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WAR, what is it good for?
18 September 2017
The original 1968 PLANET OF THE APES is my all-time favorite movie. I first saw it when I was almost nine years old back when it came out. My several IMDb reviews of it often appear on its page.

But, I've not bothered commenting on the rebooted APES franchise until now. The reason I'm doing so is because of the amount of hate and negative reviews this movie is getting on this site, which I think is way over the top and quite addle-brained.

First off, I for one do accept this "Ceasar Trilogy" of movies as prequels to the classic 1968 original. They don't match with the continuity of the original, now almost fifty years old, but there's nothing that says they have to. Forgetting some of the absurdities of the Charlton Heston movie, such as his nearly fast-as-light-speed interstellar flight having taken off in 1972(?) on a mission to supposedly colonize another Earth-like world with only one female crew member(???), these so-called "reboots" have offered a much more clever and plausible -- though still highly improbable -- explanation of how the planet of the apes could come into being than either the original five-film series of old did, or even Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES as pure Science Fiction is better than the 1968 film, though that's not to say that RISE is a better overall movie than the '68 now classic film.

So, how do these rebooted films fit as prequels to the '68 original? I think of them as the very beginning of the original, or origin, time-line that leads to the world of 3978 AD Earth that Charlton Heston's spaceship crash-lands on. A lot of viewers don't seem to realize that the events of the three reboot APES movies only get us around thirty years into the future. That still leaves nearly two thousand years before the events of the original film, and a hell of a lot of time for Fox to fill up with future APES movies if they choose to. (They only thing I'm still puzzled by is when is the nuclear holocaust supposed to happen, or have the makers of these reboots abandoned that scenario and will offer a different explanation for that desert planet of 3978 came into being? I think we're supposed to accept now that the sequels to the '68 original never happened, and that Heston's Taylor character was wrong when he assumed a nuclear war destroyed mankind at the famous conclusion to the original.)

Still, I have found these rebooted APES films to be an exercise in frustration mostly because they're really not what the Planet of the Apes concept is about, what its purpose is, or what makes it important. Yes, they are allegorical, have social commentary, and a certain satirical content, but it's nowhere near as pointed and relevant as it was in the original (as heavy-handed as it often is), and that's where these new APES movies fail for me -- there's just not enough to them. The makers have either forgotten or are simply ignoring the fact that the original movie wasn't about a planet of apes, it was about what happens to one misanthropic astronaut on a planet of apes. It was a black comedy and a biting commentary on the arrogance and stupidity of humanity either believing or just assuming that it is the "apex" of animals. These new films do deal with that, but it's all secondary to what I see as just "simian soap opera," and it often comes across as more than a little silly. Still, I find them to be better than average for what passes these days as summer blockbusters.

However, the level and character of attack WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES has been getting in reviews here is making poop-flinging monkeys out of those writing them. WAR and the entire trilogy is not about current liberal vs. conservative politics in the U.S., nor the situation in Europe and problems with refugees, or a commentary on Black Lives Matter. Sure, there's some kind of subtext going on, but for me, it's far too buried and muddy to get excited about. It's just adventures among the monkeys, folks.

