Planet of the Apes

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(1967) ★★★★★

Film4: Saturday 13 June, 4.45pm

“Take your stinking paw off me, you damn dirty ape!” Astronaut Charlton Heston crashlands on a planet where evolution has turned upside down. Tremendously exciting sci-fi classic that spawned four inferior sequels and, 40 years later, Tim Burton’s big-budget ‘re-imagining’. This century, the whole show’s back on the road again with the CGI epics Dawn and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. They’re not bad. But the original is great. And Jerry Goldsmith’s eerie score adds impetus to a film thrillingly shot in the unearthly desolation of Utah’s desert regions. What a wondrous thing is Goldsmith’s music. Can you imagine any studio today sanctioning such bold strokes and experimentation? The imposing Heston gives one of his finest performances as a bitter cynic whose imperialistic daydreaming is rudely interrupted by one of cinema’s most famous shock cuts – to gun-wielding gorillas on horseback. Sparse dialogue, jolting music and obsessively mobile photography combine brilliantly to suggest a world gone mad. Nothing in the various sequels, TV shows and 21st century reboots touches the scene-setting of the original – sardonic, sarcastic, stunning. It’s all wittily adapted from Pierre Boule’s Monkey Planet novel by Michael Wilson (an Oscar-winner for A Place in the Sun who was shamefully blacklisted for refusing to cooperate with the McCarthy witchhunts in the 50s) and by Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling. The author doubted his story could be turned into a film, and he hated the script’s ending. (Tim Burton reverted to Boule for his film. Memorable, right?) The ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil’ shot was originally filmed by director Franklin Schaffner and the cast as a joke but a positive preview reaction persuaded the producers to leave it in the final cut. Ultimately, this really is the Rod Serling version. You can even hear his voice in Heston’s recorded message back to Earth: “Tell me, though – does man, that marvel of the universe, that glorious paradox who sent me to the stars, still make war against his brother… keep his neighbour’s children starving?”

Certificate: PG
Duration: 112min

Other Showings Time & Date
Film4 Friday, 19 June at 4:40PM