Last chance: Charlton Heston vs. ‘Planet of the Apes’ on Criterion Channel

“Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”

American astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) wakes up from untold years of suspended animation and discovers that he and his fellow space travelers have landed on Planet of the Apes (1968). So he does the only thing he can: he bares his chest and leads the human rights revolution against the simian master race.

It’s pop sci-fi done up with style by director Franklin J. Schaffner, who makes the most of his savage landscapes and superb art direction and creates vivid, fully rounded characters from his simian cast (notably Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, and Maurice Evans under the masks).

Adapted by Rod Serling from the Pierre Boulle novel with plenty of character and an undercurrent of humor, it was followed by four sequels and a TV series, none of which touch the macho glory of the original.



The make-up effects look a bit plastic and limited compared to the advances in both make-up and CGI in recent decades, but it still remains a striking, exciting classic of late 1960s science fiction: a kick-ass adventure with a bizarre but cleverly conceived vision of an alternate reality. The unnerving percussion-heavy score by Jerry Goldsmith adds to the experience and the legendary climax (referenced and parodied countless times) never fails to provide a final kick.

Linda Harrison costars as Nova, the primitive young woman who becomes Taylor’s companion, and James Whitmore presides over apekind as the President of the Assembly.

It earned an honorary Oscar for John Chambers, who created the landmark make-up for the apes, and was nominated for Academy Awards for costume design and for Jerry Goldsmith’s score.

It was added to the National Film Registry in 2001.

Read about the making of the film in this article for American Cinematographer by Herbert A. Lightman.

Rated G

Leaves Criterion Channel at the end of May. Add to My List on Criterion Channel

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Planet of the Apes [Blu-ray]
Planet of the Apes [DVD]
Planet of the Apes: The Legacy Collection [Blu-ray]
Planet of the Apes: The Legacy Collection [DVD]
Planet of the Apes: The Ultimate DVD Collection

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It’s been released in multiple Blu-ray and DVD editions. The two-disc edition features two commentary tracks (one by actors Roddy McDowall, Natalie Trundy, and Kim Hunter, producer Richard Zanuck, and make-up artist John Chambers, the other by composer Jerry Goldsmith) and an optional subtitle commentary by Eric Greene (author of Planet of the Apes as American Myth) and the two-hour documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes (1998) hosted by Roddy McDowall, a retrospective look at the original 1968 film and the series it spawned. Other supplements include Roddy McDowall’s home movies from the set, a makeup test with Edward G. Robinson as Dr. Zaius (who dropped out due to problems with the latex masks), 20 minutes of dailies and outtakes (with no audio), archival featurettes, and plenty more.

Planet of the Apes: The Legacy Collection adds the four sequels (Beneath the Planet of the Apes, 1970, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, 1971, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes 1972, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, 1973) for a complete collection of the original films series, plus the documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes and other supplements.

The ultimate collectible, Planet of the Apes: The Ultimate DVD Collection was a limited edition 14-disc set that features all five features in the original film series plus the complete 1974 TV series spin-off Planet of the Apes, the 1975 animated series Return to the Planet of the Apes, and Tim Burton’s 2001 remake Planet of the Apes.

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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