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Alexandra DuPont Reviews PLANET OF THE APES Box Set

El Cosmico here, with our fine friend Alexandra DuPont, who has taken time out to write a thoroughly satisfying look at the new Planet of the Apes box set, a set I am oh-so-thoroughly happy to own. Hey, Jules Asner owns one too!

It's over at her home at the DVD Journal, and the original article was posted here. Well, enough about me, I give you one of our fave lasses, Ms. Alexandra DuPont, and her thoroughly satisfying review. Thanks Alexandra!

i. Preamble, and Apologia.

It's just so tempting to dismiss the five-chapter Planet of the Apes series as mere sci-fi junk food, as camp, as pop-culture trash. The effects are dated. The masks are cheesy. Heston overacts. Roddy McDowell is a chimp and, moreover, a pansy. It spawned a TV series and a Saturday-morning cartoon in the early '70s that both tanked. They made fun of it on "The Simpsons" (you know — that musical version where the animated Heston manqué sings "You finally made a monkey out of me"?). It's something your parents used to park you in front of the TV to watch on Sunday afternoons, so it must be kiddie fare.

Well, I just sat down and watched the entire Planet of the Apes DVD box set — all five films, plus a terrific supplemental documentary hosted by McDowell — in the DVD Journal's screening room. My initial impressions are as follows, in descending order of importance:

1. My eyes hurt.

2. It is deeply, deeply amusing to me that parents let their kids park in front of the TV and watch these films on Sunday afternoons. It's amusing because — with the partial exception of Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the fifth and thank God final installment in the series — these films are subversive, apocalyptic, nihilistic, distrustful of all authority, violent as hell, and sad, but sad in that hope-leeching, mean-spirited way that, say, Titanic isn't. The Apes series gets away with being labeled kiddie fare, of course, because of those cheesy ape masks. If I may haul out that tired defense geek philosophers use to justify their love of "Star Trek": The best science fiction/fantasy — as practiced on TV by Roddenberry (on occasion) and Serling and in print by Bradbury and Gibson et al — acts as a sort of American kabuki, coding universal human truths into a deceptively broad opera of metaphors.

I always think geeks spout the above defense to justify their urge to ogle Nichelle Nichols in a short skirt and go-go boots, but in the case of the Apes films, the apologia works. In spite of the dated latex and supposed overacting, the five films tell an epic story that's packed with social and philosophical observations and stick-in-your-craw images and dialogue — a story that remains intriguing, for me, in part because of its (im)perfectly circular structure.

I know of no other filmed narrative cycle that you could, theoretically, start watching with any of the five movies, only to have the "ending" of the last film lead inexorably to the first film. I know of no fantasy series with the stones to stage its apocalypse early on, letting it hang like a shroud over every character and plot point for three more installments, with no guarantee of averting said apocalypse as the series "ends." (According to the box set's documentary, the filmmakers apparently came upon this structure by accident, but in my mind that only makes it more inventive.) It doesn't surprise me that James Cameron was once slated to remake the series — he'd already adapted this narrative conceit for his Terminator films.

Don't get me wrong: The series is, in many ways, most admirable when examined as a whole from a fairly fuzzy distance. A lot of the little moments don't hold up, and the experience of watching a series of films in which the budget shrinks for each sequel even as the series' narrative ambitions escalate is ambivalent at best. It's probably wise in today's effects-driven, thrill-a-minute sci-fi climate to approach these movies as one might a collected TV miniseries, with all the critical generosity one accords such entertainments. If you do that, there are considerable rewards to be had.

Anyway. Following are my general impressions from the marathon. It should be disclaimed that these impressions are colored by the consumption of multiple alcoholic beverages; and that these impressions contain crucial plot "spoilers," unapologetically offered because (a) the DVD box set reveals them in its cover art anyway, and (b) this series began over three decades ago, for pity's sake. If you haven't heard about that Statue of Liberty bit by now....

I. Planet of the Apes (1968)

The story: Time-traveling astronaut Charlton Heston crash-lands on an arid planet and is captured by talking apes. Because other humans on the planet can't talk, Heston's hammy loquaciousness leads to a parodic inversion of the Scopes Monkey Trial — with accompanying Church/State/Science conflicts and silly, marvelous, brazen metaphors.