Ironically, though, I think it's being hated because it's not a dumber movie, that being a movie that's little more than what its title says it's supposed to be about -- War. So, it turns out not to be just another summer "action" movie, wall-to-wall action, that is, like the Fast and Furious franchise and other models of cinema greatness. Well, that's too bad, but to complain about at the level that's been expressed here is to come across as cinema brats. You were bored. Oh, what an artistic crime this movie committed! You guys need to just go back to waiting for the next Mad Max movie.
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Excellent DVD featurette
20 August 2008
Created for the June, 2007 Fox "Cinema Classics Collection" 2-disc DVD, "The Making of The Sand Pebbles" features video clips of surviving cast and crew, including the former Mrs. Steve McQueen, Neile Adams, during the program's 65 min. running time, which is divided into six 'featurettes' of various lengths and covers in fine detail nearly every aspect of the film's production, release and lasting legacy. Since liberal use of the late Jerry Goldsmith's emotional score is made throughout, parts of it can be quite emotionally affecting and I can't imagine fans of the film having anything but praise for this effort. It has been included on the Blu-ray DVD too.
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Sebastian (1968)
The Jerry Goldsmith score
14 December 2007
This is a good film to watch if you like British films from the era and especially ones with Dirk Bogarde. It's made with some style but the script is a problem. Though it starts out intriguingly, in the end this espionage film is rather much ado about nothing. The main point of interest in this rarely seen movie now is the equally rarely heard Jerry Goldsmith score, which I rather like. I believe it got an LP release back in 1968, but has never been issued on CD. Perhaps one of the reasons for that, as I've recently read, is that Goldsmith didn't have a good experience doing the score and never had much to say about it or simply didn't want to discuss it at all. Unfortunate, because the score, though minor Goldsmith, does have merit. I hope someday to read just what Goldsmith's problems were with it.
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Watchable, but mostly for its '50s atmosphere
10 October 2006
Turner Classic Movies channel just showed this (10/10/06). I'd never heard of it before. I suspect it was barely released in 1959. It's a very low-budget film that's supposed to take place in Florida, but I'm not sure it was entirely shot there. Some of it looks like Southern Cal. Steven Hill, Elaine Stritch, Andrew Prine and a nineteen-year-old Sharon Farrell are professional and do the best they can with a weak script and in what looks like an amateur production. I see it's the director's only credit. The film is not bad, somewhat interesting, but never rises above its limits. A minor curio. It certainly kept me watching, but in the end it didn't amount to much.
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Swiss Family Robinson (1975–1976)
Not very good
11 July 2004
I barely remember this show. It wasn't on very long and was the last of the type of TV shows that Irwin Allen produced at 20th Century-Fox Television, starting with "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea." I don't know why Allen did this show, but it seems from the result that his heart wasn't it it anymore. Maybe it was because concept shows like this had just become to expensive to make. One thing I do remember well was that although the music was credited to Richard La Salle, much of it was lifted from Jerry Goldsmith's score to the original "Planet of the Apes" movie. Allen's "Lost in Space" TV show did the same thing with its music, much of it actually coming from Bernard Herrmann's scores to "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth." Since all these shows and movies were produced at Fox I guess they could do these things in those days.
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Fun old movies, but....
30 November 2003
I love the old Johnny Weissmuller/MGM "Tarzan" movies of the 1930s and 40s. I have them all six of them on laserdisc from the 1990s, but I have to wonder in what form they will arrive on DVD -- if ever? Watching "Tarzan's Secret Treasure" (1941) today I was amazed to hear for the first time, after many viewings, Barry Fitzgerald's O'Doul character refer to a little black native boy as a "pickaninny." In the earlier Tarzan movies the blacks are constantly called "boy" and other derogatory terms and often casually shot by white men for disobeying orders. I'm not sure, but I think there may be a problem with this being released on DVD today, but my point is that I DON'T want to see these films edited in any way. They're time capsules of entertainment from an earlier era, and they should be preserved.
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Classic SF film coming to DVD again!
2 November 2003
On February 3, 2004, just five days shy of this classic's 36th anniversary, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release on DVD the 35th Anniversary Edition of "Planet of the Apes" (1968). This edition will FINALLY present the film in 16x9 anamorphic widescreen, and hopefully with an improved stereo mix. It will also include a lot of extras, though many have been available on DVD elsewhere for some time, but what is really pleasing is that a Jerry Goldsmith commentary on his score will also be included. Goldsmith's score is a motion picture landmark and has never been out of print on LP, cassette, and CD. It's a dream come true to finally get some Goldsmith commentary on it. The DVD will also feature some twenty minutes of behind-the-scenes footage that the late actor Roddy McDowall, also an avid photographer, shot with a 16mm movie camera during production. All too brief snippets of it were used in the 1998 AMC documentary "Behind the Planet of the Apes." This should be fascinating to APES fans, but of course the enduring elements of a movie that has proved to be a timeless motion picture SF masterpiece will be the main attraction.
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A Classic comes to DVD
20 November 2002
