Planet of the Apes is a 1968 American science fiction film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, based on the 1963 French novel La Planète des singes by Pierre Boulle. The film stars Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans, Kim Hunter and Linda Harrison. It was the first in a series of five films made between 1968 and 1973, all produced by Arthur P. Jacobs and released by 20th Century Fox. The series was followed by a remake in 2001 and a reboot in 2011.
The film tells the story of an astronaut crew who crash-land on a strange planet in the distant future. Although the planet appears desolate at first, the surviving crew members stumble upon a society in which apes have evolved into creatures with human-like intelligence and speech. The apes have assumed the role of the dominant species and humans are mute creatures wearing animal skins.
The script was originally written by Rod Serling but had many rewrites before eventually being made. Directors J. Lee Thompson and Blake Edwards were approached, but the film's producer Arthur P. Jacobs, upon the advice of Charlton Heston, chose Franklin J. Schaffner to direct the film. Schaffner's changes included creating a more primitive ape society, instead of the more expensive idea of having futuristic buildings and advanced technology. Filming took place between May–August 1967, mostly in California and Arizona, with the opening scene shot at Lake Powell, Utah. The film's budget was approximately $5,800,000.
The film was released on February 8, 1968, in the United States and was a commercial success, gaining $32,589,624 at the international box office. The film was groundbreaking for its prosthetic makeup techniques by artist John Chambers, and was well received by critics and audiences, launching a film franchise, including four sequels, as well as a short-lived television show, animated series, comic books, various merchandising, and eventually a remake in 2001 and a reboot in 2011. In particular, Roddy McDowall had a long-running relationship with the Apes series, appearing in four of the original five films (absent, apart from a brief voiceover, from the second film of the series, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, in which he was replaced by David Watson in the role of Cornelius), and also in the television series.
In 2001, Planet of the Apes was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
| Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
Astronauts Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunner) and Dodge (Jeff Burton) are in deep hibernation when their spaceship crashes in a lake on an unknown planet after a long near-light speed voyage, during which they aged 18 months due to time dilation while their fourth crewmate Stewart died and decayed due to a malfunction. The three survivors abandon ship when it immediately starts sinking, Taylor remaining on long enough to see the date is November 25, 3978, approximately two millennia after their departure in 1972. Once ashore, Dodge performs a soil test and pronounces the soil incapable of sustaining life.
After abandoning their raft, the astronauts set off through a desolate wasteland in hopes of finding food and water before their provisions run out. They encounter plant life and go swimming at an oasis at the edge of the desert, ignoring eerie scarecrow-like figures around the edge. While they are swimming, their clothes are stolen. The astronauts pursue the thieves, finding their clothes torn to shreds and their supplies pillaged as the perpetrators, a group of mute primitive humans, raid a cornfield. The primitive humans are then set upon by armed gorillas on horseback who capture some of them while killing the rest, Dodge being killed in the chaos while Landon is rendered unconscious. Talyor is shot in the throat and captured alongside the primitive humans, taken to Ape City where his life is saved after a blood transfusion administered by two chimpanzees: animal psychologist Zira (Kim Hunter) and surgeon Galen (Wright King).
While unable to speak as his throat wound is healing, called "Bright Eyes" by Zira and placed with one of the captive primitive humans he later names "Nova", Taylor observes the enhanced society of talking apes and in a strict caste system: the gorillas being the military police, hunters and workers; the orangutans overseeing the affairs of government, science, and religion; and intellectual chimpanzees being mostly scientists. While their society is a theocracy similar to the beginnings of the human Industrial Era, the apes consider the primitive humans as vermin that are hunted, either killed outright, enslaved, or used in scientific experiments.
Taylor eventually gets Zira's attention, convincing her of his intelligence as she and her fiancé Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), an archaeologist, take an interest in him. But the couple's orangutan superior Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) learns of this and arranges for Taylor to be castrated. But Taylor escapes before the castration can occur, passing through a museum during his desperate flight through Ape City where he finds Dodge's stuffed and eyeless corpse on display. When Taylor is recaptured by gorillas, he overcomes his throat injury while roaring: "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!"
A hearing to determine Taylor's origins is convened by the president of the Assembly (James Whitmore), Dr. Zaius, and Maximus (Woodrow Parfrey). Dr. Honorious (James Daly) is the prosecutor. Taylor mentions his two comrades at this time, learning that Landon was subjected to a lobotomy that has rendered him catatonic and unable to speak. After the tribunal, believing Taylor to be of a human tribe from beyond their borders, Zaius privately threatens to castrate and lobotomize Taylor for the truth about where he came from. With help from Zira's socially rebellious nephew Lucius (Lou Wagner), Zira and Cornelius free Taylor and Nova and take them to the Forbidden Zone, a taboo region outside Ape City that has been ruled out of bounds for centuries by Ape Law where Taylor's ship crashed. While Cornelius and Zira are intent to gather proof of an earlier non-simian civilization which the former came upon a year prior to be cleared of heresy, Taylor is more focused on the evolution of the ape world and to prove he is not of that world.
Arriving at the cave, Cornelius is intercepted by Zaius and his soldiers, with Taylor holding them off while threatening to shoot if he has to. Zaius agrees to enter the cave to disprove their theories and to avoid physical harm to Cornelius and Zira. Inside, Cornelius displays the remnants of a technologically advanced human society pre-dating simian history. Taylor identifies artifacts such as dentures, eyeglasses, a heart valve and, to the apes' astonishment, a talking children's doll. More soldiers appear and Lucius is overpowered, but Taylor holds Zaius hostage so he can arrange his escape. But Zaius admits to Taylor that he always knew of the ancient human civilization, revealing that "the Forbidden Zone was once a paradise, your breed made a desert of it... ages ago!" Taylor nonetheless thinks it best to search for answers, despite being warned that he may not like what he finds. Once Taylor and Nova have ridden off, Dr. Zaius has the gorillas lay explosives to seal off the cave and destroy the evidence while charging Zira, Cornelius and Lucius with heresy.
Taylor and Nova, at last free, follow the shoreline and discover the remains of the Statue of Liberty, revealing that this "alien" planet is actually Earth long after a nuclear war. Realizing what Dr. Zaius meant earlier, Taylor falls to his knees in despair and anger while condemning humanity for destroying the world.
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