"Planet of the Apes" Blu Ray review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 10 Old 11-23-08, 06:57 AM Thread Starter
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"Planet of the Apes" Blu Ray review

"Planet of the Apes" was one of my favorite films as an adolescent. I saw it at the
Hollowbrook Drive in way back in 1968 at age 11. I liked it so much I persuaded my
family to see it again in a dusk to dawn presentation at the same theater with the
sequels. It was practically daylight out by the time the last feature ended. I taped
the mike of my audiocasette recorder to the drive in speaker so I could listen to it
again afterwards and bought a Super 8 digest of the film. I purchased the vinyl
soundtrack album and my family thought I was nuts listening to the tracks on my
stereo which sounded like garbage cans rattling at times. I even collected the Topps trading cards of the picture.

So now many decades later I screened the blu ray projected on my 10 foot screen
on my Optoma HD70 in 5.1 surround sound. How does it play forty years later?

I have mixed feelings about the movie now. It's still entertaining but much of it
is extremelly dated and ludicrous.

But first for the good news. The blu ray looks sensational. Considering the film
was processed at De Luxe, the color isn't faded at all and the picture is razor
sharp and fine grain. The cinematography is excellent as are the
compositions with dutch angles. Sometimes the camera was hand held or
put upside down. Jerry Goldsmith's innovative and unusual score adds
greatly to the atmosphere and really gives an other world feeling. The 5.1
remix is okay. A bit shrill at times but better than the mono sound the movie
was released in. John Chambers ape make up holds up better than I thought
in high definition. No seams in the latex masks but the actors underneath
vary in terms of effectiveness. Maurice Evans (Samantha's father
in the "Bewitched" sitcom) seems to be comfortable in his 'skin'.
He was able to utilize his facial mustles and is the most convincing
of the performers. Kim Hunter is fairly good too and was able to twitch her
nose which helped. Roddy McDowall is the most awkward in his mask. At times
you hear his voice but don't see the lips move. He got better at it in the various
sequels however. The other performers playing gorillas barely move their mouths
when they speak and come off like actors in Halloween masks.

The basic premise based on Pierre ("Bridge on River Kwai") Boulle's novel is still quite intriquing. Three astronauts crash land on what appears to be a distant planet where evolution has taken a different direction. Simians are the most intelligent
life form and humans are primitive beasts. The screenplay by Rod (Twilight Zone)
Serling and Micheal Wilson (a former blacklisted communist) digresses from the
book in numerous ways, specifically the shock ending that reveals
they were really on earth in a post-nuclear environment. Unfortunately, what
seemed so clever back then doesn't hold up to scrutiny now. The movie claims
that it's 2000 years after a major nuclear holocaust. 2000 years might have
created the wasteland depicted in the opening but was hardly enough time for such an evolutionary change. That would've taken millions of years which really undermines the climax.

The Ape society was cleverly constructed in racial terms and if I was to speculate
Wilson's contribution, I would guess he helped create it since Leftists exploited
our racial problems back then. Orangutans are the leaders with chimps the professionals and gorillas do the grunt work as guards and hunters. In other words it's supposed to resemble American society in the sixties with a racial hierarchy. The problem with that notion is, that racial heirarchy had been dismantled by the time
this picture was made although ideologues like Wilson wanted you to believe we were
still in the days of Jim Crow for partisan reasons. This element of the story still works outside of that context. There's even a mock 'monkey trial' as depicted in "Inherit the Wind" with McDowall playing a simian heretic claiming apes evolved from a lower species known as 'man'.

It would appear that the Ape society advanced to the level of humans in the 19th Century. They have rifles, cages and still photography but no electricity. For unknown reasons they live in cave like structures rather the wood buildings even though they have wooden carts and wagons. Still, it was an unsual set design that fit the narrative.