Bizarro Ending (spoiler alert): Heston discovers he has in fact landed on a distant-future Earth, and that the ape society is an apparent product of nuclear war.

Effect(s) Creatively Glossed Over Due to Budget Constraints: A spaceship crash — beautifully replaced with first-person-perspective aerial nose-dive shots.

Axiomatic Truth(s): Throwing nets on people automatically makes them collapse to the ground; Charlton Heston looks perfectly at home half-naked on horseback carrying a rifle.

Summary of Major Findings: Awarded a special Oscar for makeup effects, the technical aspects of Planet of the Apes hold up remarkably well — setting a standard that was, sadly, unmet in later installments, as the budget apparently kept decreasing for each sequel. Chuck Heston overacts completely in every scene, but like the "great" William Shatner, he is so utterly, 110-percent committed to every single moment that his performance, in my mind, achieves a sort of perfection — lodging itself in your mental craw as effectively as Jerry Goldsmith's avant-garde, timpani-addled score. Ultimately, what elevates Planet of the Apes in part beyond '60s schlock is its high-concept, "Twilight Zone"-ish story — co-written with real skill by Rod Serling and handled in wondrously economical, confident fashion by Schaffner, who went on to direct, of all things, Patton. For all its histrionics, Apes offers a precise allegory of mankind's worst impulses - our history of fear and superstition, and how civilizations have used such forces to discredit rational scientific inquiry - so that the imprisonment of Taylor and his absurd, Kafkaesque trial can fill the viewer with righteous indignity. Considering that the prosecutors are all wearing monkey-masks, that's quite an achievement.

II. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

The story: A second astronaut (James Franciscus) comes looking for Heston — only to find that ol' Chuck's been captured by intelligent, telepathic human mutants who live underground and worship an unused atomic bomb that could destroy the planet.

Bizarro Ending (spoiler alert): After apes invade the mutant lair and start blasting everything in sight, a mortally wounded Heston, in a fit of nihilistic disgust, pushes a button and blows everybody — and everything — to smithereens. Fade to black. Sheesh!

Effect(s) Glossed Over Due to Budget Constraints: Sadly, the monkey masks — which are almost parodically bad in crowd scenes.

Axiomatic Truth(s): Gorillas are stupid warmongers; telepathic communication is accompanied by individually distinguishable, utterly annoying electronic tones; "futuristic" people wear "futuristic" clothes; astronauts visiting the future will be placed in loincloths as soon as possible.

Apocrypha: Why would the U.S. government send a "rescue" team after an astronaut whose very mission description involves hurtling hundreds of years through time? Did he forget his lunch?

Summary of Major Findings: In almost every sense, Beneath comes off as Diet Apes: The social commentary is ham-fisted (War senseless! Religious war even worse!); the story structure is so unfocused as to be almost picaresque; and James Franciscus, though possessed of better abs, comes off as "Lil' Heston" in his role as the follow-up astronaut (which is admittedly a little unfair to James F.'s more understated performance). Plus, the whole affair is just so relentlessly grim; the DVD Journal's editor had to restrain me from putting a 9mm to my temple as the credits rolled over a creepy silence. It's Nihilism Plus Ultra.

That said, there's once scene in Beneath that achieves an effect that is positively Lynchian, if I may mis-use the term a little. I am referring, of course, to the infamous "Mass for the Bomb" sequence, wherein the mutants pull off (what were not known until that moment to be) masks, revealing creepy striated mutant faces, even as they worship an atomic bomb in an underground cathedral. This is deeply silly stuff — but director Ted Post then tops it off by having the mutants singing a deliriously off-key "All Things Bright and Beautiful" — which for me pushes the scene so far over the top that it crawls into your brain and roots around as if it were a scene from Eraserhead.

Fun Fact: If you want to listen to the "Mass for the Bomb" loudly at work, alienating co-workers with Edward Norton-esque efficiency, you can actually buy the Beneath soundtrack on CD exclusively at

III. Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

The story: Chimpanzee scientists from the first two films (Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter) take Heston's spaceship and travel back in time to 1970s America. They become celebrities — until the government finds out (a) that the talking chimps are trained vets who dissected/will dissect mute-human "animals" in the future, and (b) that everybody gets blown to smithereens in a couple of millennia.

