Planet Of The Apes 35th Anniversary Edition DVD Review

Cover Art & Menu: 9/10
I’m all about artsy covers and groovy designs, but this time I can handle the pomp and circumstance with the silver metallicness. It’s a  nice tribute to such a classic flick. It looks good on the shelf and the slip cover will keep it looking good for a long time. The tri-fold layout with the simplified artwork, black on silver is pretty cool. Don’t go into shock but I really love this cover…whew, I got that off my chest.

Extras & Features: 10/10
There is a lot of stuff on this two disc set so I will hit the high lights, which is pretty much everything. I will just leave off a few extras that are either self explanatory or better left for you to explore on your own.

Disc 1:

  • Commentary by Actors Roddy McDowell, Natalie Trundy, Kim Hunter, Producer, Make-up Artist John Chambers – How great is this? I mean come on! How often do we film lovers get the chance to listen to people from a movie almost half a century ago talk about the experience? It’s great. I won’t pretend to be mildly impressed because I’m sick of reading reviews by people who have no passion for the small details that make movies and DVD’s entertaining, informative, and worthy of semi-obsession. This commentary is fantastic and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to hear the stories and the recounts of experiences these folks had while making this film classic.
  • Text Commentary by Eric Greene – This is one of those extras that I am on the fence about. I like any bonus material on a DVD, but at some point things can tend to be repeated. It seems that a lot of the comments Greene makes are also used in all of the other extras. It can become a bit repetitive after a while. If it were more informative and maybe written with more personality it might be more worthy of yet another watch of the movie. Not that I wouldn’t watch this movie a dozen times, but when it comes to commentaries, extras and bonus materials I guess I’m looking for new information and less interpretation. That is what this written commentary does, interpret and analyze.

Disc 2:

  • Behind The Planet Of The Apes Documentary – This puppy is longer than the movie itself. It’s more than two hours of the history of the entire Planet of the Apes saga. From the origins of the first movie all the way up to the TV series and short lived animated cartoon this franchise has taken lots of tosses and tumbles along the way. Roddy McDowell takes through the gravy years of Apes and the not-so-gravy days of its four sequels, controversies, and steady decline in studio financial support. We get to go from the early days when every ape was costumed in great detail, to the later reincarnations when budget cuts forced a portion of the cast to wear rubber masks, which did not do justice to the original high quality and integrity of the make up. This documentary covers lots of tid bits about the author of creator and the studio big shots who have had a tight squeeze on both the quality and content of each Ape movie. Who knew that a French author wrote a book called Monkey Planet (La Planete Des Singes) and that’s where Planet of the Apes came from? Now you do. Not only did Boulle Pierre write the story that started the whirlwind of Ape-mania, he also wrote The Bridge Over River Kwia, which also became another classic film adaptation. This full blown feature film/extra was originally shown on TV and was hyped up pretty good with promos like the one listed.
  • Behind The Planet Of The Apes Promo – Have you seen Scrooged with Bill Murray? Well, if you have you know the big voice that booms over the foreboding trailer of an upcoming live version of Scrooge. Ok, so that voice is the same that rolls over this promo and it’s pretty powerful. It would make anyone feel obligated to go out and watch all the Ape movies right away.  Anyone who has not seen Scrooged will just have to go rent it, not because it has anything to do with Planet of the Apes, but because it’s a really cool flick.
  • Roddy McDowall Home Movies – This is a series of clips filmed with a small camera by Roddy McDowall. It has not audio but it does have some nice background music and it shows the grueling make-up transformation of McDowall from man to ape. Personally I think bits like this are treasures that we, the movie loving public, are extremely lucky to get our grubby little paws on. It could have sat in a closet somewhere for all eternity, but someone had the good sense to digitalize it and offer it up as a DVD extra. It might not seem like much to some people, but if you love the whole process of how movies are made you will appreciate the behind the scenes footage for sure.
  • Planet Of The Apes Dallies and Outtakes – We all know what dallies and outtakes are by now, and it’s cool to have them preserved for all this time from such a cool movie. The making of Planet of the Apes was an exeption to the rule in those days. The huge task of making up so many detailed characters, the building of so many large sets, the whole thing was on a big scale and any scraps of footage that is kept around that shows more than just the movie itself makes a great packaged deal for DVD lovers.
  • Planet of the Apes Teaser Trailer – Teaser my ass! This trailer has no concept of what “teaser” means. I think you could watch this thing and not even need to see the movie. It is funny to see how differently they thought of trailers back then.
  • Planet of the Apes Trailer – Pretty much like the teaser trailer, unfortunately. What were they thinking? Oh well, it got people psyched and out to the theaters to see this monster of a hit.

