Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison, James Franciscus
- Rated PG
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Will Harris
hate every ape I see / From chimpan-“A” to chimpanzee / No, you'll never make a monkey out of me / Oh, my God, I was wrong / It was Earth all along / You've finally made a monkey / Yes, you've finally made a monkey out of me!”
- Troy McClure, “Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want To Get Off!
The wonder and spectacle of the original “Planet of the Apes” franchise is one that’s so permanently embedded in the world consciousness that not even Tim Burton’s crappy 2001 remake of the original film can kill it. There was never any way that Mark Wahlberg’s performance in the leading role, no matter which way he decided to play the part, was ever going to replace Charlton Heston’s immortal portrayal of astronaut George Taylor.
Come on, everyone, let’s say it together: “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”
The original film is a classic by any definition, even if it occasionally veers into unintentional camp – if you take a drink every time Heston over-emotes when reciting his dialogue, you’ll be stone drunk long before the closing credits – but the sequel, “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” often meets with mixed reviews. The budget was diminished, but the scope of the story is expanded tremendously; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but if you thought the original had a downer of a shock ending (with Heston’s fist-shaking line, “Damn you all to Hell!”), you ain’t seen nothing yet. In the third flick, “Escape from the Planet of the Apes,” you have the “Apes” equivalent of “Star Trek IV,” where we discover that Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter) managed to escape the destruction of the rest of their race by taking a rocket back in time to the 20th century; there are some funny bits in the film, with the apes becoming a media sensation (they handle a press conference as well as the Beatles did in their heyday), but the drama comes when the government discovers that Zira, who’s pregnant, could be the impetus for Earth becoming a planet of apes in the distant future.
When the next movie, “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” rolled around, like a lot of films from the era, it ends up being a heavy-handed metaphor for race relations, with talking apes serving as slaves to man. The last flick, “Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” proves ultimately underwhelming, but it sets the stage chronologically to bring the series full-circle. Plus, it includes pop songwriter Paul Williams and legendary director John Huston in its cast, albeit buried underneath ape make-up. Arguably the coolest part of this set, however, isn’t the movies themselves but, rather, the remarkably in-depth, two-hour documentary on the film series, entitled “Behind the Planet of the Apes.” Hosted and narrated by the late Roddy McDowall (who died in 1998, to give you an idea of the program’s age), it’s easily one of the best making-of / behind-the-scenes documentaries to come out of Hollywood; particularly fascinating are glimpses of what might have been, with test footage of Edward G. Robinson as Dr. Zaius (Robinson dropped out due to a heart ailment) and James Brolin as Cornelius.
But even with all that hype, don’t get too excited, fanboys and fangirls. This is just a reissue of an earlier six-disc set of the movies and the documentary, albeit digitally-remastered…which means that, if you’re a longtime fan, you already had this material, but you’re gonna buy it again because it sounds better. (That’s how they get you.) If you’re looking for new stuff, however, what you really want is the Ultimate “Planet of the Apes” DVD Collection. It’s 14 discs, and the set comes housed in an ape’s head. It’s everything in “The Legacy Collection,” except that it’s the two-disc anniversary edition of the original film (and, for the record, it’s a travesty that they didn’t include that in “The Legacy Collection” instead of the paltry single-disc version), but you also get all the episodes of the live action TV series based on the original films, all the episodes of the animated series based on the original films (the first time ever available on DVD, and not available elsewhere), and the two-disc special edition of the 2001 remake. Yeah, it sucks when compared to the original…but at least you can really say that you’re getting all the existing “Apes” material in one place.