Bizarro Ending (spoiler alert): McDowall and Hunter's chimp scientists are assassinated so they can't raise a talking insurrectionist ape; but beforehand, they hide their already-birthed, future-talking-insurrectionist ape baby in a circus — run by, dear Lord, the charming Ricardo Montalban.

Effects Glossed Over Due to Budget Constraints: The chimps' spacecraft is fished from the sea by the lowest-rent military rescue operation in history, which consists of a chopper, a couple of frogmen and several Jeeps.

Axiomatic Truth(s): All apes on Earth, speaking or mute, with the exception of infant chimps, now look like people in bad costumes, with no one seeming to notice or care; also, the President's high-profile Minister of Science (Eric Braeden, cool as ice) will personally pack a pistol and do the dirty work normally given to soldiers or covert assassins.

Apocrypha: In the first film, the chimps boggle when Heston's character makes a paper airplane; but for Escape's premise to work, we must believe that, in an appallingly short time frame, the future chimps found Heston's (sunken) spacecraft, repaired it, mastered its controls, and flew it into space and backwards in time.

Summary of Major Findings: It's a testament to Escape's considerable charms that we swallow the above lunatic premise hook, line and sinker. We also get two films in one: Director Don Taylor plays the first half as self-referential farce, with some dryly funny sequences involving the testing of the chimps by a befuddled scientist duo (Bradford Dillman, Natalie Trundy). While the humor's laid on a bit thick once the apes go "on the town" and try on '70s fashions (yes, there is the inevitable clothes-shopping sequence), the first half is a breath of fresh air after the relentless nihilism of Beneath.

And then, this being an Apes film, matters get alarmingly nasty, and fast. At this point in the viewing marathon, I realized that one of the signatures of the series is that, in Paul Dehn's screenplays (he wrote three of the four sequels and came up with the story for Battle), all moments go quite a bit further than necessary to make their dramatic point. Case in point: The chimps become fugitives when Cornelius (McDowell) strikes a young man in anger after his unborn child is called a "monkey" (apparently the equivalent of the "n-word" in Ape City). Modern screenwriters would stop there: But in Dehn's script, Cornelius kills the kid — and barely shows remorse, save a pathetic "I didn't mean to" 10 minutes later. It grays out the moral landscape a little, giving the apes a valid reason to run and the humans a valid reason to see them as a threat.

What's truly wonderful about Escape is that it allows Roddy McDowall to emerge as the heart and soul of the Apes series, followed closely by Kim Hunter as his chimp wife Zira. One of the great pleasures of an Apes marathon is watching McDowall find new ways to express emotion through the monkey makeup (save in Beneath, where his barely-there character is played by David Watson). Without his total commitment, expressive voice, and complete lack of embarrassment or irony under the makeup, the later sequels would be — and I don't think I'm exaggerating here — a complete waste of celluloid.

IV. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

The story: It's 20 years later, in the "future" — i.e., 1991. The talking-chimp baby has grown up (into an ape played, again, by McDowall) under Montalban's care, and the two are separated in an unnamed city where apes have been co-opted as a slave/servant class.

Bizarro Ending (spoiler alert): McDowall is enslaved, Montalban is killed — and the film turns into a disturbing vengeance/uprising drama of frankly Shakespearean (and, pretty obviously, black-militant) proportions. By the end, apes have killed hundreds of jack-booted police by sheer force of numbers and control the city.

Effects Glossed Over Due to Budget Constraints: Plague that killed all the dogs and cats on Earth, leading to the adoption of apes as pets and, later, slaves; convincing ape masks; and, alas, quality Hollywood film lighting.

Axiomatic Truth(s): All apes walk like they just ate several large, colon-blowing meals; police can be easily defeated via tackling, short segments of rope round the neck; apes can be organized and taught basic welding, weapons usage with hardly any language training.

Apocrypha: The story of the ape uprising doesn't quite jibe with how Cornelius recounts it in Escape.

