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 Honorious
Linda Harrison as Nova
Robert Gunner as Landon
Lou Wagner as Lucius
Woodrow Parfrey as Maximus
Jeff Burton as Dodge
Buck Kartalian as Julius
Norman Burton as Hunt Leader
Wright King as Dr. Galen
Paul Lambert as Minister
Dianne Stanley as Stewart
Thrust into the year A.D. 3978!
Three astronauts emerge from deep hibernation…
Their vessel crash-lands on a mysterious planet!!
One of the crew has accidentally died in space!
The space craft sinks under the waters of a lake.
The three survivors head off to explore their new home:
With limited rations
A hostile arid desert plain,
They trek in search of food, water and evidence of life,
Only to discover that they are not alone,
and that their troubles have only just begun…….
Read on for more……
It’s almost 6 months into a deep space flight from Cape Kennedy, when astronaut George Taylor completes his final log report before returning to hibernation and initiating an automated touchdown sequence.
His other three fellow astronauts, Landon, Stewart and Dodge are in deep sleep hibernation.
The crew’s ship date reads July 14, 1972, but back on Earth it is the year 2673 due to the effect of their vessel traveling at the speed of light. On Earth 700 years have passed since they had left, but they have hardly aged at all.
Taylor’s musings indicate that he is rather cynical and bitter about humanity, “that marvel of the universe, that glorious paradox” who has sent he and his crew to the stars where “everything seems different, time bends” and where “space is… boundless.” For Taylor, it is a realm that puts things into perspective including a man’s sense of importance and self-worth in that it can squash his ego and make him feel small, insignificant and…. “lonely.”
And yet, Taylor wonders, armed with such knowledge and with the passage of time, does humanity “still make war against his brother” and “keep his neighbor’s children starving?” Has humanity progressed morally and ethically along with its technological and intellectual progress?
It is all a matter of perspective and point of view when it comes to perceiving space and the passage of time along with the nature and worth of the human species. What of human certainties in the face of the universe’s paradoxes?
Taylor self-administers an injection before entering his hibernation capsule in which he will remain until he and the rest of the crew are revived when the voyage is completed……
As the crew sleeps, their ship continues its journey through time and space before eventually encountering a planet. The vessel enters the atmosphere and crashes into a lake surrounded by large desolate-looking stone formations.
Suddenly a bulkhead gives way and the ship begins to sink. The three crewmen quickly scramble to evacuate their doomed craft after unsuccessfully attempting to send a message to Earth.
Realizing that the atmosphere contains breathable air, the crew blows open the hatch and abandons ship, with an inflatable raft and survival kits containing three days’ worth of food and water supplies.
Prior to his departure, Taylor notices the ship’s chronometer indicates that it is now November 25, 3978 – 2,006 years into the future. He determines they had been away from Earth for only 18 months.
Using the raft, Taylor, Landon and Dodge begin paddling to shore just as the last vestige of their technological cocoon sinks below the surface of the water. Taylor hypothesizes that they are some 320 light years from Earth on an “unnamed planet in orbit around a star in the constellation of Orion.” As to their exact location and what might have gone wrong, Landon points out that “the question is not so much where we are as when we are.”
Coming ashore, the three men take stock of their situation and set about appraising their immediate surroundings. They determine they have sufficient food and water for three days and a handgun.
It becomes apparent that there are distinct differences between the men’s characters and personalities. Landon appears to be more reflective and thoughtful while Taylor is more pragmatic and cynical. For instance when it comes to the matter of Stewart’s death, Taylor almost brutally, matter-of-factly and unfeelingly puts it down to “air leak. She died in her sleep” and suggests that there is no point dwelling on the matter as “it’s a little late for a wake. She’s been dead nearly a year.”
For Taylor it is the circumstance in which they find themselves that has rendered all other concerns and feelings redundant. As he says to Landon, “time’s wiped out everything you ever knew, it’s all dust…..It’s a fact, Landon. Buy it. You’ll sleep better.”