OK "Journey to the Center of the Earth" fans, 20th Century Fox has just announced the the movie will be released on DVD in March of 2003. The transfer will be letterboxed and should feature a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I have a 1999 laserdisc version that is just fantastic, so this DVD should be better than that. Fox has said there will be no extras, which is a damn shame since I'd very much like to hear what Pat Boone remembers of the making of this movie.
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The Omega Man (1971)
O'my God, this is awful!
7 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
"The Omega Man" is really a bad movie. I saw it when it originally came out and I don't think I've ever really liked it. Done on a low budget, it has the feel of a made-for-TV movie, with direction that seems phoned in and a script that should have been thrown out! Charlton Heston pretty much just plays...well...Charlton Heston, only he's often not very good at it. This must have only been an easy pay check for him. The one redeeming factor about this movie is the Ron Grainer score. It at least has energy, everything else seems tired and cliched. The movie tries to present a nightmare world where only a handful of "normal" human beings battle scarred, photophobic and insane survivors of a biochemical world war. But looking back at it over thirty years later the only thing that's frightening about it is the vision it gives of having to spend the rest of your life listening to 8-track tapes and jive-talking angry black people call you honkey! At least Heston gets to mercifully die at the end.
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A fun 1940s horror gem, flawed, but don't blame Bela
5 November 2002
It's true that this is more a sequel to "The Wolf Man" (in fact I like the first twenty-five minutes of this movie more that "The Wolf Man.") than "Ghost of Frankenstein," but it's a better Frankenstein film than "House of Frankenstein" or "House of Dracula" because the Monster has more to do here, and it's better than "Ghost of Frankenstein" just because it's more fun. Poor Bela Lugosi gets ripped all the time for what a terrible job he did as the Monster in this one, but in fairness his role was severely edited. The monster originally could talk and was blind, but the producers felt Lugosi's voice coming from the Monster was more funny than frightening, and his dialogue wasn't all that great anyway, so out it all went. It's for this reason that the monster acts so strangely in the final cut, and the Monster was supposed to be sick anyway. It was a mistake to cast the too old Lugosi as the Monster, but don't blame Bela -- he probably did the best he could, but we'll never know. I also think it was a mistake to cast Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Monster in "Ghost." Both he and Lugosi were too round-faced to take over from Karloff. And the ending of "Ghost" was one of the biggest blunders in the entire series. But this film manages to survive all the mistakes and still be very entertaining. I've probably seen it fifty times in my life, and I can always watch it again. It has good direction, by Roy William Neil, quick pacing and great atmosphere (especially in the first half). Sure, it's just a '40s Universal B-movie, but it's stood the test of time. This movie should have had a special edition DVD all its own, with a digitally restored print and extras that included stills of the cut scenes with the monster and script excerpts. Oh well! It's still good to have it on DVD.
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#3 and not bad
1 November 2002
This, the third film in the PLANET OF THE APES series, is the best of the sequels. It's not as melodramatic and unpleasant as the second, and not as cheap, trite and silly as the fourth and fifth films. In fact, "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" is a fairly entertaining, witty and thought-provoking movie. The only real gripe I have against it is that Roddy McDowall's and Kim Hunter's make-up is a cheaper version of the ones they wore in the original. It shows and it hurts the movie's credibility. However, the clever dialogue and the performances are so good that the movie overcomes its low-budget production. I would recommend this movie without reservations (except for the "gripe" I mentioned above, but most aren't going to notice it) to anyone that liked the 1968 original, except for the fact that that SF classic is just so damn good and truly didn't need any sequels. But if you can't get enough of the apes and want to check-out one of the other APES films, this is the most satisfying of the lot. The ending made me cry as a kid, and may make you cry, too. A special little film.
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If you haven't seen it, PLEASE DON'T!
1 November 2002
"Beneath the Planet of the Apes" one of the all-time worst sequels, not because it's a bad film on its own terms, but because it so totally and uncaringly misinterprets what made the first film work. It is a mess of a movie that was made to cash in on the success of the original. It can be fun if you like your SF dished up as a crazy comic book adventure, but for me it so coarsens and makes campy the original conception that I despise the movie. This is a film that never should have been made, and it's a miracle that it spawned the rest of the APES series. I don't want to waste any more words on "Beneath" except to say that its sequel,1971s "Escape from the Planet of the Apes," is much better movie and really the only APES sequel worth bothering to view.
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A Landmark Horror film
1 November 2002
"Rosemary's Baby" is one of the best horror films ever made. This isn't because it's going to scare the pants off you with a series of sensational jolts. This isn't the shallow, gimmicky kind of horror movie we mostly get these days, and it isn't the traditional old-fashioned horror film of an earlier era. This is a movie that came out during a period of transition in Hollywood. The old production codes were breaking down and films could suddenly be more true to life in the way they showed how people really lived, acted and talked. 1968s "Rosemary's Baby" is a more sophisticated, less elegant thriller of the kind that Alfred Hitchcock patented, but it displays much more class and intelligence than the horror movies that would come out in its wake. Popular '70s films such as "The Exorcist" and "The Omen" are the prodigy of "Rosemary's Baby," but offer far less nuance and much greater vulgarity. What we get here is a more naturalistic depiction of modern life, but without the crassness that would soon explode into American cinema.

