Planet Of The Apes

Planet Of The ApesA crew of four American astronauts, launched in 1972, is en route back to Earth after a deep space exploration mission. Thanks to hibernation and the time-dilation effect of the ship approaching light speed, the astronauts fully expect 700 years to have passed on Earth by the time they return – everyone who was originally associated with the mission will have died long ago by their return. Expedition commander George Taylor is the last to put himself into hibernation for the voyage home, but when he awakens, the ship’s return has gone disastrously wrong. The ship has crash-landed in water, and at some point a breach in a hibernation unit caused the death of Dr. Stewart, the only female member of the crew. With fellow crewmembers Dodge and Landon, Taylor abandons ship; each man has only a backpack of tools and supplies, and the spacesuit on his back, as the three survivors set out to explore whatever planet they’ve landed on. Before bailing out of the ship, however, Taylor takes note of the chronometer: instead of returning to Earth in a few centuries, the astronauts have arrived on an unknown world two millennia later.

The three escape aboard an inflatable life raft and row their way to dry land, finding an arid desert with few signs of plant life. Eventually they cross into a jungle region and find signs of intelligent life, eventually stumbling across a group of primitive humans. But the astronauts are stunned when the humans scatter at the sound of approaching hooves: apes, riding on horseback, clothed and armed, are hunting the humans. Taylor and his crewmates are captured in the brutal hunt, with Dodge taking a fatal shot from an ape’s rifle and Taylor suffering a glancing blow to his throat which robs him of his voice.

Taylor finds himself caged and treated like an animal, in a facility where several of the primitive humans are kept in captivity. Unable to speak, he’s treated no better than any of the barely-civilized humans in the other cages. Dr. Zira, an ape animal behavior expert, is fascinated by Taylor, nicknaming him “Bright Eyes” and closely watching his attempts to communicate with her. She’s unable to convince her superior, Dr. Zaius, of the value of her continued attempts to communicate with the new arrival. She discovers that he can write, and she and her fiancee, an ape archaeologist named Cornelius, learn of his true origins, though they find his story implausible. Taylor decides to make a break for it, escaping from his cell and trying to find his crew. He does find Dodge – stuffed and cleaned up to serve as part of a museum exhibit about primitive humans. The apes catch up with Taylor just as he recovers his ability to speak, rocking every belief the apes hold about the humans they enslave.

A hearing is called in which Dr. Zaius and other elders of the apes’ society not only demand to know more about Taylor, but call Zira and Cornelius to account for the time they’ve spent with him. But since Taylor’s very existence contradicts both the science and the religious beliefs of the apes, he is sentenced to die regardless of what he says to them. Zira and Cornelius quietly break Taylor out of his cell that night to make an escape, but he refuses to leave without a primitive human woman he called Nova, who he has befriended. The two ape scientists are now on the run as well, facing charges of heresy, so they venture with Taylor back to his ship’s landing site, in the desert area the apes know as the Forbidden Zone, where Cornelius once took part in an archaeological dig.

But Dr. Zaius and a group of ape soldiers follow the fugitives. Taylor manages to stave off the imminent hostilities long enough to discover that Cornelius uncovered evidence that the humans on this world were once far more advanced and civilized. Though this contradicts the apes’ belief that they have always been the superior beings by divine birthright, Zaius begrudgingly admits that he has known of this evidence all along. Taylor bargains for his freedom and takes Nova with him to explore further in the Forbidden Zone, and much to everyone’s surprise, Zaius grants him that freedom, knowing that Taylor will soon realize that he’s closer to home than he dared to imagine.

Order the DVDsscreenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling
based on the novel by Pierre Boulle
directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
music by Jerry Goldsmith

Cast: Charlton Heston (George Taylor), Roddy McDowall (Cornelius), Kim Hunter (Zira), Maurice Evans (Dr. Zaius), James Whitmore (President of the Assembly), James Daly (Honorious), Linda Harrison (Nova), Robert Gunner (Landon), Lou Wagner (Lucius), Woodrow Parfrey (Maximus), Jeff Burton (Dodge), Buck Kartalian (Julius), Norman Burton (Hunt Leader), Wright King (Dr. Galen), Paul Lambert (Minister)

Notes: Rod Serling, who wrote the first draft of the screenplay in 1964 (and is also famous for creating the influential SF anthology series The Twilight Zone), also contributed ideas to the ultimately short-lived early ’70s television spinoff of the Apes movies. Pierre Boulle, the French author whose 1963 novel formed the basis of the movie, wrote another draft of the screenplay that went unused.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Beneath The Planet Of The Apes