Having mentally and emotionally reconciled himself to the dictates of the laws of relativity, it is no wonder that Taylor laughs uproariously at the absurdity of Landon’s taking the trouble to stop and plant a tiny American flag before moving off with his crew-mates.
Dodge conducts some soil tests and concludes that “nothing will grow here,” but that there is no dangerous ionization.
The three men make their way through the arid desert landscape which has an alien feel to it but is also somewhat strangely familiar to behold. Claps of thunder and flashes of lighting emanate from a cloudless sky devoid of life-giving rain. There’s “cloud cover at night” together with a “strange luminosity.” It also appears that their new planet has no moon.
Together the three men trudge onward toward the goal of finding life, but the separation and differences of their individual natures, characters and motivations become more starkly apparent. Taylor harbors a disgust for his fellow human beings: Right now “there is just one reality” of the here and now and that it would be better to be dead than lose sight of that fact and waste time and energy mourning for their “precious planet” which is 300 light years away and where their “loved ones are dead and forgotten for 20 centuries.”
Taylor rejects what he sees as the sentimentalized bullshit espoused by the likes of Landon who he believes readily volunteered for the mission motivated by personal glory, the display of heroic spirit, a willingness to self-sacrifice for a higher goal and not forgetting a good old dose of flag-waving patriotism. All this in exchange for a chance at “immortality” commemorated by a pigeon-poop encrusted tarnished statue proclaiming his heroism.
Taylor, on the other hand can appreciate someone like Dodge whose motivations seem to “make sense.” Dodge is driven by the quest for knowledge and understanding – of making the unknown, known.
Taylor is also on a quest of sorts. The mission offers him a chance to escape a meaningless life of earth in which he “despised people” and to seek out some place in the universe where “there has to be something better than man.”
And so the men’s quest for life on this alien planet continues until…..Dodge locates a single flowering plant, indicating: “Life.” It occurs to them “where there’s one, there’s another, and another and another.” Life always finds a way.
The journey through the rocky desert terrain continues while unseen figures move across the cliff tops observing the men’s progress. Eventually more signs of vegetation are seen along with unmistakable indications of intelligent life advertised by a clearly defined border-line consisting of strange scarecrow-like constructions on the clifftops. They are somewhat reminiscent of ancient Roman crucifixes. Some kind of a warning perhaps?
As the three men make their way past the curious and ominous artifacts, they came upon a lush oasis of rushing waterfalls and a large pool of water. They need no encouragement to throw off their attire and plunge into the inviting waters of the oasis.
Very shortly two more discoveries are made. The first is the evidence of footprints, and the second being the theft of their clothes and equipment by the likely makers of the footprints.
Hunt & Capture
Taylor and his fellow survivors pursue the light-fingered thieves and locate their damaged supplies and ripped clothes. When they come upon the pilfering tribe gathering food from a cornfield, the men discover that they are mute, harmless primitive humans.
Suddenly all present freeze as a trumpeting noise reverberates over the area. The alarm or signal sends the tribe into a stampede with our three crew-mates becoming swept up in the onrushing tide of humanity.
It is not quite apparent who is responsible for the sound of gunfire or who the riders of the oncoming horses are. It isn’t long, however before realization dawns that the humans have been led into a trap and that they are being hunted by ape-like creatures riding the horses!
During the pursuit, Taylor is shot in the throat and captured with others of the tribe, while Dodge is shot and killed and Landon rendered unconscious.
The hunt ends quickly with Taylor being taken to Ape City, along with dozens of captured humans. Before he passes out, Taylor notices that many dead humans are collected as trophies and that the ape-creatures pose for pictures with the victims’ bodies.
Two chimpanzees, animal psychologist Zira and surgeon Galen, remove the bullet from Taylor’s neck and continue to treat him in their facility, though Taylor’s throat injury renders him temporarily mute. Dr. Zira considers the human “animals” as being vital for their research work and experimental brain surgeries.
Taylor is placed in a cage and is considered to be a recovering patient who Zira nicknames “Bright Eyes.” One of the staff notices that “he keeps pretending he can talk.”