Most of the credit for what makes "Rosemary's Baby" such a successful film goes to Roman Polanski. Polanski is a master at conveying to an audience not just a sense of the uncanny but a vivid depiction of it. His earlier films like "Knife in the Water," "Repulsion" and "Dance of the Vampires," display the talents that would come to such a controlled mastery in "Rosemary's Baby."

Polanski very faithfully adapts Ira Levin's novel to the screen so that the viewer is, just as the reader was, free to interpret the eerie events of the story as either reality or a depiction of an isolated woman's decent into madness. At the same time the picture can be taken as a black joke on the human male's fears of the changes a woman goes through during pregnancy, both physically and emotionally. But Polanski seems most interested in presenting a normal world, in this case Manhattan in the mid 1960s, and then through subtle cinematic techniques get an audience to actually believe that the hysterical, fantastic ravings of the heroine could be true. It is this tour de force exercise in suspension of disbelief that makes the film a classic. The horror films that have come since have had to ratchet up the shock effects in order to thrill more desensitized audiences, but this deliberately paced film reminds us of how much better it is to leave things to the imagination of the viewer. That is where films really come alive and remain so.

The Paramount DVD presents an excellent print of the movie that looks as if it were shot yesterday, along with extras that include new interviews with Polanski, executive producer Bob Evans and production designer Richard Sylbert, and a featurette from the time of the film's original release that really works as a good time capsule.
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Classic little SF gem
1 November 2002
This movie, barely promoted by Paramount back in 1964, has acquired over the years a cult following, mostly by men who remember seeing it when boys. I first saw this film on TV in the 60s when I was a kid. The first half is very good, once you suspend disbelief because we know know that Mars has little atmosphere and a human can't survive in the open on the surface. But given that, the first part of the film may remind some of the beginning of a better known SF film, "Planet of the Apes." This film came first though. Directed by Byron Haskin and shot by Winton C. Hoch, the location shooting in Death Valley is excellent, aided by a fine score by Nathan Van Cleave, as we follow the stranded astronaut's struggle to survive. But the film somewhat falls apart in the second half as aliens in unconvincing costumes and spaceships borrowed from Haskin's earlier film "War of the Worlds" (the budget was very limited) are introduced and the focus of the film shifts. Still the movie remains enjoyable at its own level. The lead actor, Paul Mantee, actually reminds you of the original Mercury astronauts, and he's very good. The other actor, Vic Lundin, playing the alien "Friday" (referring to the Defoe classic) has a much harder job pulling off his part, but he manages well. And Mona the wholly monkey will keep the kids entertained. A very good movie that's worth checking out. But there's the problem. It rarely shows up on TV, and then in awful pan&scan. I have a wonderful Criterion laserdisc of it that was released in the early '90s that presents the movie as it should be seen, but now we're in the era of DVD and why Paramount hasn't released this movie yet is a source of great frustration to SF fans. I'm just glad I have the laserdisc.
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A Landmark SF film
31 October 2002
1968s PLANET OF THE APES has been my favorite film since I first saw it in April of that year when I was eight years old. The movie had a huge impact back then and I cannot emphasize more the power to grip the imagination it had -- and has -- and the shock the final image of the movie was back then. I literally left the theatre stunned and speechless. No other movie of my youth had such impact, or created such suspension of disbelief. Over the past thirty-four years PLANET OF THE APES has attained classic status and it's a tribute to the film's excellence that there are so many comments left here on the Internet Movie Database that this film is better than the viewer thought it would be, or that it wasn't campy or cheesy as they'd always thought, or that it was more intelligent and thought-provoking than most films they've ever seen, and that despite the studio stupidly putting the final shot -- one of the most famous last shots in the history of American cinema -- on the cover of the video, they were still stunned and haunted by it.

PLANET OF THE APES is based on a 1963 French novel, "La planete des singes," by Pierre Boulle, most famous as the author of "La pont de la riviere Kwai" (1952), which became the 1957 film THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. The story tells of a French journalist, Ulysse Merou, who, in the year 2500 travels with two companions in a near-light speed spacecraft to the red-giant star Betelgeuse in the constellation of Orion. There they find a sister planet to earth, Soror, and after landing on a remote plateau discover a race of human beings that are no more than animals, naked and unable to speak. The three earthmen are stripped of there clothes by the humans, who hate anything that isn't natural. Their spacecraft is destroyed by the savage people and they are run off into the jungle. The next morning the tribe of wild humans are attacked by hunters, who are gorillas dressed like men, hunting like men, and acting and speaking like men. One of the earthmen is killed, another disappears, and Merou is captured, taken to a research lab, and subjected to scientific experiments.