Planet Of The ApesTaylor and Nova explore further into the Forbidden Zone, beyond the ruins of the Statue of Liberty, where a gigantic wall of fire stretches across the horizon and sudden earthquakes rip through the ground at their feet. Taylor goes to explore onward, telling Nova to find Dr. Zira if he fails to return. Taylor is unaware that another expedition has been launched to find his missing ship and crew, and that disaster has befallen them as well: astronaut Brent and his crew are sucked into the same time anomaly and arrive on the future Earth. Brent survives the violent landing and discovers Nova roaming on her own, following her back into ape territory. There, he witnesses not only the evolutionary advancements of the apes, but an all-too-familiar sight: the apes are divided over whether to strike into the heart of the Forbidden Zone, or face a famine that threatens their food crops. General Ursus calls for war, and demands support from Dr. Zaius. The scientific elite – mainly evolved chimpanzees – are concerned about the rallying cry for war, while the gorilla military considers calls for peace to be a sign of weakness. Dr. Zaius is cautious: nobody even knows what’s in the Forbidden Zone, or indeed if there’s anything or anyone upon which to declare war. Despite his earlier mistrust of Dr. Zira and Cornelius, Zaius leaves them in charge and reluctantly joins the military advance into the Forbidden Zone.

Brent, still trying to fulfill his mission objective of finding Taylor’s expedition, flees from ape country into the Forbidden Zone. They find a subterranean complex there, filled with the sound of machinery: obviously the product of some kind of intelligent life. While Brent is relieved to finally meet (apparently) human beings underground, he’s horrified by what they tell him: they worship their god – an atomic bomb that survived the Earth-consuming holocaust intact – and they’re not afraid to unleash their god’s fury upon an invading force of apes, even if it leads to a chain reaction that could wipe out the entire world. The final revelation is even more disturbing: despite their outward appearance, these humans have been mutated almost beyond recognition. They throw Brent in a cell with Taylor, but the reunion is anything but a happy one: in order to take out both the apes and the mutants, Taylor is more than ready to detonate the holy bomb himself…

Order the DVDsscreenplay by Paul Dehn
story by Paul Dehn and Mort Abrahams
directed by Ted Post
music by Laurence Rosenthal

Cast: James Franciscus (Brent), Kim Hunter (Zira), Maurice Evans (Dr. Zaius), Linda Harrison (Nova), Paul Richards (Mendez), Victor Buono (Fat Man), James Gregory (General Ursus), Jeff Corey (Caspay), Natalie Trundy (Albina), Thomas Gomez (Minister), David Watson (Cornelius), Don Pedro Colley (Negro), Tod Andrews (Skipper), Gregory Sierra (Verger), Eldon Burke (Gorilla Sergeant), Lou Wagner (Lucius), Charlton Heston (Taylor)

Original title: Planet Of The Apes Revisited

Notes: Charlton Heston wanted the first Planet Of The Apes sequel to be the last – he agreed to appear in only as many scenes as could be shot in a two-week period, and only if the character of Taylor was killed off. If you noticed that new star James Franciscus bore more than a passing physical resemblance to Heston’s appearance in the majority of the first film, it’s no accident: 20th Century Fox hoped that, in trailers and other advertising for Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, Franciscus’ strong resemblance would help them conveniently gloss over the fact that Heston was putting in little more than a cameo appearance. Also absent from the cast, due to being booked for other projects, was Roddy McDowall – the only Planet Of The Apes live-action project of the 20th century from which he was absent.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Escape From The Planet Of The Apes

Planet Of The ApesWith the danger of an imminent war looming ahead, Cornelius, Dr. Zira and Dr. Milo make their way back to Taylor’s spacecraft and coax it into orbit – just in time to witness the destruction of Earth by the mutants’ holy bomb. This also causes their ship to spiral out of control back through time, reversing the time anomaly that brought Taylor and Brent’s ships to the ape-dominated Earth of the 3900s. The three surviving apes splash down on Earth in 1973. At first reluctant to divulge their identities, their origins or indeed their true intelligence, their trip is not without peril: Dr. Milo is killed when he upsets a caged gorilla, and the humans are initially extremely suspicious.

