out of 4
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Planet of the Apes
|*Also starring: ||Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harrison||
Review by Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied
I might get burned for this but I consider "Planet of the Apes" one of the
cheesiest sci-fi films ever made. Cheesy because the concept seems shallow,
unrewarding and never takes itself too seriously. A planet full of apes who
consider themselves superior to the human race is an idea worth exploring but it
is not given the scope and intelligence it so richly deserves.
By now, the original "Planet of the Apes" has become a staple of American pop
culture. The bare-chested Charlton Heston spouting such lines as "Get your paws
off me, you dirty ape!" and yelling while being hosed down in his cell (Mr. NRA
is also quite adept with a rifle) is the stuff of Americana at its hokiest.
There is also the scantily-clad human female who mostly looks adoringly at
Heston and smiles. The ape council played by such distinguished actors such as
James Whitmore and Maurice Evans (who plays Dr. Zaius). There is also the
wonderful team of Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter as the ape scientists who feel
there is proof of a human existence long before the apes on their planet. And
the final shocking image of the Statue of Liberty that remains the most
memorable image in the sci-fi canon.
"Planet of the Apes" has a fascinating start as we see the astronauts, including
Heston, land on the planet which is as dry and arid as any they had ever seen.
Before long they discover humans are used as slaves by apes, thus realizing it
is several hundred years into the future indeed. The apes also believe that
humans are inferior because they can't talk yet Heston finally has the ability
to speak after being tranquilized, uttering the famous line of dialogue. After
that scene, things go downhill somewhat, alternating between unintentional humor
and some rather sophomoric action scenes. None of it makes a whole lot of sense
but there is an underlying social commentary taking place, mostly that the apes
begin to see a human face in the humans they captured whom they consider ugly
and bestial. It takes a while for them to recognize Heston is not like any other
human. The racism angle, particularly for the time of the film's release, is
"Planet of the Apes" is puerile and cheesy but it is fun to watch. Heston
overacts but is always a watchable presence. The apes are always credibly played
by all the actors, and the late Roddy McDowall does come off best. But the
concepts and ideas that were so fascinating to begin with are underdeveloped and
unfinished. I still like some meat with my cheese.
Copyright © 2001 Jerry Saravia
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