A sympathetic female animal psychologist, Dr. Zira, a chimpanzee, is intrigued by Merou keenness and soon learns that this man is highly intelligent and able to learn speech. With her help Merou learns all about the simian civilization on Soror, in which the apes live in modern cities, drive cars, fly planes, and watch TV, and where conservative orangutans, especially one named Zaius, so fear this intelligent human being that they seek to have him destroyed. With the help of Zira's fiance, an archeologist named Cornelius, Merou unwittingly discovers a secret about the origins of intelligent life on Soror that's so dangerous he's forced to flee the planet of the apes and return to earth.

Boulle's novel is a satire in the tradition of Voltaire that mocks humankind's anthropocentric theory of the universe from which human beings derive their sense of importance, and is laced with the kind of harrowing ironies that Boulle was famous for.

The movie based on this book is an 'Americanized' adaptation of it. Rod Serling did the first drafts of the screenplay, simplifying the plot by fitting it into the mold of his "Twilight Zone" TV series and introducing an anti-nuclear war theme not present in the Boulle novel. Because of budget constraints the modern ape civilization had to be reduced to a less technological one, something more reminiscent of ancient Greece. In fact, after Michael Wilson, who had also adapted Boulle's "Bridge Over the River Kwai" to the screen, was brought in to do the final script drafts what emerged was a political allegory more akin to an Aesop fable than a Voltairian satire.

An improvement on the book was to turn the Merou character, now named Taylor, into a misanthrope and to reduce the scope of the story into a kind of 'misanthrope's comeuppance.' Charlton Heston was a perfect choice to play the unlikable American astronaut, having essayed such similar 'bastard' roles in 1954s THE NAKED JUNGLE, 1963s DIAMOND HEAD and 1963s 55 DAYS AT PEKING, and the movie would be a lot less funny and pointed without him.

Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter, as Cornelius and Zira, and Maurice Evans, as Dr. Zaius, enjoy some of the best performances on the screen, bringing the then-innovative makeup design of John Chambers to life under the intelligent and stylish direction of Franklin J. Schaffner. Also excellent in this Arthur P. Jacobs production for 20th Century-Fox is the veteran cinematographer Leon Shamroy's Panavision lensing, which makes great use of remote areas of southern Utah around Lake Powell to suggest an alien world, and Jerry Goldsmith's avant-garde musical score, which has become a landmark, cannot be emphasized more for contributing to the weird atmosphere and eerie mood of the movie. Rarely has a movie score so fit like hand-in-glove than this one.

PLANET OF THE APES was a box office smash in 1968, but if ever there was a movie that was more a victim of its own success it's this one. Four sequels, two TV series, numerous novelizations and comic book adventures, and a lamentable remake in 2001 have been spawned by its popularity, most of which has been so inferior in quality to have tarnished the reputation of this classy and intelligent SF film landmark. Luckily the qualities of the film remind viewers again and again of what noted New Yorker movie critic Pauline Kael titled her review of this movie, "Apes must be remembered, Charlie!"
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Great, for a Variety of reasons
31 October 2002
Here's the February 7, 1968 review from Variety:

"'Planet of the Apes' is an amazing film. A political-sociological allegory, cast in the mold of futuristic science-fiction, the Arthur P. Jacobs production for 20th-Fox is an intriguing blend of chilling satire, a sometimes ludicrous juxtaposition of human and ape mores, optimism and pessimism. Franklin J. Schaffner directed star Charlton Heston and a strong supporting cast. Production values, especially outstanding makeup, plus Jerry Goldsmith's score, maximize impact. Strong entertainment assets for general audiences, plus concurrent -- and perhaps controversial -- appeal to more sophisticated viewers, add up to excellent b.o. prospects.

"Pierre Boulle's novel, in which some stranded U.S. space explorers find themselves considered animals in a world dominated by apes, has been adapted by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling. Script at times digresses into low comedy -- many common phrases in which 'simian' and 'ape' are substituted for 'human' and 'man' -- and, whether intended or not, audiences will be inclined to laugh rather than to grin at the irony. Perhaps this was a gambit for mass appeal.

"In any case, the totality of the film works very well, leading to a surprise ending, although, in hindsight, it could have been deduced all along. Yet, the suspense, and suspension of disbelief, engendered is one of the film's biggest assets.

"Heston, leader of an aborted space shot which propels his crew 20 centuries ahead of earth, is a cynical man who eventually has thrust upon him the burden of reasserting man's superiority over all other animals. At fadeout, he is the new Adam. Linda Harrison,who has appeared in some recent 20th pix bits, is herein formally 'introduced' in a totally silent part of the new Eve.