Taylor tries to communicate but can’t speak due to his throat injury. Doctor Zaius, the orangutan Minister for Science, arrives at the facility to investigate the latest batch of captured humans. Zira draws Zaius’ attention to Taylor who futilely struggles to speak. Zira might be convinced of Taylor’s intelligence, but Zaius is not and remarks that Taylor’s merely “a man acting like an ape” and that “he has a definite gift for mimicry.” According to Zaius’ orthodox view of Ape and Man, “Man has no understanding. He can be taught a few simple tricks, nothing more.” He then cautioned Zira about her behavioral studies pointing out that “to suggest that we can learn anything about the simian nature from a study of man is sheer nonsense.” Humans are only seen as a nuisance, who ravage the apes’ crops. As Zaius begins to exit, the door to the subject of human intelligence is firmly shut with his parting observation that “the sooner he is exterminated, the better. It’s a question of simian survival.”
The captive female (Nova) Taylor had earlier noticed at the cornfield is placed with him in his cage in the expectation that they might mate – in front of an attentive audience no doubt! No pressure!
“This beast has lost a lot of blood.”
“Doctor, these animals are dirty. They stink and they carry communicable diseases.”
“Do we want some sugar, old-timer?”
“You know what they say: Human see, human do.”
“He can be taught a few simple tricks. Nothing more.”
Such observations about the nature of human beings from the apes’ perspective forms a very uncomfortable mirror image of humanity’s attitudes towards what it has long considered as the lesser species of the planet Earth. Here, the shoe is definitely on the other foot.
Later on, Dr. Zira is keen to show off “Bright Eyes” to her fiancée, archaeologist Dr. Cornelius. When Dr. Zaius joins them, Taylor imprisoned within an outdoor confinement cage containing humans, attempts to communicate by writing in the dirt “I CAN WRITE,” most of which is unintentionally obscured by Nova.
Taylor is then restrained and taken away after a fight erupts between him and another human. Meanwhile Dr. Zaius notices that a portion of the message remains in the dirt which confirms that Taylor is an intelligent being. What does Zaius then do? Why, he obliterates the legible portion of the message with his cane.
The evidence before his very eyes before being plowed into the dirt flies in the face of accepted Ape society orthodoxy which Dr. Zaius feels he must uphold. Better to obliterate the truth to ensure that the prevalent orthodoxy is maintained by those under him like Cornelius to whom he issues a “friendly warning: As you dig for artifacts, be sure you don’t bury your reputation.”
While confined in another cage, Taylor snatches a piece of paper from Dr. Zira when she approaches too close. He has time to write: “MY NAME IS TAYLOR” before Julius the gorilla assistant, enters the cage to give Taylor a hiding and retrieves Zira’s items. Zira notices that Taylor has written a note, the message of which she understands. She now realizes that Taylor really is intelligent.
Dr. Zira quickly orders Taylor’s release to her own home to study him further. Once there, she tries to convince Cornelius of Taylor’s intelligence. Cornelius refuses to believe in such an idea and is convinced that what Taylor seems to be able to do is nothing more than a hoax or stunt. Even when Cornelius begins to concede that Taylor might be intelligent, he also thinks he’s merely crazy.
As much as he tried without the power of speech, Taylor cannot convince Cornelius of his origins on Earth, or the possibility of space flight. Cornelius can only repeat accepted dictums such as “humans can’t write” and after a paper airplane demonstration, he repeats the prevailing belief that, “flight is a scientific impossibility.” Zira points out to him that he’s a scientist and asks him, “don’t you believe your own eyes?”
Despite having an obviously intelligent human standing right before them, it is almost too much for Zira and Cornelius to accept that Taylor had survived the “Forbidden Zone” after he landed there from space before trekking through the desert to the jungle area. After all, as Cornelius points out “no creature can survive in the Forbidden Zone. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it.” It is as we have seen of late truly amazing what people choose to believe and not believe even when confronted by verifiable evidence.