Summary of Major Findings: This is, in many ways, the Empire Strikes Back of the Apes saga — it's a hard-core geek favorite revered for its stripped-down production design, taut revenge story and lean nastiness (it is, after all, the only Apes film to get a then-dreaded PG rating). Two things became immediately apparent during my marathon viewing:

1. This is just about the worst-lit mainstream Hollywood film I have ever seen, with natural light used to ill effect in almost every daytime exterior shot. I swear, it comes off like Italian horror. The DVD restoration only makes this budget-induced murkiness more appalling; when compared to the gorgeous crispness of the first film, it's mortally offensive.

2. That said, what may be the most powerful moment of the Apes series can be found here: A final, rousing speech by McDowall, backed by flames and punctuated with tight close-ups, about future ape uprisings that comes off like Henry V's "babies pitted upon pikes" monologue by way of the Black Panthers. (Fearing weariness and drink might have colored my perceptions of this scene's power, the above impression has been double-confirmed by site contributor Greg Dorr and the Journal's own editor in repeated viewings; if he weren't in latex, McDowall would have been nominated for an Oscar for this scene alone, I swear.)

V. Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

The story: It's 10 years (or so) later; there's been, rather rudely, a thermonuclear war between films. McDowell's character now runs a sort of Rennaisance Faire-ish community with apes (who can now, inexplicably, talk and dress just as they did in the first film) and humans barely co-existing. Mutants from the nearby nuked city come a-calling — with artillery.

Bizarro Ending (spoiler alert): Apes kick slow-moving mutant hiney, and there's a note of hope for a man/ape future — or is there?

Effects Glossed Over Due to Budget Constraints: Conveniently offscreen nuclear war; battle scenes come off like Renaissance Faire patrons battling hybrid local militia/angry bus drivers.

Axiomatic Truth(s): Gorillas always ride beautiful black stallions; apes can learn to read and speak and adopt human cultural mores, prejudices with savant-like quickness.

Apocrypha: The Lawgiver (played by John Huston!), well-known for his rips on mankind in the first film, presides over a happy human/ape society in the film's bookending sequences.

Summary of Major Findings: As a lass, this was my favorite Apes film. Now I know why; it was the first installment crafted exclusively for childlike mindsets.

Paul Dehn stepped away from the scenarist's desk for Battle after coming up with a story, leaving scribe duties to John and Joyce "Omega Man" Corrington. Perhaps at someone's behest, the Corringtons dumbed down the dialogue, de-nuanced the villains, and just generally gave director J. Lee Thompson (who also directed Conquest) some pretty cartoony, TV-series-ish material to work with.

The less written about this, the Return of the Jedi of the Apes series, the better. That said, there are a handful of good points. There is a pleasing triptych of characters, for example, in McDowall's ape leader, Austin Stoker's human badazz and wee singer Paul Williams' navel-gazing orangutan; one wishes the trio were used better in their scenes together. Also, some scenes of familial grief and revenge over a gorilla conspiracy (led by a snazzy Claude Akins as the gorrilla general) give McDowall some of his most potent moments in the series.

But still. Battle defied audience expectations (well, mine, anyway), by daring to interject a hopeful ending — the horror! — thankfully rendered somewhat ambivalent by a very silly crying statue.

Fun Facts: (1) When McDowall cries "Fight like apes!" put your DVD on frame-by-frame; you can clearly see the actor's human mouth forming the words. (2) A scene has apparently been cut from the movie for the DVD edition — a short but crucial moment in which two mutants discuss preserving the bomb that will later be worshipped by their creepy ancestors. I remembered this scene from my youth, and my suspicions about its deletion are all but confirmed by an user comment on that site's Battle for the Planet of the Apes page. Curious.

Postscript: Some Brief Technical Notes

This is a perfectly dandy box set — I mean, it's just dandy that it's finally coming out, given that the restored set's been out for a couple of years now on videocassette — but temper your expectations vis a vis supplemental materials. An identical set of trailers and previews for all five films (and the documentary) can be found on each disc — plus an unnecessary teaser for a video game that's obviously in the early stages of coding — but beyond some intriguing conceptual artwork on the first film's disc, the occasional production stills, and a Web link, there really aren't a lot of goodies to be had here.