"Key featured players -- all in ape makeup which obscures their regular facades, yet permits subtleties of expression -- include Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter, two scientists accused of heresy; Maurice Evans, their adversary in the Inquisition which forms a major plot sequence; James Whitmore and James Daly, two other ape Establishment functionaries. John Chambers is given special creative makeup design credit, and it certainly is deserved. Ben Nye and Dan Striepeke executed superbly the makeup design.

"Rather precise parallels exist in the allegorical writing to real world events over, say, the past 20 years. Suppression of dissent by fair means and foul; peremptory rejection of scientific data by maintainers of status quo; double-standard evaluation of people and events. It's all here.

"Screenplay probably could not have been filmed 10 years ago, and the disturbing thought lingers that it might not be possible in another 10 years, when engineered public and political opinion again swings into another distorted extreme. Despite the immediate world turmoil, climate appears to be in a dead center which in life, as well as in mechanics, cannot long endure.

"Schaffner's direction generally is sure throughout. Leon Shamroy's versatile Panavision DeLuxe Color lensing accents both the macroscopic and microscopic dramatic elements, with adroit and neatly restrained forays into subjective technique, per director's obvious intent. Goldsmith's score, orchestrated by Arthur Morton, lends an excellent mood. Overall establishment of setting is, in the best sense of the word, a successful con.

"In smaller roles, Robert Gunner and Jeff Burton, as Heston's space crew survivors, serve to fix star's initial character; their eventual demise in plot is logical. Lou Wagner, as a young ape intellectual, and Buck Kartilian, as a gorilla zoo-keeper, help reinforce the ape civilization setting which, in some spots involving principals, is strained (but never broken) in credulity.

"There is some medium and long-shot male buttocks nudity, but handled with care and free of obvious exploitation sensationalism. Hugh S. Fowler executed editing to 112 minutes. It is debatable whether about 10 minutes could be trimmed, particularly in first two reels; film would play better, internally, yet the deliberate establishment of the strange world -- which successfully gulls an audience -- could suffer. In any case, once story begins to move, it keeps going.

"Other technical credits are first rate. Film exteriors were shot in Utah and Arizonia National Park country, where desolation and grandeur of an indifferent Mother Nature matches perfectly with the desired story setting of the results of an insolent Human Nature."
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Apes must be remembered, Charlie!
31 October 2002
Here is Pauline Kael's review from the February 17th, 1968 New Yorker:

"Apes Must Be Remembered, Charlie"

"'Planet of the Apes' is a very entertaining movie, and you'd better go see it quickly, before your friends take the edge off it by telling you all about it. They will, because it has the ingenious kind of plotting people love to talk about. If it were a great picture, it wouldn't need this kind of protection; it's just good enough to be worth the rush.

"Adapted from a novel by Pierre Boulle, 'Planet of the Apes' most closely resembles George Pal's 1960 version of H.G. Wells' 1895 novel 'The Time Machine.' It's also a little like 'Forbidden Planet,' the 1956 science-fiction adaptation of 'The Tempest,' though it's perhaps more cleverly sustained than either of those movies. At times, it has the primitive force of old 'King Kong.' It isn't a difficult or subtle movie; you can just sit back and enjoy it. That should place the genre closely enough, without spoiling the theme or the plot. The writing, by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, though occasionally bright, is often fancy-ironic in the old school of poetic disillusion. Even more often, it is crude. But the construction is really extraordinary. What seem to be weaknesses or holes in the idea turn out to be perfectly consistent, and sequences that work only at a simple level of parody while you're watching them turn out to be really funny when the total structure is revealed. You're too busy for much disbelief anyway; the timing of each action or revelation is right on the button. The audience is rushed along with the hero, who keeps going as fact as possible to avoid being castrated or lobotomized. The picture is an enormous, many-layered black joke on the hero and the audience, and part of the joke is the use of Charlton Heston as the hero. I don't think the movie could have been so forceful or so funny with anyone else. Physically, Heston, with his perfect, lean-hipped, powerful body, is a god-like hero; built for strength, he's an archetype of what makes Americans win. He doesn't play a nice guy; he's harsh and hostile, self-centered and hot-tempered. Yet we don't hate him, because he's so magnetically strong; he represents American power -- the physical attraction and admiration one feels toward the beauty of strength as well as the moral revulsion one feels toward the ugliness of violence. And he has the profile of an eagle. Franklin J. Schaffner, who directed 'Planet of the Apes,' uses the Heston of the preposterous but enjoyable 'The Naked Jungle' -- the man who is so absurdly a movie-star myth. He is the perfect American Adam to work off some American guilt feelings or self-hatred on, and this is part of what makes this new violent fantasy so successful as comedy.

