The five films in the Planet of the Apes
series are enjoyable as pure entertainment and yet substantial enough to have inspired academic studies about the film's broader political themes. Loosely adapted from the novel
by French author Pierre Boulle, Planet of the Apes
was released at the height of racial and political unrest in America, adding resonance to its story of a NASA astronaut (Charlton Heston) stranded on a planet where superior apes dominate inferior human slaves. The film's final image--in which a horrified Heston realises the fate of humankind--remains one of the most indelible in all of science-fiction cinema.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) continues the original's distant future scenario, pitting militant apes against mutant humans dwelling in the subterranean ruins of New York City. Its phenomenal success spawned Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), in which simian scientists Cornelius and Zira (Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter, reprising their roles from Planet) travel backward in time, setting the stage for the ape supremacy of the first two films. McDowall returned in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) as Caesar, the son of Cornelius, leading an ape revolution that bridges the historical gap of the previous films. Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) ended the five-film cycle with McDowall again playing the chimpanzee leader Caesar, defeating gorillas and human mutants to establish the hierarchy introduced in the original film.
The Apes films present a classic what-if scenario that hasn't lost a bit of its potency. As if to prove its cultural endurance, the cycle returned to its origins with director Tim Burton's remake of Planet of the Apes in 2001. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com
On the DVD: A glorious indulgence for diehard fans of the series, this handsomely packaged six-disc set contains all five original" Apes" movies, from the wonderful 1967 original to 1973's low-budget Battle. It all look as good as possible in widescreen anamorphic transfers, the first movie's starkly wonderful cinematography in particular is a treat to see on DVD. Planet has been remixed in vivid Dolby 5.1, highlighting the bold sound design and JerryGoldsmith's masterful avant-garde score. The others are good Dolby stereo, with the odd exception of Escape, which is mono. There are trailers on each disc, but no commentaries sadly. The sixth bonus disc consists of a relatively new two-hour documentary hosted by Roddy McDowall which takes us through the entire saga in detail, pointing out the series' daring social commentary and the increasing difficulties of working with progressively smaller budgets. Sensibly, the documentary spends about an hour on the first movie and then an hour discussing all the rest. Overall, this is a very attractive package. --Mark Walker
Planet of the Apes
Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall star in this legendary science fiction masterpiece. Astronaut Taylor (Heston) crash lands on a distant planet ruled by apes who use a primitive race of humans for experimentation and sport. Soon Taylor finds himself among the hunted, his life in the hands of a benevolent chimpanzee scientist (McDowall).Beneath the Planet of the Apes
In the acclaimed sequel to Planet of the Apes
, another astronaut (James Franciscus) crashes through the time barrier searching for the missing Taylor. The daring rescue leads to a subterranean city where mutant humans, who practice mind control, worship a weapon capable of destroying the entire planet. Both an action-oriented science-fiction adventure and a wry commentary on today's world, it's imaginative entertainment for fantasy buffs of all ages. Escape From the Planet of the Apes
Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter reprise their roles from the original Planet of the Apes
in this third chapter of the Apes
saga. Two intelligent simians from the future, Cornelius (McDowall) and Zire (Hunter) travel to present-day Earth. They become instant sensations, wined and dined and treated like celebrities--until a high-level plot forces them to run for their lives.Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Colourful, futuristic sets, a relentless pace and an action-packed climax highlight the fourth episode of the legendary Apes
saga, starring Roddy McDowall and Ricardo Montalban. The time is the near future. Apes have supplanted dogs and cats as household pets, and replaced servants as personal assistants--until their continual mistreatment provokes one advanced ape from the future, Caesar (McDowall), to lead a spectacular revolt. It's thrilling science fiction that offers both a serious message and stirring entertainment. Battle for the Planet of the Apes
Roddy McDowall and Claude Akins star in the fifth and last chapter of the legendary Apes
saga. Set in 2670 A.D., an idyllic society of man and ape is threatened by both a militant gorilla (Akins) and a tribe of still-intelligent mutant humans. Finally, simmering tensions dividing the primates erupt in an apocalyptic climax. When the smoke clears, the carnage is everywhere, but there is hope for a new beginning for man and ape. Co-starring John Huston, Paul Williams, and Lew Ayres.