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This review is from: Planet of the Apes 40th Anniversary Collection [Blu-ray]  [US Import] (Blu-ray)
This region A box set wisely omits the Burton missfire and gives us a spectacular presentations of the five original movies.
Planet of the Apes.
Heston's cynical nihilsist performance, McDowall, Hunter and Evans incredibly nuanced acting through layers of John Chambers groundbreaking make-ups, Jerry Goldsmith's weird and beautiful soundtrack and one of the greatest endings in cinema history. Planet is one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time and still stands up well today.
The disc comes loaded with far too many extras to list here both archive and new.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes.
The first sequel is good but lacks focus. James Fransiscus arrives on what we now know to be future Earth looking for Taylor but discovering an ape army and the last mutated survivors of the human race who worship total destruction. Heston appears bookending the movie and making sure mankind goes out with a bang in a downer of an ending for everyone. Knock a star off for the abscence of McDowall and the obvious drop in budget.
The disc features an isolated score, a good featurette and loads of stills and behind the scenes material
Escape from the Planet of the Apes.
Three Hairy survivors from the apocalypse crash in modern day, (OK 70's) California. One is accidentaly killed leaving Cornelius and Zira, (McDowall and Hunter) to become the toast of Hollywood until the truth about the fate of mankind comes out when Zira is on the grape juice plus. Essentially a backwards reworking of the original with the apes becoming fugitives from the oppressive government forces the movie starts off light and frothy but the ending is grim and brutal. I must admit this is my least favourite as it loses the sci-fi setting of the other movies and only has three apes but McDowall and Hunter have real chemistry and the ending packs an emotional punch.
Extras similar to Beneath with some archive footage of Don Taylor directing.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.
Presented here in the far superior original cut that Fox extensively edited for the ratings board, Conquest is a revelation . Dark, oppressive and filmed in a hand held documentary style this is strong allegorical stuff. Detailing the revolution of the apes lead by Ceasar, (McDowall playing his son from the previous film) against thier tyranical human masters. Conquest packs a wallop that far exceeded what Fox executives were expecting. McDowalls performance in this movie is incredible. Even more so considering the thick latex that covers his face. Featuring extensvely more violence and blood than the theatrical version and the original hope destroying ending this movie is the suprise trump card of the set. There is evidence of extreme penny-piching however but the film is powerful and unrelenting.
The usual slew of exras. The featurette is very interesting as it details the censorship problems and also the theatrical cut which is a bit redundant after seeing the unrated version.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes.
Last time out for the original films and Battle also is presented in an unrated version but fails to keep the impetus of Conquest as Fox were wary of losing the child audience so mortified by the tone of the last film. This can really be blamed on the drastic scaling down of the budget with each film costing substantially less than the previous until veteran director J. Lee Thompson (who also helmed Conquest) had the budget of a T.V. movie to portray man vs ape's final showdown. Shots of trees and cars exploding are filmed from multiple angles and replayed through the final battle scenes to give prodiction value but it's a dated trick that never really convinces. Still McDowall is his dependable self and Claude Akins nasty gorrila General Aldo is good fun, especially when he knocks Ceasar's son out of a tree and kills him which leads to his final undoing. Ape shall never kill ape!
It all ends with an unprobable harmonious finale and some fine ham from the Lawgiver (John Huston).
Battle also has similar extras to Conquest including the theatrical cut.
The set comes in a slip case with a very nicely produced book that features lots of information. My only critcism would be that the book is more or less verbatim from the featurettes but it's a very minor quibble.
The UK blu-ray set is a fraction of the price of this US couterpart but is cheap looking and has no book and most importantly does not contain the unrated versions of Conquest or Battle. So if you intend to go ape and have region A plaback (please note this will NOT play in a standard UK player) this is the only way to go.