On April 3rd, 1968, the world saw an alternate reality where humans were considered animals, and intelligent apes ruled the Earth. The science fiction masterpiece that was the first Planet of the Apes film wowed audiences and began one of the biggest film franchises of that time.
Film producer Arthur P. Jacobs developed the first Planet of the Apes film after he read the novel La Planète des singes by French author Pierre Boulle. After acquiring the rights, he convinced the then head of 20th Century Fox, Richard Zanuck.
The film starred Charlton Heston as George Taylor, an astronaut sent to explore a distant star with three other astronauts. Upon landing on the planet, they find that they are 2,000 years in the future and on a planet ruled by a society of apes.
Taylor is taken captive and is unable to speak due to an injury. One of the Chimpanzee doctors named Zira (Played by: Kim Hunter) takes notice of his intelligence. Meanwhile, an Orangoutang named Dr. Zaius (Played by: Maurice Evans) sees him as an animal. Zira also has a fiancé named Cornelius (Played by: Roddy McDowall).
The film has commentary on human society, such as science, religion, classism, culture, and even race. The three types of Ape, Chimpanzee, Orangoutang, and Gorilla all seem to fit different societal roles. The film also had plenty of action and thrills, giving audiences one of the most significant twist endings in cinema history.
The film would become a massive success for Fox and won multiple Academy Awards, with one special award given to makeup artist John Chambers for his impressive ape cosmetics.
The film’s success led to Fox green-light a sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, in 1970. While not as critically revived as the first, it was successful enough to green-light more sequels. Escape the Planet of the Apes in 1971, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes in 1972, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes in 1973.
The success of the films led to two television series, a live-action series and an animated series called Return to the Planet of the Apes. The series also partnered with various toy companies, such as Mego, to develop an extensive array of merchandise. The series became Fox’s most successful science fiction franchise until Star Wars in 1977.
Over the years, various remakes and reboots have come and gone, with Tim Burton’s version from 2001 and the “Rise Trilogy” from 2011 – 2017. Another film, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, is currently in development.
What was your first experience with the Planet of the Apes franchise? Do you think it still holds up all these years later?
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