Here's what really dates the movie and makes much of it seem silly today. The never
ending 'monkey' jokes that pop up in scene after scene. During the trial the three
judges take the hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil positions. I thought it was
funny as an adolescent but now it makes the movie seem too campy, especially when
most of it is played straight. There are too many one liners like "Human see, human do"
which undermines the unsettling atmosphere created by the camerawork and music
score. The dialogue in the early scenes when the astronauts are roaming around the
canyon is pretty awful. Heston's lines sound like political posturing, probably another example of Wilson's input although Serling could get preachy at times too.
It didn't seem plausible that a stranded astronaut crew would talk like that. Too many references to late sixties culture and it was supposed to be the future. The most rediculous line is when one of the astronauts claimed they weren't programmed to land in water. Then why did they have an inflatable raft?

The production was Arthur C. Jacobs comeback after the disastrous "Doctor Doolitle"
fiasco in 1967. It was a surprise hit and he spent the rest of his career making sequels and a short lived TV series. The subsequent films were all stupid and by the time they rolled out the last one they had changed the premise of the first implying an Ape revolt rather than an evolutionary change created the Ape society. The network series was rediculous too although the make up got better and actors were able to move more of their facial mustles for more convincing performances.

So if you're a fan of this movie, the blu ray delivers the goods in terms of image quality
compared to the early anamorphically enhanced standard DVD. If you haven't seen the picture or only watched the dreadful 2001 remake, you may still enjoy this movie providing you tolerate the dated and campy aspects of the screenplay.

Here's a quick run down for reference...

"Planet of the Apes" blu ray gets A for image quality and B + for the sound. The performances are B + which accomodates the hokey dialogue the actors have to speak. Cinematography and music score are A. Screenplay is B-. Use your judgment to determine whether it's worth purchasing or renting this blu ray. The sequels reportedly
have the same image and sound quality but are really idiotic so you'll have to be a
real afficianado of the series to screen them.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 12-31-08 at 05:48 AM.
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post #2 of 10 Old 12-10-08, 12:26 AM
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Re: "Planet of the Apes" Blu Ray review

Personally, I'll take extremely dated, ludicrous and hokey dialogue over that Tim Burton dumbed down action flick any day

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post #3 of 10 Old 12-11-08, 05:31 AM Thread Starter
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Re: "Planet of the Apes" Blu Ray review


So would I and I still like the original version. Since all movies are reflections
of their era and date in that respect automatically, the problem is whether they also
date because of specific cultural references in the screenplay. This movie is full
of them unfortunately. So when Heston says lines about only kids wearing beards
he's referring to 1968 hippies and so forth. I guess it's wise to avoid them unless
required by the story. The other thing to avoid in any futurist sci fi movie is
detailing a specific date. Serling and Wilson shouldn't have stated it was 2000
years in the future and left that open ended because of the evolutionary change
that was the basis of the plot. Even Kubrick made the mistake
of putting the year "2001" in his classic released the same year since few of
the things depicted in that movie came to pass. It would've been better to
just call it "Space Odyssey" or even the production title of "Journey to the Stars".
The Tim Burton film was a real misfire and pointless. The only notable thing
was that they used the originial ending from the Boulle novel.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 12-11-08 at 05:53 AM.
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post #4 of 10 Old 12-14-08, 02:48 PM
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Re: "Planet of the Apes" Blu Ray review

Good to know that the Blu-Ray looks great. So Richard, how are you today?

You know, your knowledge seems to be limitless, I feel like I`m in school or taking a class talking to you!!!

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post #5 of 10 Old 12-15-08, 03:50 AM Thread Starter
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Re: "Planet of the Apes" Blu Ray review


Glad you enjoy the technical and historical trivia I incorporate into reviews.
My mentors were William K. Everson and Leonard Maltin regarding this, both
of whom I studied with at NYU. They were not only critics but historians
which is different than a typical 'reviewer' on TV or newspapers, most of
whom have limited knowledge of film history. There are exceptions (Roger Ebert is
very knowledgable) but I find those that know something about the medium
or can put the movie into a cultural context more interesting to read.