That said, a sixth disc in the box set features the outstanding, two-hour 1998 "Behind the Planet of the Apes" documentary, hosted by McDowell shortly before he succumbed to cancer. It's packed with just the sorts of interviews and test footage and other supplemental info that would normally be menu-accessible had such a documentary not been made, so quit whining already.

The source prints are all lovingly restored — though, as mentioned earlier, said restoration makes the lighting flaws on Conquest as offensive as flatulence in church. I also encountered a couple of layer-switch freeze ups, but that's quibbling. And finally, a word to the wise: The animated menus are clever, but turn down the volume if you leave them onscreen for any length of time; if you don't, the discordant score excerpts, which play on an endless loop, will start sounding like the music in Hell's waiting room. You have been warned.

— Alexandra DuPont

  • Color
  • Planet of the Apes anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1)
  • All other titles letterbox widescreen (2.35:1)
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Includes feature-length documentary on sixth disc, hosted by Roddy McDowell
  • Six keep-cases in paperboard slip-case

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 5, 2000, 12:24 p.m. CST

    Yay for you

    by soylentphil

    This review acts as if it's the first to discover that Planet of the Apes had any kind of subtext. Please. One wonders if any of the deeper meanings would have occurred to the reviewer had the included documentary not spelled it out. Moreover, is this what passes for entertainment journalism now? Phrases like "Used better", and misspelling the series lead's name throughout the entire article? Hell in a handbasket. More fun facts: the documentary is seven minutes longer than the VHS released in 98. Battle had ten mniutes cut from its theatrical release, ten minutes that were included in the Japanese laserdisc box set.

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 12:57 p.m. CST

    POTA not anamorphic

    by American Somoan

    Just to clear up the specs you listed above - None of the films in the box set are anamorphic. Fox was too cheap to go back and do new transfers.

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 1 p.m. CST

    Six and Change, baby

    by Adam Mantioba

    All the info is appreciated, but there is nothing that really seals the deal in terms of making me wanting to get it. Maybe the talkback will help me out.

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 2:01 p.m. CST


    by Pomona88

    POTA, like ROCKY, has been tarnished by sadly inferior sequels.

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 3:18 p.m. CST

    Just saw Planet of the Apes at the Rialto in Pasadena this past

    by superhero

    and, even though the print was unforgivably horrible, the movie destroyed and concept I had that it was good! It was a TERRIBLY dated film that just did not hold up. I almost wish I hadn't seen it because now all my childhood passion for this film is gone. I still love Heston's over the top performance but it really is just a laughable film with a great premise and ending. I must give Ms. Dupont kudos for not only being able to sit through the first but then ALL of the following sequels. It must have been like Chinese water torture! Farewell childhood memories!

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 3:21 p.m. CST


    by Lazarus Long

    The series does kind of hit its stride between the 3rd and 4th films, so I wouldn't say "Apes" was ruined by sequels. The cool thing about "Escape" is that the fish-out-of-water idea from the first film has been inverted. Sure it's a pretty un-subtle commentary on race relations, but for early 70's low-budget sci-fi, what more could you ask for? Doctor Who episodes have always made their points in this fashion, and were entertaining as well. Alexandra was right about the nihilism of the 2nd half of "Escape" (and pretty much all of "Conquest"), but as one of the aforementioned geeks from her article, I'll agree that those 2 films do rock the hardest. The first film is a classic, but bringing Roddy to the forefront of the story was the best direction the series could have taken. And for those of you who aren't interested in shelling out the money for this box set (or the VHS one), I managed to tape all 5 films, in LETTERBOX, a year and half ago off of Turner Classic Movies or American Movie Classics. Whichever one it was, maybe they'll show them again in the near future (before the Apes take over).

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 5:44 p.m. CST

    I go APE over this series!

    by Kentucky Colonel

    Well, at least POTA and Escape from POTA. When I was kid I remember eating Doritos and drinking Squirt (the old very lemon-lime kind) and digging on these flicks whilst playing "army men" with the Apes vs Kirk, Spock and McCoy. I remember being so happy that the Apes could go through the Transporter that was built onto the side of the Enterprise bridge set (remember, you'd spin it and press a button and voila! Transport complete!) Just my two cents. GO APE!!