A Presidential commission is appointed to study Cornelius and Zira, and they quickly become public celebrities as well, but the discovery that Zira is pregnant curtails their public appearances. So too does the overzealous curiosity of Otto Hasslein, a government scientist who, after hearing Zira and Cornelius talk about the future that awaits Earth, thinks that terminating Zira’s pregnancy, sterilizing both apes and perhaps even killing them would be best for the future of humanity. This doesn’t sit well with Dr. Lewis Dixon, an animal behavior expert who has been the apes’ main point of contact, who argues passionately that Zira and Cornelius – and their offspring – should live on, regardless of what it portends for man’s future. It’s only when Hasslein secures an order to abort the offspring that Cornelius finally decides to defend his mate more aggressively. Dixon hides the two apes away at a zoo, where Zira has her child in relative peace, but Hasslein isn’t far behind. Knowing that they can’t stay on the run forever and raise their child, Cornelius and Zira must trust their son’s future to at least one of the humans…

Order the DVDsscreenplay by Paul Dehn
directed by Don Taylor
music by Jerry Goldsmith

Cast: Roddy McDowall (Cornelius), Kim Hunter (Zira), Bradford Dillman (Dr. Lewis Dixon), Natalie Trundy (Dr. Stephanie Branton), Eric Braeden (Dr. Otto Hasslein), William Windom (The President), Sal Mineo (Milo), Albert Salmi (E-1), Jason Evers (E-2), John Randolph (Chairman), Harry Lauter (General Winthrop), M. Emmet Walsh (Aide), Roy E. Glenn Sr. (Lawyer), Peter Forster (Cardinal), Norman Burton (Army Officer), William Woodson (Naval Officer), Tom Lowell (Orderly), Gene Whittington (Marine Captain), Donald Elson (Curator), Bill Bonds (TV Newscaster), Army Archerd (Referee), James Bacon (General Faulkner), Ricardo Montalban (Armando)

Original title: Secret Of The Planet Of The Apes

Notes: Though it may cleverly pick up the story with the only characters who can possibly have survived the carnage at the end of Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, Escape is actually more of an attempt to “reboot” the Apes movies in a cheaper modern-day setting: not only are contemporary locations cost-effective, but reducing the ape population to only three also eliminates the elaborate makeup needed for the first two films’ hordes of background apes. Though it’s made very clear that Zira, Cornelius and Milo escaped future Earth in Taylor‘s spacecraft, it might have made more sense for them to have used Brent‘s vehicle, which had the benefit of being both relatively intact and not submerged beneath the sea.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes

Planet Of The ApesIn the year 1991, seven years after the death of Cornelius and Dr. Zira, apes have gradually attained the beginnings of the sentience displayed by the displaced apes from the future, only to become the slaves of humanity. While the subservient apes are viewed as a convenience by those who don’t want to perform menial tasks, they have relieved many humans of low-paying jobs and a virtual police state has arisen to deal with the resulting security issues among both species. The child of Cornelius and Zira, has been secretly harbored and raised by circus ringmaster Armando. In public, they still pretend to be human master and simian slave, and his ability to speak and read is carefully kept secret; any indication of this kind of intelligence could doom the evolving ape race, as the government still intends to prevent the rise of ape-kind (and the subsequent fall of man) at all costs. Still, it is known that the child of Cornelius and Zira survived the parents’ deaths, and Armando is still suspected of hiding the child years later – and maintains his innocence and ignorance of the accusations. But that changes when Armando’s charge is unable to contain his disgust at the mistreatment of an ape a pro-human-labor demonstration, shouting “Lousy human bastards!” Armando covers for him and is taken into custody for disturbing the peace. Left alone, Armando’s ape is taken in and becomes just another part of the ape slave trade, this time for real. He witnesses first-hand the torturous conditioning to which his fellow apes are subjected, but he keeps his intelligence hidden, even after he is sold at auction to Governor Breck, who has Armando in custody. Breck amuses himself by allowing the ape to name himself by pointing to a random word in a book; the name he picks for himself is Caesar.

Armando isn’t exactly treated gently either, as his interrogation by Breck’s men becomes more brutal. Finally, faced with the authenticator – a lie detector which will reveal that he was covering for Caesar all along – Armando leaps out of a skyscraper window to his death. This is the last straw for Caesar; he has already been organizing a campaign of deliberate disobedience and property destruction. But with Armando’s death, Caesar rallies the ape slave population toward a more violent form of revolt. Caesar himself is captured and tortured, but he has left an impression on a member of Breck’s staff, who helps him fake his own death and escape. Surviving his “execution” at the hands of Breck’s Ape Management bureau gives Caesar’s followers the push they need: the real revolt begins in earnest, and Ape Management is the first agency to fall. An armed response from the governor’s troops only incites more violence, and Caesar leads his brethren into battle. The overwhelmed human police forces are but the first casualties in an all-out massacre; they’re expecting barely-domesticated animals who will scatter at loud noises, not an organized fighting force. But is the last night of humanity’s rule of the Earth simply going to start the countdown to the inevitable end of the apes?

