Arguably one of the most classic sci-fi films of all time, Planet of the Apes is the 1968 film that started the entire franchise which would eventually span a myriad of films including theatrical, made-for-TV and even a heavily criticized Tim Burton directed sequel from 2001. With so much history behind the series, it’s no wonder what Fox took their time releasing the classic films on Blu-ray for the first time, spanning a massive five disc box set, complete with deluxe packaging and a handsome book to top it off. For those not feeling quite so adventurous, the films are being released individually, so you can get your hands on each damn dirty movie individually if you are so inclined.
Witness the evolution of cinematic masterpiece with this 40th anniversary Edition of the original Planet of the Apes on Blu-ray—loaded with hours of thrilling extras! In this classic action-adventure film that changed the face of sci-fi forever, an astronaut (Charlton Heston) crash-lands on a strange planet ruled by intelligent apes who use a primitive race of humans for experimentation and sport! Co-starring Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and introducing Linda Harrison as “Nova.”
It’s been so long since I laid eyes on Planet of the Apes that it was like an entirely new experience for me. Perhaps that’s the Blu-ray transfer talking, but it’s more likely due to the fact I haven’t seen this movie since I was in the early double digits. While it obviously wasn’t a childhood favorite of mine (otherwise I would’ve remembered it better and watched it more than once), at the time I was just so caught up in Star Wars and Indiana Jones that a movie about a bunch of apes didn’t thrill me any. Granted it still isn’t exactly the most exciting film to behold (yes I actually said that, I’m sure thousands of Apes buffs are trying to find and kill me now), for a sci-fi film to be able to carry a G rating and remain this entertaining to date is a true accomplishment.
I feel there’s little I can even talk about when it comes to this classic film and I could alternatively compare it to the aforementioned Burton remake, but I don’t even go there. Instead I’ll just remark how a film from 1968 managed to pull off such amazing visual effects. The effects, of course, is the makeup done in the film that simply looks fantastic. While it’s easy to get caught up in the CGI world of today’s spectacular action infused films, Planet of the Apes is truly a film that not only pioneered the way makeup was done with science fiction creatures but also paved the way for future science fiction films to blow our minds.
Of course it wasn’t just the monkey makeup that made the film stand the test of time. Heston’s role as George Taylor remains of his most iconic and beloved roles and it’s easy to see why. Everything about his performance is compelling and easy to get wrapped up in. There isn’t a second of this film that doesn’t carry weight and while it can get a bit dull for a ten year old to watch, for me watching it now as an adult opened up whole new wonders of this film I was too young to see or even care about before. Although I often become bored with classics like this (as blasphemous as that is, older science fiction or action movies just don’t impress me all that much, likely because I’ve seen them copied so many times now nothing seems fresh), Planet of the Apes has the unique aspect of being one of a kind. While it may have seen subsequent sequels that seemed to get progressively worse, the original Planet of the Apes cannot be beat. Highly Recommended.
Although the big box set is going to be the real draw this holiday season, if you don’t want to own the other movies of the series (and I’m sure no one would begrudge you otherwise—they aren’t the greatest) you can get them individually as previously mentioned. For this review I’ll be focusing on the first film’s Blu-ray release and the amount of extras on this release is truly staggering. The movie itself arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with the disc itself and inserts inside for other Fox releases. An odd side note is the disc wouldn’t read in my PC Blu-ray drive for anything and the loading of it seemed to be rather slow on the Playstation 3, although it did eventually pop up. Not sure what that was all about. The menus are incredibly fancy and almost kind of trippy in the way the stuff is floating around, but it’s nicely done and easy to navigate.
Video for this release is an AVC encoded (@ 26mbps) and as expected, this film looks fantastic. The amount of detail in the picture is absolutely fantastic, as there is no compression or anything to detract from the image. While there is a bit of natural grain left in, the film looks amazing pure and simple. The accompanying 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is similarly impressive, although some sound effects do come off sounding a bit tinny, but nothing that will really detract from ones viewing of the film. In addition to the 5.1 DTS-HD track we have English and Spanish Mono, as well as a DD5.1 French track. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Korean.
Moving onto the extras we have plenty to pick through, with a healthy mixture of standard and high definition features spread across the 50gb dual layer disc. First up are the commentaries by actors Rodd McDowall, Kim Hunter and Natalie Trundy, and Makeup Artist John Chambers, a second track by Composer Jerry Goldsmith and a Text Commentary by Eric Greene, Author of Planet of the Apes As American Myth. Also included are the BonusVIEW extras which are available for viewing during the film as well as a separate collection titled “Science of the Apes” BonusVIEW (38:53, 480p). “Beyond the Forbidden Zone Adventure Game” is something you can play during the movie itself, although it takes up about 90% of the screen, so why you would even attempt to watch the film while playing it, I don’t know.
Next up we have a trio of 1080p extras with Public Service Announcement from ANSA (6:06, 1080p), Evolution of the Apes Featurette (23:37, 1080p), and Impact of the Apes Featurette (11:39, 1080p). Moving on we get “Behind the Planet of the Apes” Documentary with Interactive Mode (2:06:44, 480p), which also has an interactive version that includes text information that comes up on the right side of the screen as the video itself plays in a little box to the left. “Behind the Planet of the Apes Promo” (2:19, 480p) is an advertisement for the aforementioned documentary. Next we have the massive “The Archives of the Apes” which includes Original Makeup Tests with Edward G. Robinson, Roddy McDowall’s On-Set Footage, Dailies and Outtakes, N.A.T.O.O Presentation, Vintage Planet of the Apes Featurette, Teaser Trailer, and Original Theatrical Trailer. Finally we wrap up the set with The Galleries of the Apes: The AAPE Newspaper, Interactive Pressbook, Advertising, Lobby Cards, Costumes, Props, and Behind-The-Scenes Stills.
Overall this set is packed to the gills and is without a doubt the definitive edition of this 1968 classic to own. Highly Recommended.
Planet of the Apes is now available on Blu-ray.