During their discussion, it turns out that Cornelius’ has a theory that “the ape evolved from a lower order of primate – possibly man.” In the Forbidden Zone, Cornelius claims to have discovered artifacts that suggest the existence of a civilization that predates the current ape society -“older than recorded time.” It could turn out that Taylor could prove his theory, in that he might be a “mutation, a missing link between the unevolved primate and the ape.” For Ape society this is a very heretical idea and for Taylor an unacceptable one, he being presumably firmly grounded in Darwin’s theory of evolution on Earth. Same principle, same controversy but just turned on its head!
Despite his work in the field and the evidence it is turning up, Cornelius is reluctant to advance his hypothesis for fear of getting his “head chopped off” by the authorities who wont accept it on the grounds of heresy. If Taylor’s existence were to confirm Cornelius’ theories, for Ape society it would mean “the sacred scrolls wouldn’t be worth their parchment.” Not to mention placing Cornelius and Zira’s “fine futures, marriage,” “stimulating careers” and future prospects in jeopardy.
Dr. Zaius and Dr. Maximus, Commissioner for Animal Affairs arrive to discover the human outside the compound without a leash. Both apes epitomize the authorities’ preparedness to employ fear and force to enforce compliance in word, thought and dead on the part of all members of ape society. Taylor is soon muzzled and led back to his cage.
While in his cage, Taylor overhears that Dr. Zaius has issued orders for him to be gelded with a surgical procedure! With one’s ballocks at stake, what is a man to do? Get the hell out of Ape City! You would think it is only humans that castrate (or any other euphemism) animals?
While fleeing through Ape City and causing great consternation to the inhabitants, Taylor tries to hide in a place of worship during a funeral service for a deceased “defender of the faith, cherished husband, beloved father, generous master…a font of simian kindness.” Apes with such fine qualities, with a religious belief system, honoring their dead and a belief in an after-life! So human-like!
After fighting off gorilla police at a market place, Taylor flees into a museum with human tableaux displays and most shocking of all, he stumbles upon the taxidermized body of Dodge in one of the displays. Isn’t that also what we humans do to the so-called lesser creatures of our planet for people’s edification and amusement?
It isn’t long before Taylor is eventually surrounded, cornered and recaptured in a net. In the process, he reveals that he can speak now that his throat seems to have healed. To the onlloking apes shock he yells out: “Take your stinkin’ paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”
What Taylor has learned so far about this planet of the apes:
• An advanced society of talking apes.
• A strict hierarchy or caste system:
1. Gorillas (military and police force, hunters and workers)
2. Orangutans (government administration, legal system and religion)
3. Chimpanzees (intellectuals, scientists and doctors)
4. Humans (primitive, vermin to be hunted for sport, killed, enslaved for manual labor, or used in scientific experiments.)
While back in custody of the Ministry of Science, Taylor tells an uncomprehending Nova, “No one will listen to me. Only you.” Ironically, it took an immense journey across time and space for him to realize that unlike back on earth, he actually needs someone. On Earth there had been “lots of women, lots of lovemaking, but no love. That was the kind of world we’d made” which Taylor decided to leave “because there was no one to hold me there.”
Taylor wonders if Nova can actually love him, but it seems to be a mute point as she’s “the only girl in town.” Nova’s physical reactions towards Taylor despite her inability to verbalize, do speak volumes as to her thoughts and feelings though.
Taylor is eventually brought before an ad-hoc tribunal hearing of the National Academy, presided over by its President, assisted by Maximus and Zaius, with Dr. Honorious as Deputy Minister of Justice, appearing for the state as its prosecutor.
It soon becomes apparent as the proceedings progress that the hearing is little more than a kangaroo court with powers akin to an inquisition aimed at justifying a predetermined verdict.
Honorious begins by arguing that the “exhibit” Taylor being a human has no rights under ape law. Dr. Zira counters by stating, “he is unlike any man you have ever seen.” Cornelius then modifies the argument by asking, “Is he a man, is he a deviate, or a freak of nature?” Dr. Zaius refocuses attention to what he sees as the real matter at hand, namely that “it is scientific heresy that is being tried here” with the implied threat that anyone defending “this animal” would be endangering their own career.
