett-Majors or Jaclyn Smith. Harrison was born in Berlin, MD, and took an early interest in dance and acrobatics. She won a series of local beauty contests which led to a short stint as a photo model in New York. While in California for a beauty competition, she was spotted by an agent who arranged a screen test for her at 20th Century Fox. She was signed up and immediately put into a small role in the pilot episode of a series called Men Against Evil, which evolved into the police show Felony Squad, with Howard Duff and her future Bracken's World co-star Dennis Cole. She also turned up as a cheerleader in an episode of Batman and as Wonder Woman in a failed TV pilot. It was in the Jerry Lewis comedy Way...Way Out that Harrison made her big-screen debut and she followed this with an appearance in the low-budget comedy The Fat Spy, then turned up in a somewhat more prestigious vehicle, A Guide for the Married Man.

It was around that time that she first met Richard Zanuck, a production executive (and the son of legendary mogul Darryl F. Zanuck), who offered her the role of Nova in the film Planet of the Apes. That movie took a long time to get off the ground and before she ever appeared as Nova, Harrison served as a stand-in in the role of Dr. Zira (the part ultimately played by Kim Hunter) in the screen tests and extensive make-up tests through which the project evolved, even participating in a test for Edward G. Robinson in the role of Dr. Zaius (Robinson was forced to withdraw from the project because of a heart condition that prevented him from working under the heavy make-up and in the high altitude location where much of the film was to be made). Although the character of Nova was mute, Harrison made a serious impression on audiences with her long dark hair and big brown eyes, which did most of her acting for her in the absence of any spoken dialogue for her character. The film was a huge hit, earning huge grosses across more than one year of release around the world and eventually yielded a sequel.

In the interim, Harrison was cast as Paulette, the young aspiring actress in the Fox-produced network series Bracken's World. It was here that she not only reminded television audiences, weekly, of her stunning appearance but proved that she could act, playing a character who was juggling romantic entanglements, studio pressures, and the nagging of her mother (Jeanne Cooper) over her career. In 1970, during the run of Bracken's World, Harrison reprised her role as Nova in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, where her character was, if anything, featured even more prominently -- indeed, it is the death of Nova that leads the Charlton Heston character to the grim notion that the whole world-turned-upside-down should be destroyed.

Harrison disappeared from movies for a time, after Beneath the Planet of the Apes and the cancellation of her television series, when she married Richard Zanuck. During the mid-'70s, however, she tried to re-emerge in her profession, which engendered some frustrating moments; she had, and then lost, the role of Roy Scheider's wife in Jaws, when Universal Pictures insisted that it go to Lorraine Gary, the wife of studio chief Sidney Sheinberg. As a consolation prize, she played a part in Airport 1975, working under the pseudonym of Augusta Summerland.

She later divorced Zanuck and left the business altogether for a time, to work on raising her family and pursuing her personal spiritual goals. The two remained sufficiently close to each other, however, so that when Harrison resumed studying acting in the 1980s, Zanuck offered her a role in his production of Cocoon, which she reprised in the sequel. She appeared in the movie Wild Bill and participated onscreen in the documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes.

Planet of the Apes Trivia:

Roddy McDowall, an experienced actor, recommended to his companions in makeup that they should frequently add tics, blinks and assorted facial gestures to add a sense of realism and keep the makeup from appearing "mask-like". McDowall reportedly became a merry prankster with the makeup, driving home with his make-up on, and shocking some of the other drivers on the freeway.

McDowall also appeared on an episode of The Carol Burnett Show wearing his Planet of the Apes make-up. The look of fright on Carol Burnett's face was reputed to be genuine.

During breaks in filming, actors made up as different ape species tended to hang out together, gorillas with gorillas, orangutans with orangutans, chimps with chimps. It wasn't required, it just naturally happened.

All the Ape actors and extras were required to wear their masks even during breaks and in between shots because it took so much time to make them up. Because of this, meals were liquefied and drunk through straws.

Charlton Heston was sick during much of the film with the flu. Rather than wait for him to get better, the producers felt that his hoarse voice added something to the character of Taylor. According to Heston's diary, after filming the scene where Taylor and Nova are forcibly separated, he wrote that he was feeling like hell while shooting because of his illness, and felt even worse "every time that damn fire hose hit me".

Turning down the part of Zira was one of Ingrid Bergman's greatest regrets. Much surprised at how well the finished film turned out, she later confided to her daughter Isabella Rossellini that in hindsight the film would have been an ideal opportunity for her to "disregard her regal bearing". She also regretted missing the opportunity of working with Charlton Heston.

Actress Kim Hunter (Zira) was a political activist, she signed several civil rights petitions and was a sponsor of a 1949 World Peace Conference in New York - which triggered her label of being a Communist sympathizer, for which she was blacklisted in films and TV even though she never even held pro-Communist views. Her testimony to the New York Supreme Court in 1962 against the publishers of "Red Channels" helped pave the way for clearance of many performers unjustly accused of Communist connections.

​The first director to spot the potential in Pierre Boulle's novel was Blake Edwards. He brought on board leading sci-fi writer Rod Serling who produced nearly 40 drafts of the screenplay. While Serling was able to get to grips with the structure, he gave full credit to Michael G. Wilson for the final screenplay.

The final scene with Taylor coming across the Statue of Liberty was suggested by Rod Serling. According to rumor, Pierre Boulle was greatly upset by this ending, but later warmed to it, preferring this new ending over the very different ending he had written. The skeletal remains of the torch appear as "set decoration" in the final episode of Lost in Space: Junkyard of Space.

John Chambers' outstanding makeup technique pioneered in the film was based upon one technique he had used during World War II to give disfigured veterans a normal appearance. Chambers spent many hours watching the apes at Los Angeles Zoo, studying their facial expressions. Several other productions were delayed due to the fact that many of Hollywood's top make up artists were working on this film. Leftover makeup supplies were later used on actor Michael Conrad, playing an ape-like alien in Lost in Space: Fugitives in Space. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave Chambers a special award for makeup (which was not an Oscar category until 1981) for this achievement, in the second time that a make-up artist received an Academy Award. [William Tuttle was the first, with 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)]. Chambers' award was presented by Walter Matthau and a chimpanzee in a tuxedo.

Although it is widely believed that the budget for the ape make-up was at a million dollars, Assoc Producer Mort Abrahams later revealed via interview that the make-up was "more like half a million...but a million dollars (quote) made better publicity". Abrahams was certainly qualified to know, since his function was more as the active Line Producer through Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes.


"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

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
Color: DeLuxe
Sound: 4-Track Stereo
Released: February 8, 1968
Budget: $5,800,000
Gross: $32,600,000