How am I today? Well I'm pretty much the same every day which is to
say stressed out and harried trying to survive in the independent field and
economy at large. It's a non-stop hustle but at least I'm still in business
and still producing movies every few years. Almost everyone I else I know
from the eighties has folded or gone bust. Companies are closing like dominoes
on the East Coast. I might be one of the few 'last men standing'. At least
I own, store and preserve my original camera negatives so they are in no
danger of becoming 'lost'.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 12-15-08 at 04:16 AM.
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post #6 of 10 Old 12-15-08, 09:29 PM
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Re: "Planet of the Apes" Blu Ray review

Hmmm, well that is great, and a major blessing for you. Hopefully you will continue to prosper in your business and continue to give your keen insight and knowledge like you have been giving me.

I feel like whenever we meet, I need to bring a book and pen for class! lol! Maybe we can watch the Wolfman, or Spartacus, The Ten Commandments (An all time favorite), Alien, or Shawshank.

Have you checked out the show "Fringe." I`m not a big tv watcher outside of movies and sports, but Fringe has me almost as excited as the X Files did.

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post #7 of 10 Old 12-16-08, 05:14 AM Thread Starter
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Re: "Planet of the Apes" Blu Ray review

Thank you. And do bring a pen since I'll test you after the screening.

In terms of watching "Spartacus", Universal still hasn't released a quality
transfer or it it. The HD DVD looked poor. They need to digitally scan the
restored 65mm internegative rather than the 35mm internegative which didn't
look as good because of the generation loss. The entire film was derived from
the horizontal 35mm Technirama black and white separations. The original camera
negative was missing it's yellow layer from severe fading. So the 70mm release prints
were three generations removed and surprisingly they still looked quite good. The 35mm
prints were four generations removed so they were a bit grainy and I suspect that's
what they made the HD from.
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post #8 of 10 Old 12-16-08, 04:57 PM
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Re: "Planet of the Apes" Blu Ray review

Okay Richard, I hear you. Well, it seems like if I`m going to buy a movie now, I will consult with you first, to see if its even worth my time and money.

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post #9 of 10 Old 12-16-08, 05:29 PM
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Re: "Planet of the Apes" Blu Ray review

I absolutely agree with Greg. Richard, I enjoy the reviews from many contributors, and most of them help me to decide if I want to purchase a movie I've not yet seen.

Your reviews have such a wealth of information about the production and technical quality of films (and their transfer to disc) that I have seen, but have not yet added to my growing library, that it's made it very easy to select which DVD or Blu-ray version I want to buy - or avoid.

Actually, I should apologize for not posting kudos' in some of your review threads, but I have made many selections based on your recommendations so far, and hope you will continue writing these very impressive behind-the-scenes insights into your industry. They are very much appreciated.
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post #10 of 10 Old 12-16-08, 05:54 PM Thread Starter
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Re: "Planet of the Apes" Blu Ray review

Thank you both.

Well I finally got around to 'reading' the text commentary by Eric Greene, author
of "Planet of the Apes: An American Myth" which you could access on the menu.
They appear as subtitles below the picture. If you feel inclined to do this I suggest turning off the sound because it's too distracting otherwise. The problem is, the text commentary is not continuous and there are gaps in it.

Greene is obviously coming from Left field in his remarks. While there is certainly
some social commentary in the film itself, it's not as overt or obvious as he seems
to think. This was intended to be a G rated general audience release, not a
propaganda film. Some of his claims are questionable. The Ape
society does not represent American race relations by the late sixties.
Greene seems to have taken Wilson's agit-prop at face value and
out of it's time context.

One thing that Greene got wrong, which has become a
Hollywood myth, is that Wilson was blacklisted by Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy
was a Senator and had nothing to do with the blacklist. It was the House of Representatives that investigated CPUSA inflitration into the film industry and it pre-dated the Army/McCarthy hearings by six years. Since McCarthy was later censured by the Senate, ideologues link him to the Hollywood blacklist to claim victim status.
It has no foundation in fact which makes them lose credibility as historians. In
fact they are doing exactly what they accused the notorious Senator of...guilt
by association.

So if you want to read through this text, bear in mind that the author filters
everything through a specific worldview which results in some rather extreme
claims about the socio-political content of this movie. For example he notes
that light skinned Heston is beaten by dark skinned gorillas which he believes
is a reflection of civil rights activism. That sounds very far fetched to me.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 12-26-08 at 05:50 AM.
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