"'Planet of the Apes' is one of the best science-fiction fantasies ever to come out of Hollywood. That doesn't mean it's art. It is not conceived in terms of vision or mystery or beauty. Science-fiction fantasy is a peculiar genre; it doesn't seem to result in much literary art, either. This movie is efficient and craftsmanlike; it's conceived and carried out for maximum popular appeal, though with a cautionary message, and with some attempts to score little points against various forms of establishment thinking. These swifties are not Swift, and the movie's posture of superiority is somewhat embarrassing. Brechtian pedagogy doesn't work in Brecht, and it doesn't work here, either. At best, this is a slick commercial picture, with it's elements carefully engineered -- pretty girl (who unfortunately doesn't seem to have had acting training), comic reliefs, thrills, chases -- but when expensive Hollywood engineering works, as it rarely does anymore, the results can be impressive. Schaffner has thought out the action in terms of the wide screen, and he uses space and distance dramatically. Leon Shamroy's excellent color photography helps to make the vast exteriors (shot in Utah and Arizona) an integral part of the meaning. The editing, though, is somewhat distracting; several times there is a cut and then a view of what we have already seen from a different angle or from much higher up. The effect is both static (we don't seem to be getting anywhere) and overemphatic (we are conscious of being told to look at the same thing another way).

"The makeup (there is said to be a million dollars' worth) and the costuming of the actors playing the apes are rather witty, and the apes have a wonderful nervous, hoping walk. The best little hopper is Kim Hunter, as an ape lady doctor; she somehow manages to give a better performance in this makeup than she has ever given on the screen before."
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The Killing (1956)
Isn't aging well.
25 October 2002
I used to think this film was really good, back in the day when I was younger and a devoted Kubrick fan. Now I'm at an age, early forties, where I'm starting to reassess his films. I just watched "The Killing" for the first time in more than a decade. This rather nifty little exercise in what's now called "film noir" benefits from clever and brisk editing and very good performances, but it suffers terribly by corny, cliched dialogue (mostly involving the women in the story) and unconvincing low-budget sets. This film should have been shot entirely on real locations, in real seedy apartments and horse tracks. Worst of all is a conclusion that makes no sense whatsoever. How the Sterling Hayden character can be so smart and professional all the way through, then be so incredibly inept at the end really renders the whole story meaningless, unless this story is supposed to be about a self-destructive loser, but we get no indication of that from what precedes. It also has dated, "Dragnet" like narration that seems out of place. I'd be interested in knowing how Kubrick later assessed this early effort. If you're attracted to old black and white heist movies, then you should find this one good, maybe even gripping, but the flaws I've mentioned really keep the film from ever becoming a classic.
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One of the All-Time Great SF films
10 September 2002
FORBIDDEN PLANET is one of the best examples of Hollywood SF films. Its influence was felt for more than a decade. However, certain elements relating to how this wide-screen entertainment was aimed at a mid-fifties audience that is now gone have dated it quite a bit, and the film's sometimes sluggish pacing doesn't help. But, the story's compelling central idea involving the ancient,extinct Krell civilization and "monsters from the Id" hasn't lost its appeal and continue to make this film a relevant "must see" movie. What I'm mostly interested in saying here is that the current DVD for this movie is terrible. The movie has never really looked that good on home video and it's elements are in dire need of restoration. I hope that will happen soon and we get a special edition of this SF classic.
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Grand fantasy film-making, fun for all ages.
27 August 2002
I can attest to the feelings expressed by the last couple commentators about 1959's "Journey To The Center Of The Earth." This is a wonderful family film from the bygone Eisenhower-era of the 1950s. Even though I've been watching it on TV since I was a kid in the sixties, I'd only seen pan&scan versions, and it wasn't until I got it letterboxed on laserdisc that I finally saw what a big-screen entertainment this movie was meant to be. It has wonderful scope and a score by Bernard Herrmann that takes you right down into the bowels of the earth. Listen to it and you'll notice what I mean, as the movie progresses the music keeps going into a lower and lower register. Five organs were used, including one meant for a Cathedral. (The complete original recordings of the score are available on CD from Varese Sarabande.) This movie also has the great James Mason in it, so you know it's got to be good. Sure it's long in the telling and takes a while to get you down that extinct volcano in Iceland, but it's fun all the way with great special effects work by L.B. Abbott and matte paintings by Emil Kosa Jr. The only way to watch this movie is in wide-screen and it's long past due that 20th Century Fox puts this out on DVD in a letterboxed anamorphic transfer. Let's hope that they do it soon.
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Great '60s kitsch