Taylor volunteers to defend himself, but is forcibly restrained and silenced whenever he tries to speak. Honorious declares that the case is “based on our first article of faith: That the almighty created the ape in his own image; that he gave him a soul and a mind; that he set him apart from the beasts of the jungle and made him the lord of the planet. These sacred truths are self-evident.” He then rails against the “perverted scientists who advance an insidious theory called evolution.”
One cannot help but be reminded of historical precedents where the quest for scientific truth and knowledge has clashed with the precepts of orthodoxy, doctrine, dogma and faith: Copernicus, Galileo, the 19th Century Creationist vs. Evolution theory debates and so on.
Honorious representing the state charges that Zira and surgeon Galen operated on “this wounded animal” and thus tampered with his brain and throat tissues to produce “a speaking monster.” Zira objects and states that “not only can this man speak, he can think. He can reason.”
As if from a scene taken from the Salem witch trials, Honorious proceeds to demonstrate that the notion of a speaking human is simply a hoax, by asking Taylor questions about Ape faith and culture that he simply cannot answer. This is then used as proof to demonstrate that Taylor cannot think.
Other questions are asked which seem to neatly mirror our own human arrogance when it comes to our perceived special status in the divine scheme of things from which non-human species are apparently barred: “Why do men have no souls? What is the proof that a divine spark exists in the simian brain?” Eternal questions that are unanswerable or are matters of faith rather than matters of earthly legality, notions of right and wrong, and the realm of fact, truth and evidence.
Taylor then decides to have Cornelius read his written statement concerning his arrival from a planet in a different solar system as a space explorer, and that he had two “intelligent companions” with him at the time of his capture.
During the course of the proceedings, Cornelius affirmed that while “this creature cannot have come from another planet…this much is certain. He does come from somewhere in the Forbidden Zone” because he had accurately described it. Cornelius goes on to describe how he had found evidence a year ago of a simian culture that existed long before the sacred scrolls were written.
Zira adds that if the human had originated on their planet, she had found “no physiological defect to explain why humans are mute…Their speech organs are adequate. The flaw lies not in their anatomy, but in the brain.” In a rather comically cute tableaux, the three tribunal officials assume the “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” pose.
Cornelius concludes by referring to the human as being a “living paradox, this missing link in an evolutionary chain.” This is too much for the court authorities who charge Zira and Cornelius with “contempt of this tribunal, malicious mischief, and scientific heresy.” The hearing is then adjourned until the fate of Taylor, Cornelius and Zira is decided.
Later on in his private chambers, Dr. Zaius commends Taylor for making it possible for the state “to expose Zira and Cornelius.” He rather arrogantly states that “they’ll soon be brought to trial for heresy” and that his “case was preordained.”
Taylor is then threatened with emasculation, followed by experimental surgery on the speech centers of his brain – “a kind of living death” unless…… Taylor cooperates by answering Zaius’ demand: “Tell me who and what you really are and where you came from, and no veterinary shall touch you….Where is your tribe?”
Taylor unsuccessfully tries to convince Zaius that he is from another planet, but is at least able to get him to acknowledge that he didn’t think Taylor was a “monster created by Dr. Zira.” Zaius refers to Taylor as being a mutant and believes that “where there’s one mutant, there’s probably another and another, a whole nest of them.”
Taylor asks the most pertinent question concerning this whole nightmare situation: “Who are you? How in hell did this upside-down civilization get started?” There is however no answer forthcoming to this question yet. Zaius admits that he was aware Landon could talk, and had the lobotomy performed on him to prevent him from talking and keeping the knowledge of intelligent humans hidden from from the rest of ape society. Zaius also admits that he believes that Taylor and his “tribe” originated from the other side of the Forbidden Zone and demands to know about the possible existence of this other human civilization. Clearly fearful about the future consequences for Ape society, Zaius calls Taylor a problematic “menace, a walking pestilence.” Taylor is given six hours to make a “full confession” about his origins – or Zaius will use surgery to obtain one. As Taylor is led away to his cage, he yells out to Zaius, “What are you afraid of, Doctor?”
