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Primates and Politics, Profoundly Powerful Pandemonium - Planet of the Apes - Cult Classic Creature Feature Fun
When I was a little kid, apes ruled America. The blockbuster sensation Planet of the Apes came out right around the time I was born. By the time I was old enough to watch, it was aired on television.
America went ape.
Seriously, from lunchboxes to notebooks, backpacks and Halloween costumes, kids across the land were hooked on all things ape. I was no exception.
Come along to see what's up with the national sensation that was the Planet of the Apes movies. It started as a sci-fi fantasy and ended up becoming a national phenomenon that influenced an entire decade.
The box set of the original movies
The world turned upside down.
As a kid, the allure of the movies was the talking apes, no doubt about it. They ran the world. Humans were less than chattel.
Personally, I was all a gaga over the character Dr. Zaius, a politically powerful orangutan. I can't really say why, primarily because I don't think like a child anymore I suppose, but I do remember thinking he was really cute, like a walking teddy bear. At the same time, I thought he was kind of mean and grumpy, maybe like an old teddy bear, but I didn't care one bit. I loved him completely.
There were three kinds of "apes" running around the planet, chimps, gorillas and orangutans. As much as I fell in love with the wise Dr. Zaius, I hated and was terrified of the later character Orco, the head gorilla. This dude was seriously scary to my kid self. I had nightmares about him. I guess that's a pretty good testament to how believable the acting was. Somehow, everyone really bought that the apes were real.
The apes had their own culture.
In this science fiction world, gorillas were the muscle, orangutans the brains and chimps fell in the middle but leaned towards being more intellectually oriented.
Humans wandered the land like wild animals, homeless scavengers hunted down by the apes like humans hunt down coyotes and other animals they deem to be nuisances now. In the beginning of the movies, humans didn't even speak. At the time, they seemed almost like cavemen to me.
Enter modern man.
Our story begins with Charlton Heston, playing George Taylor. Taylor was an astronaut launched from earth and landing God knows where sometime way, way into the future. He and a few crew mates managed to survive the crash only to find themselves lost on a planet gone mad, where apes ruled and humans were hunted.
One would have thought him to be the hero of kids across the country. He was an astronaut, tall, handsome, strong but no one cared. Out of all of us kids, no one was really rooting for the humans. We loved the apes!
The human actors took a back seat.
What all of us kids really wanted to see was the apes. Any ape would do even the scary gorillas. Roddy McDowall brought the main ape character, Cornelius, to life as no one would have ever thought possible. Kim Hunter played the other main chimpanzee character, Zera.
Somehow these two super talented actors made their ape characters come across as more human than well, humans. Everyone fell in love with them.
As a generation of kids grew, the apes just kept coming.
Looking back now I can see so many themes, so much politically oriented material contained in these films pointing out man's blatant disregard for the planet, each other and himself. Back then it was all just ape covered goodness but I can see now where it further nurtured the seeds of many a budding pro environmental mind.
Every few years another sequel in the would come on TV. I never saw any of them in the theater but wish I had. All things ape became so hugely popular that the movies spawned not one, but two weekly television series, one a cartoon and one not.
I did very much enjoy that as I grew older and was able to understand more, the series continued to point out in ape fashion things that were relevant to my world at the time and still today. Things like man's inability to live peacefully even with himself, his great arrogance and ultimately how dangerous as a species humanity is.
The more things change, the more they don't.
As a kid, I never got to see all of the sequels together or even close to each other. Life at the mercy of TV programming back in the day was a trial in patience. Okay, more honestly it sucked.
Then along came DVD. Better still, along came Christmas one year when my best buddy Jason bought Mr. Vix and I the entire box set. It's the exact same set you see in the introductory picture.
It rocked my world to notice how relevant the movies still were.
I can honestly say I have enjoyed the movies more as an adult than I did as a child, for entirely different reasons. All of the movies have an underlying theme of the ongoing struggle against oppression be it the apes oppressing humans as we see in the first movie, humans oppressing apes as we see later or later still the blatant ape upon ape oppression that so mimics that found in human society.
We see the imagined consequences of a post apocalyptic planet resulting from the exact same behaviors that humanity still wallows in to this day, oppression, destruction, anthrocentrism, hate, war, greed.
As an adult, I still love the apes. Orco still freaks me out and I still want to hug Dr. Zaius. More so, I appreciate the subtle nuances woven within a world that revolutionized creature features, sequels, movie related product merchandising and showed in furry fashion how being human is not the same as being humane.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes: Trailer
Check out the trailers.
As a kid, Escape from the Planet of the Apes was my favorite out of all the movies. Seeing Zera and Cornelius in modern America was a hoot.
As an adult, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is my favorite. I have to admit finding it fascinating. It so accurately depicts the more than predicable behavior patterns of the masses being ruled with an iron thumb, the inevitable rebellion. Of course, in this case the those rebelling are the apes, but the principles of behavior are the same. Out of the oppressed masses rose a leader that changed the world.
Planet of the Apes (1968) trailer
The apes seemed often times more human than the people.
The newest of all the ape movies, this one is a twist on the original that takes it beyond. I got this as soon as it came out expecting to be ticked off and disappointed. I seldom like remakes. This one broke my heart, amazed me and left me breathless just as the originals had. The effects took the action to a visually spectacular level.The fast moving action packed adventure will thrill you and rip your heart out all at the same time.
Have you seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies? Are you a fan of the originals, the new ones or both? Have any great creature features you want to recommend?
© 2014 Rhonda Lytle