It’s memorial day and as a result there was no new Game of Thrones or Defiance. In response to this I would like to quote Charlton Heston to HBO and SyFy: Goddamn you all to hell! I’m don’t usually curse in my reviews, but it expresses my sentiment perfectly. It also allows me to segue into this installment of Reviews from the Vault. You see, that was Mr. Heston’s final line, the line that ended the movie, in the original Planet of the Apes. Before Luke began training as a Jedi Knight with Obi-Wan Kenobi and before Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise encountered V’ger, George Taylor landed on a planet not unlike our own. A planet that would mark the beginning of a vast film franchise and become a staple of geekdom.

After a near light-speed journey through space, Taylor and his crew program their shuttle to return them to Earth before turning in for hibernation. As they sleep, something goes wrong and they end up crashing into an inhospitable planet which they find populated by neanderthal-like humans. They are not the only inhabitants though. It would seem that here, apes have evolved further than man and round them up for experimentation and extermination. Taylor and two of his crew are among those in one such round-up and Taylor damages his throat, leaving him unable to communicate with his captors. When it finally becomes apparent that Taylor is more intelligent than the other humans on this planet, the powers that be seem all to eager to cover this fact up.

This film was released in 1968. Considering this era, it was a very bold film. For starters, Heston remarks in the very beginning about mankind’s treatment of each other. The Vietnam War was in full swing at this time and for a star such as Heston to speak against war, even in a movie, would have been epic news. Second, the film explores the ugliness of racism as depicted by the apes looking down on humans as lesser beings without souls (ironically, the film’s only identifiably black cast member was killed in the first act). Racism was still prevalent throughout the United States despite the recent nullification of the Jim Crow Laws when this film came out, but it remained unapologetic about its depiction of racism when directed at a white man by a city of monkeys (no racism intended here, just trying to illustrate the films statement). But perhaps the film’s boldest statement in a time of “God-fearing America” is its take on science versus religion. The film firmly establishes that the logic behind evolutionism makes more sense than the stories told by creationists. And all of this coming from the guy that had previously played Moses in The Ten Commandments and John the Baptist in The Greatest Story Ever Told. So where does it fall on our scoreboard?

Originality: 5/5 – Based on a novel by Pierre Boulle, no other film existed like this one at the time. We are talking original sci-fi with a capital “O”.
Story: 5/5 – Considering the bold messages this film imparted and for doing so without shame, I have to score it as high as I can.
Performances: 4/5 – This films has all the marks of being made in the 60s, complete with melodramatic acting.
Special Effects: 5/5 – Keep in mind when I score this, I am basing my score on 1960s special effects. You won’t find any fancy CGI apes in the film, but the actors on the monkey suits are able to move their mouths when they talk.
Repeat Viewing: 5/5 – This is a film that needs watched often, either as an exercise in true geekdom or as an affirmation about how we should treat our fellow human beings.

Score: 

This is a film every new geek should acquaint themselves with and that every geek should keep on hand for a good watch when the mood strikes.

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