Truth Revealed & Concealed
Lucius, Zira’s rebellious teenage nephew helps Taylor escape from his cage by explaining to Julius the guard that Taylor is being transferred to the zoo. When Julius questions the authorization, Lucius with the help of Taylor, knocks the guard out and escapes. Taylor not surprisingly also insists on Nova being included in the escape bid.
Zira awaits the arrival of the fugitives with horses, supplies, and guns. Both Zira and Cornelius are also fugitives having been indicted for heresy. Taylor takes one of the guns for himself and defiantly declares that no one would be in charge of him from this point on. Cornelius leads the party in the direction of the Forbidden Zone, a 3-day trek across the desert, where Cornelius had performed an archaeological excavation a year earlier and had located artifacts. It is these artifacts, hopefully that will prove Zira and he innocent of the heresy charges.
The Forbidden Zone: said to be a deadly quarantined area – “an ancient taboo set forth in the sacred scrolls” that were written 1,200 years earlier.
After trekking across the desert the small party of fugitives eventually arrive at the dig site at a cave that overlooks a beach that faces the ocean. Suddenly, Dr. Zaius and an armed gorilla force arrive on horseback and declare the fugitives as being under arrest. Taylor, however threatens them with his gun and insists on their withdrawal which they comply with. Taylor then negotiates with Zaius with the condition that if Cornelius can prove his theory, Zaius will let him off his charges. Zaius agrees to this.
On the lowest level of the diggings, Cornelius points out artifacts, ruins and bones from a civilization about 2,000 years old – a paradox however, “for the more ancient culture is the more advanced.” Even more surprising and damning is the fact that “no trace of simian fossil has been found in this deposit.”
Not surprisingly, Zaius remains unconvinced and retorts, “keep digging, Cornelius. You’ll find evidence of the master of this house, an ape.” Armed with the evidence of fragments of artifacts and the existence of a doll, Taylor declares that there were humans, and that although they were “a weak, fragile animal,” they were present before the apes, and adds “he was better than you are.” When handled by Nova, the human doll utters the word: “Mama, Mama.” Taylor then asks, “Would an ape make a human doll that talks?”
Suddenly the sound of gunshots erupt from the beach outside the cave interrupting the discussion. The young hot-headed Lucius has been overpowered but Taylor dusting off his 2nd Amendment rights manages to spoil the day for a number of the gorilla hostiles. He then fakes an injury in order to draw Zaius out of the cave. The ruse works and Zaius is trapped and forced once again to order his gorilla soldiers to withdraw. Taylor then demands that he and Nova be allowed to escape with a horse, ammunition and a week’s worth of supplies.
Taylor confronts Zaius with the seemingly inescapable truth that Cornelius’ work does indeed prove the superiority of humans over apes. He proclaims that “man was here first. You owe him your science, your culture, whatever civilization you’ve got.” As to the question why the humans didn’t survive? Taylor conjectures that it may have been due to “a plague, some natural catastrophe, a storm of meteors.”
Even more to the point is that as “defender of the faith, guardian of the terrible secret” Zaius knew the truth all along. But why persist with such a charade? It may not be so much as what it has to say about the likes of Zaius and Ape society as much as it has to say about the nature of the human civilization that preceded it. The answer is akin to holding up a mirror to the face of the human race with the underlying motive behind the concealment of the truth being based on fear:
29th scroll, the 6th verse, of the sacred scrolls where it is prophesied by the Lawgiver:
“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 writings of the scrolls provide a dire warning about man and the danger he presents. Zaius always knew that an intelligent human like Taylor would show up one day. Zaius admits that he doesn’t really hate humans, but he does fear them – not for what they are, but for what they were. He explains that the Forbidden Zone was once a paradise, but it was destroyed by man long ago.