26 August 2002
Sure "One Million Years B.C." is bad. It's premise is absurd, without credibility -- there were NO dinosaurs around one million years B.C. -- and its story is trite and uninteresting, but this IS great sixties nostalgia, maybe even seventies nostalgia if you grew up watching it on TV. It's quite watchable. Raquel Welch became THE sixties sex symbol as a result of this movie, and she and Ray Harryhausen's special effects are the film's main attraction. Add to that a strange percussive score by Mario Nascimbene and either you dig this type of movie or you don't. I guess it's all a matter of how much you like watching fur-bikini clad babes battle prehistoric beasts, have fights with other fur-bikini clad babes, and get carried off by cavemen. It also helps if you like seeing cave people get killed in a variety of ways. It's silly, it's crazy and believe it or not it's also British! Percy Herbert is in it! It was made by Hammer, and dark-haired cavewoman Martine Beswick is just as hot as Raquel. Their fight is better than the one between the allosaurus and the triceratops. One great flub to look out for is when the cave teenager gets his hand burnt and screams, revealing 20th century A.D. fillings in his teeth. Great stuff. And if you think this movie is bad, check out "Prehistoric Woman" (1967). Now there's real kitsch. The only thing else I can say about "One Million Years B.C." is that I can't wait for it to come out on DVD. If you like this movie, check out "When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth" (1970) and "Creatures the World Forgot" (1971). You won't forget 'em. And remember, "AKEETA!"
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ill-conceived and dull
6 August 2002
By the time CBS started airing this show on Friday nights in September 1974, the PLANET OF THE APES had really been milked to death. What had been such a unique, intriguing and fun science fiction concept in 1968 when the original film starring Charlton Heston was released, had by the fourth film sequel in 1973 been intellectually emasculated down to barely interesting kiddie fare. Any possible allegorical or satirical take on apes talking had been explored and there was really no place left to go. The producer, Arthur P. Jacobs, wisely called it quits. But then, in September 1973, the original film was shown for the first time on network TV and had a sixty share of that night's audience. APES was suddenly "hot" again, but the fact remained that there were already five films. The resulting TV series ended up being a rather ill-conceived "Fugitive" formula show that only played lip service to the concept's allegorical possibilities by reminding its audience in every episode of the stupidity of prejudice. This got rather trite fast. Also, the makeup for the apes, which had been done well in the original film, was too often applied rather slapdash here due to the rushed nature of TV production, with the result that suspension of disbelief for anybody over the age of ten became quit difficult if not impossible. Series star, Roddy McDowall, veteran of four of the five APES films, had by this time played a chimpanzee in nearly every conceivable way and so opted primarily for whimsy with the character of Galen here. This began to grate quickly as well. The result was that the audience for this show was mostly kids and that demographic couldn't attract the kind of sponsor dollars the network needed, so the show died a merciful death after only fourteen episodes. Any fans of the show now are those kids that loved it then and are on a nostalgia trip. I saw the original film in 1968 when I was eight years old. It was instantly my favorite movie and remains so today, but this TV series should never have been made.
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One of those good desert movies
5 August 2002
As you can read from others here, "Sands of the Kalahari" is one of those movies that if you saw it as a kid you're likely not to have forgotten it. It's also a good movie if you like to look at lots of shots of the desert (think: the beginning of "Planet of the Apes" [1968]) and people sweating. The plot concerns a small group of people that crash their plane in a remote area of South African desert. No one comes looking for them, so how are they going to get out? One is a woman, the rest all men. You can guess that things get tense and then mean. It make matters worse there's a nasty bunch of baboons living nearby and they look hungry. Why this has never come to video I don't know. The last place I saw it was on A&E some nine years ago. It was shot in Panavision, so it should be letterboxed. It was a Paramount film, so maybe if enough request to them are made it'll eventually come out on DVD.
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2 August 2002
Nothing in this movie works, even the Rick Baker makeup is a huge disappointment. If you want to experience this material as it was meant -- for adults! -- read Pierre Boulle's novel. The only good thing about this bastardization of Boulle's book is that it makes the 1968 version with Charlton Heston look like the Citizen Kane of science fiction movies.
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1 August 2002
Nothing in this movie works, even Rick Baker's makeup is a huge disappointment. Read the Pierre Boulle novel if you want to see how this concept can be maturely handled. The only good thing about this bastardization of Boulle's work is that it makes the 1968 version look like the "Citizen Kane" of science fiction movies.
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