Order the DVDsscreenplay by Paul Dehn
directed by J. Lee Thompson
music by Tom Scott

Cast: Roddy McDowall (Caesar), Don Murray (Breck), Natalie Trundy (Lisa), Hari Rhodes (MacDonald), Ricardo Montalban (Armando), Severn Darden (Kolp), Lou Wagner (Busboy), John Randolph (Commission Chairman), Asa Maynor (Mrs. Riley), H.M. Wynant (Hoskyns), David Chow (Aldo), Buck Kartalian (Frank – Gorilla), John Dennis (Policeman), Paul Comi (2nd Policeman), Gordon Jump (Auctioneer), Dick Spangler (Announcer), Joyce Haber (Zelda), Hector Soucy (Ape with chain)

Notes: After playing human zoologist in Escape From The Planet Of The Apes, Natalie Trundy returns as a different character (in full ape makeup). Where Escape From The Planet Of The Apes had reduced the size of the “ape” cast and rebooted the film series in modern-day settings to save money, Conquest ironically has more extras in full ape makeup than any of the previous Apes films, along with a not-inexpensive “near future” redress of its L.A. locations.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Battle For The Planet Of The Apes

Planet Of The ApesThe riots started by Caesar’s uprising were only the beginning; a bloody war followed in which humanity’s great cities were razed to the ground. Reduced to a primitive state, humans and apes try to co-exist peacefully according to Caesar’s wishes, and according to a simple set of laws: ape must never kill ape, and no human may ever say “no” to an ape again. But the truce is an uneasy one, and Caesar constantly has to keep the peace. With his human confidante MacDonald and an ape scientist named Virgil, Caesar decides to set out for the radioactive ruins of Los Angeles to retrieve archived video recordings of his parents, Cornelius and Zira, who are rumored to have spoken extensively of Earth’s history – effectively revealing the future. But L.A. isn’t unoccupied: Kolp, formerly Governor Breck’s security chief, has taken charge of a city of radiation-scarred human militants. When Caesar’s scouting party trips the alarms, Kolp’s men try to capture them, at first orders to capture them alive, but he then orders his men to shoot to kill. Caesar and his party escape, enraging Kolp. Kolp decides to form his own search party, to find Caesar’s people and wipe them out.

Returning home, though, Caesar is accosted by General Aldo, the gorilla leader of the apes’ security forces. Aldo demands to know where Caesar went and why, and is clearly not satisfied by Caesar’s cryptic explanation. That night, when his pet escapes, Caesar’s son tries to track it down and overhears Aldo rallying the gorillas for a takeover of the ape community; Aldo discovers this and critically injures the boy. While Caesar is distracted, the humans mount their first attack on the apes, and Aldo uses this as an excuse to imprison all of the humans living peacefully in the ape city and seize power by force. Kolp’s attack is routed, but Aldo’s thirst for revenge isn’t satisfied so easily: he wants even the peaceful humans in the city executed. When Caesar learns the truth about what happened to his son, he attacks Aldo, seeking vengeance…but in doing so, has Caesar merely sown the seeds of distrust that will eventually destroy the world?

Order the DVDsstory by Paul Dehn
screenplay by John William Corrington & Joyce Hooper Corrington
directed by J. Lee Thompson
music by Leonard Rosenman

Cast: Roddy McDowall (Caesar), Claude Akins (Aldo), Natalie Trundy (Lisa), Severn Darden (Kolp), Law Ayres (Mandemus), Paul Williams (Virgil), Austin Stoker (MacDonald), Noah Keen (Teacher), Richard Eastham (Mutant Captain), France Nuyen (Alma), Paul Stevens (Mendez), Heather Lowe (Doctor), Bobby Porter (Cornelius), Michael Stearns (Jake), Cal Wilson (Soldier), Pat Cardi (Young Chimp), John Landis (Jake’s Friend), Andy Knight (Mutant on motorcycle), John Huston (The Lawgiver)

LogBook entry by Earl Green