Nova and Taylor prepare to leave on horseback and follow the shoreline. After saying their goodbyes to Zira and Cornelius, Zaius admits, “I have always known about man. From the evidence, I believe his wisdom must walk hand in hand with his idiocy. His emotions must rule his brain. He must be a warlike creature who gives battle to everything around him – even himself…” Taylor can’t understand why this has all come about on a planet where apes evolved from men, – “There’s gotta be an answer.” Zaius cryptically replies, “Don’t look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.”
As Nova and Taylor depart, Zaius orders his force not to pursue them and then arranges for explosives to be detonated to seal up the cave along with evidence of humans and their society. Without that evidence as proof to exonerate them, Zira and Cornelius would both stand trial for heresy. Zaius tells them that the destruction of that evidence may have just saved the future for all of them. He finally predicts that Taylor will soon find “his destiny.”
Taylor and Nova ride down a beach shoreline somewhere in the Forbidden Zone but soon come to a halt upon seeing some kind of structure. Taylor dismounts and stares upward. We then have a view of him through a series of spikes protruding from something that is becoming gradually and uncomfortably familiar. Suddenly Taylor exclaims in shocked anguish: “Oh, my God! I’m back, I’m home. All the time, it was…” Dropping to his knees in defeated, bitter realization he continues: “We finally really did it”…. [Pounding his fist into the sand]…….”You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! Goddamn you all to hell!” As the camera pans backward, the spiked crown of a battered and corroded Statue of Liberty buried waist-deep in beach sand is revealed, a decayed tombstone marking humanity’s folly buried beneath the surface upon which Taylor pounds with an angry fist of grief.
Somewhere deep within his psyche, Taylor may have known something like this would have to come to pass as foreshadowed by his bitter reference to a tarnished and ruined statue of Landon and his mocking laughter at Landon’s pathetic planting of a small American flag in the Forbidden Zone. And now Taylor is on his knees before the ruined Statue of Liberty in the former United States of America. A cruel cosmic joke perpetrated on him and the whole human race!
The bitter irony is that Taylor now realizes that he has been on Earth the whole time, and that Zaius was right about humanity destroying itself and apes becoming the dominant species.
[Fade to black]
Points Of Interest
• Planet of the Apes (1968) (Original)
• Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
• Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
• Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
• Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)
• CBS-TV’s Planet of the Apes (1974) (TV series)
• Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975) (animated series)
• Planet of the Apes (2001) (Re-imagining by Tim Burton)(Charlton Heston and Linda Harrison also appear in this film)
• Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) (prequel directed by Rupert Wyatt)
• Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) (directed by Matt Reeves)
• War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) (directed by Matt Reeves)
Planet of the Apes was based somewhat on the 1963 French science fiction novel La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boule, with a script by The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling, and ex-blacklisted Michael Wilson. In Wilson’s case, it may very well have been his being a target of the McCarthy era anti-communist blacklisting witch hunts that comes through powerfully in the kangaroo courtroom scene.
The script underwent many rewrites before filming eventually began. A major concern centered around the technologically advanced ape society of Serling’s script which would have increased the cost of production requiring expensive sets, props, and special effects.
Producer Arthur P. Jacobs secured the rights to Pierre Boulle’s 1963 book La Planète des singes before it was published in the English language. Boulle never thought they could make a movie out of it. I can see why as after reading the English version of the novel, I came away feeling I was reading a very stilted 19th Century Jules Verne-style sci-fi story. Still, an intriguing idea for a story and film.
[Novel Spoilers!] In Pierre Boulle’s novel, the spacecraft crew land on another planet some 350 light-years from Earth in orbit around the star Betelgeuse, which is in the constellation of Orion. Unlike the film version, the ape society is technologically on a par with mid-20th century Earth, with cities, automobiles, televisions and other technology left over from the planet’s human population. The main character, Ulisse manages to escape from the ape authorities with Nova, and they return to Earth which has undergone the same evolutionary process. Ulisse and Nova flee Earth and leave a message in a bottle floating through space to warn off anyone else who might stumble across either planet. The bottle is eventually discovered by an old married couple named Jinn and Phyllis, who are….wait for it!….. chimpanzees. They dismiss the story, declaring that no human could be intelligent enough to write it.