The Movie: 9/10

“Chalk up another victory for the human spirit.” This quote follows a bellowing cynical burst of laughter by our hero, Taylor who makes it clear that his is not very fond of the human race. This is one of the first of many quality lines of dialogue that make this movie so good. That sounds kind of non-objective and smushy like I might have a soft spot in my little movie lover heart for this movie, and so I do.

“Some apes it seems are more equal than others.” See? This is what I’m talking. I could just put the script here for you to judge for yourself what a well written screenplay they started with, but that might be a bit of a long review to read.

The story is so out there it’s brilliant. Beyond the sci-fi trip into space that takes the astronauts through some sort of time-space thing that’s supposed to put them back on Earth several hundred years in the future, there is an amazing plethora of ideas to explore (plethora?). There are visual treats to behold, the most exciting of which is a fully realized ape society complete with chiseled stone cave-like houses, bridges, courtyards and more.

The film makers (well, the producers) claim that they never intended to have any kind of political messages in the movie. HUH? How could they be so blind? Did they read the script? I remember when I was a kid thinking that this movie had a big message, I wasn’t sure what it was but it seemed obvious on some level. There is the social class system, prejudice, political corruption, religion, and probably more that I have just not noticed yet. I’ll have to watch it a few more times:) I could go deep into the different social topics in the film, but I’m sure you have heard them all already.

Then there are the costumes that are perfect, and the sets are extremely cool. So much detail and so much effort put into the whole production it stands out as one of the most solid flicks of all time. I can’t find fault if I try. If you pick it apart for some of the common annoyances you are just digging for dirt. For example, you might be a but bugged by some poor acting by the extras or if you have the attention span of a 3 year old the gorgeous scenes that slowly unfold might get on your nerves. That is if you are an idiot. No offense.

The messages I mentioned are crawling all over this film, but if you choose not to look that closely you can love the movie for just one thing, it’s endlessly entertaining. The opening scene in the space ship is a bit eerie and hints at a dark tone to come. Heston is cynical, maudlin, and not a chipper kind of guy from the very first lines in the movie. When the ship crashes it’s a spectacular effect that tosses us around as if we were on the ship ourselves. So, from the beginning of the movie you are braced for a not-so-uplifting story. When one of the crew is dead on arrival and soon after the remaining three set out on an expedition of a strange and apparently unchartered territory the tactical camera work and amazing editing begins. There is so much visual variety in this movie from extreme close ups to extreme long shots and interesting angles. It creates a spectacular invitation to the movie watcher to get sucked into this strange planet and follow the characters to whatever might be ahead of them.

There is never a moment when you are not captivated. No matter how many times I see it I am glued to the screen, I even find myself looking all over every shot, every scene to find even more new things in the nooks and crannies for exciting details. The acting is believable all around, but my very favorite is Kim Hunter who plays Zira (the Chimp “Animal Psychologist”). She is fantastic. I watched closely and watched again while writing this review and I am 100% convinced that that woman has transformed into her character. Roddy McDowall is just exactly the perfect compliment to  Hunter’s performance because he is as enthusiastic and just as top notch in terms of becoming the character. And considering all the make up and the struggles with getting into character to have such amazing performances is one more testament to what a great film Planet of the Apes is.

I can’t say enough about this movie. The sense of humor is clever with even the classic “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” saying done very obviously in one scene. You get comments like “human see, human do” and references to other monkey/human jokes like when Zira agrees to kiss Taylor but giggles and says, “but you’re just so damn ugly.” It’s great!

There was even one of those moments I found while doing screenshots that I just couldn’t resist. You can see it above near the top of the page. It’s when the three surviving spacemen are naked by a waterfall and have a slightly suspicious hem..well, you be the judge.

Over all this film is the king of all classic films. You can’t get better than this in my opinion. I think I’ll pop it in my laptop and watch it again when I’m done with this review.

Value: 10/10
Wow, great cover, amazing movie, and fantastic extras all for just under 20 bucks. Now that is what I call a “Must Have DVD”.

Overall Score 10/10