Planet of the Apes (1968)

So I’m sitting in the examining room at the dentist, waiting. In front of me is a nice flat-screen TV for my viewing pleasure (At least I can see where the money I spend here goes. I know it doesn’t go into Research and Development for a way to prep your mouth for pain by NOT sticking a NEEDLE into your gums). The dental assistant asks if I want the TV on a certain channel while they work on my mouth. I was tired of news, so I suggested AMC (American Movie Classics). Jackpot! Planet of the Apes! The nurse groaned. The doctor was happy. In spite of her disapproval,  the assistant was turning her head to see what was happening with the movie (“that’s ok, I’ll deal with that saliva build-up myself while you see what happens to Charlton Heston”).

Ironically, I’m in a dentist chair, unable to talk, watching a movie where most of the humans can’t talk. Good thing the dentist wasn’t particularly hairy.

Interestingly, many years ago I was having a blood sugar test, which required being in the doctor’s office eight hours while every hour blood was taken from me and tested. How did I pass the time? I read a copy of the book “Monkey Planet” by Pierre Boulle. That book was the basis for the movie Planet of the Apes. Pierre Boulle also wrote the book “The Bridge on the River Kwai“, which was also made into a movie previously reviewed in this blog. Doctors, apes, French author, movies, blog. Freaky, isn’t, it?

Here we have the story of a group of astronauts who crash land on a planet unknown to them. A planet ruled by talking, intelligent apes. Humans are unintelligent and mute.

Please, please, for those of you on the youthful side of life, don’t mistake this movie, made in 1968, for the 2007 remake by Tim Burton. That movie was embarrassingly bad. Look up the word “bad” in the dictionary, it refers to that movie.

For those of you rolling your eyes when you saw the title of this movie in this blog, believe me, there is more to this movie than gorillas riding horses. The script by Michael Wilson (who also wrote the screenplays for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), A Place in the Sun (1951), and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)), and Rod Serling (many Twilight Zone episodes (1959-1964), Seven Days in May (1964), Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)), take this far out of B-movie status. The apes don’t even appear until 30 minutes into the movie. The story is the main point, not the effects.

The soundtrack is terrific. According to the IMBD, allegedly, composer Jerry Goldsmith wore a gorilla mask while writing and conducting the score to “better get in touch with the movie.” He also used a ram’s horn in the process. The result was the first completely atonal score in a Hollywood movie (Don’t know what “atonal” means? Look it up. I’m not an enabler).

I recently did a scientific poll of one person under the age of 30. She didn’t know how this movie ended. So I won’t give the ending away. Suffice it to say, it’s still one of the best surprise endings of any movie.

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