Awards & Recognition
Filming took place between May 21 and August 10, 1967, in California, Utah and Arizona, with desert sequences shot in and around Lake Powell (where the spaceship crash-lands in the lake,) Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The three astronauts’ journey in their raft was filmed along the Colorado River in Glen Canyon.
The concluding beach scenes were filmed on a secluded stretch of California seacoast between Malibu and Oxnard. The cast, crew, film equipment, and horses had to be lowered in by helicopter to the beach due to difficulty accessing the site by foot.
Trials & Tribulations
One thing that can be said about the 21st century incarnations of the Planet of the Apes is thank goodness that technological developments have allowed the use of computer-generated ape faces to replace the rubber-latex masks (great work for the time!) used in the earlier films. Yes purists, not all CGI use is “bad” or the devil’s work.
Back in the day….the actors began their day at 5am when eyebrows and sideburns were painted with a protective wax. The inside of the mask for the top half of the face was coated with adhesive and a make up artist would then glue it to the actor’s face. The ears, which made hearing difficult, were added. The actor’s teeth were painted with black enamel and the ‘chin’ was put on. Finally four facial hairpieces (which were carefully woven onto the perimeter of the “facial appliance”) and a wig were fixed in place. The whole process took three hours and the actors often had to wear it for more than 12 hours a day!
The ape actors and extras had to wear their masks even during breaks and in between shots due to the amount of time required to make them up. Their meals also had to be liquefied and drunk through straws. The actors also had to eat their lunch in front of a mirror to monitor any changes to their make-up.
Kim Hunter apparently found the facial ape prosthetics so claustrophobic that she took a Valium each morning while being made up as Zira. By the end of several days, the spirit glue used in the facial appliances burned her skin. As a result she had to sleep with Vaseline on her face to avoid having a bright red rash each morning.
If all that wasn’t enough, the heat during the desert scenes at the opening of the film was so intense that many of the cast and crew fainted, including director Franklin J. Schaffner.
Charlton Heston certainly earned his paycheck as he spent much of his time being blasted with a water pressure hose, chased and pummeled by simians, running around half-naked and all the while feeling sick with the flu. (Oh, yes, we can separate the actor and his work from the man and his later activities and political views which some take exception to and find so, so hard to do!)
The Human Ape
After watching a film like Planet of the Apes, one cannot help but reflect on the human race itself. Human history both ancient and modern is filled with instances whereby powerful and influential elites jealous of preserving their positions and furthering their vested interests strive to shut down alternative views or actions that challenge their positions of power and the world view they wish to perpetuate and on which that power depends. This holds true for any human endeavor from politics; economics; culture; science; religion; environmental, gender and racial politics; and on and on.
It is becoming increasingly the case of late that we seek to view people and events in terms of absolutes: actions and ideas are seen as being either right or wrong, good or bad, black or white, true or false. In Planet of the Apes, such clearly defined distinctions don’t apply. So much depends on one’s point of view or perspective. The simian inhabitants of ape society appear to be quite callous and cruel in their attitudes and behavior toward human beings. Bur not all them hold such attitudes. And what of the attitudes and behavior of human beings toward other species and toward members of its own species? Are we any better? It seems that any view of ape society is tantamount to holding up a mirror to ourselves. Despite our hubris and inflated sense of self-worth and superiority, we are after all not much more at heart than primitive apes with tremendous processing power, the kind of power that if we are not careful could wind up destroying our own species. What will nature and the process of evolution choose to fill that little void with I wonder?
On A Lighter Note
During breaks in filming, the actors tended to segregate according to the different ape species they where made up to play. An interesting observation about primate behavior one might say!
The “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” shot was entirely ad-libbed on the set on the day of shooting which gave the film some sense of amusement within an otherwise serious sequence of events. Come to think of it, the three orangutan presiding officials in that shot could serve as emblems for the high priests of the current “Woke-ocracy” and the adherents of Cancel-culturalism, who don’t wish to have our eyes and ears polluted with ideas and views contrary to their ideology. Their “ape” solution? Muzzle mouths lest “evil” be spoken of….