Monday, September 12, 2011

More Monkey Business

I have a surfeit of things to blog about today, almost a plethora. Having watched the five original Planet of the Apes in order I finished off the box set by watching the two hour documentary "Behind the Planet of the Apes".

Roddy McDowell (who else?) hosts the documentary and all the major players show up including Charlton Heston, Ricardo Montalban, Kim Hunter, the make-up wizard John Chambers, and the director J. Lee Thompson.

It covers much of the ground that I have been talking about for each film. In particular the social commentary about race relations, animal testing, the Vietnam war and so on. There were bits and pieces which were new to me. In particular the early make up tests of Edward G Robinson as the Orangutan Dr Zaius. Strangely their first attempts look more like a real ape to me than the appliances they finally ended up with. Maybe Edward G Robinson just looked more like an Orangutan. Sadly the actor didn't feel well enough to commit to the brutal shooting schedule although he did go on to have one great performance with Charlton Heston in Soylent Green.

The other interesting thing was that the budget was reduced for each successive sequel which seems strange when the studio was making so much money out of them. Four sequels, a TV show, comic books, a Saturday morning cartoon and all the merchandising which would lead the way for what happened after Star Wars. I'm sure the studio made their money back several times over.

Let's step back from the documentary and finish by considering the ending of the original Planet of the Apes movie. At some point in the 1970s I think the BBC showed a series of science fiction films including Silent Running, Soylent Green and Planet of the Apes. And wow! What a shock ending that was back when there were no spoilers. The only thing we had was word of mouth in the playground the next day. I remember being stunned by the scene of Heston kneeling in the surf pounding his fist into the sand and howling out his rage at what had happened. It was all we talked about at school for days afterwards. Nowadays films with twist endings are ten a penny but had any film ever managed such a shocker before Planet of the Apes?

Looking at wikipedia suggest a few possibilities for earlier examples but this must have been the first one I encountered. A fantastic moment in film history.

Now onwards to the Tim Burton reboot, and from there to Andy Serkis and some performance capture?

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