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 7:05 p.m. CST

    One was enough

    by u2jcheck

    Hey, I love the Apes movies but as in most cases with sequals, the original (which was great)loses something for being associated with a cheesy, worn out series.....see also scream series, aliens series, jaws series, jurrasick park series, batman series. "Since we have a hit on our hands, let's milk it for all its worth. Who cares if we make a piece of shit movie. Morons will always go to see a sequal to a hit movie" said the scumbag movie executive.

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 7:29 p.m. CST

    POTA sequels

    by Castle Bravo

    Hampered by cheesy special effects, bad acting, and zero budget as they were, the POTA sequels should at least get credit for trying to tell a different story each time and also attempting to advance the mythology along each time as well. In this respect, they compare favorably with the best of the Star Trek Moview (II, III, & IV). Most sequels settle for being an increasingly less-satisfying remake of the original. POTA should at least get points for trying to be creative.

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 7:37 p.m. CST


    by Seepgood

    I know there's some time-travel stuff going on, but I'm almost certain that sentence doesn't make sense. More worryingly, the evidence seems to point incontrovertibly to the conclusion that I care enough about that to post. Must get out more must get out more must get out more (repeat 100 times, then a week's bed-rest).

  • Sept. 5, 2000, 10:37 p.m. CST

    You Maniacs! You Blew It Up!

    by King Fausto

    It just seemed to be the right time to say that. BTW, First!

  • Sept. 6, 2000, 12:05 a.m. CST

    Planet of the Apes

    by aaron_stack

    The Bottom Line...The original planet of the apes is one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. It holds up very well all things considered. Unfortunately the series is typical of most sequels...they are complete and utter garbage. Perhaps a case can be made for the second flick but after that...oh well I like all of them better than the Jaws sequels

  • Sept. 6, 2000, 12:55 a.m. CST

    Oooga Booga Poopy Poo!

    by Lenny Nero

    'Nuff said

  • Sept. 6, 2000, 8:16 a.m. CST

    Apes rule!

    by Dark Knight Lite

    Although definitely a product of 60's sensibilities, the first film just gets better every time I watch it. Planet of the Apes was my first truly memorable cinematic experience, and I'll always be indebted to my Grandmother for taking me to the movies that evening in 1968. That said, I think I can still view the series objectively, and wholeheartedly recommend this set to all interested parties. I doubt we will ever again see a mainstream SF film with this bleak a message and the balls to not back off from it. Unfortunately I fear Burton's remake will prove a travesty - LONG LIVE CHUCK HESTON!

  • Sept. 6, 2000, 12:24 p.m. CST

    Does anybody know the reason....

    by mitski

    ...why 10 minutes were cut from the Battle DVD???? I thought studios liked to add content to sell DVDs, not cut it.

  • Sept. 6, 2000, 2:15 p.m. CST

    Is there anything you write that I don't enjoy reading?

    by superninja

    Jeesuz. You know, I finally saw POTA for the first time this year and was surprised it wasn't as stupid as I thought it would be, although I simply disregarded the other films in the series. But dagnabbit if you haven't got me all worked up for an alcohol-induced Apes Marathon! Thanks!

  • Sept. 6, 2000, 2:47 p.m. CST

    Anamorphic my dimpled ass!

    by exone

    I'm sensing some confusion regarding the anamorphic term that is thrown around these days. All the DVDphiles keep lamenting or rejoicing when they read on the back cover that a movie is anamorphic widescreen transfer. Most of the time they're talking out of their asses. Here's a fun fact. Next time you're at the DVD store (whatever that might be) take a look a the back of The Fisher King DVD. It says that the movie is in AMAMORPHIC WIDESCREEN. No, you read it right, I did spell it wrong. But so did they. They actually wrote that this movie is AMAMORPHIC with an M. Here's the kicker, the movie is in 1.85. Hellfriggin'OOOO! What the fuck is AMAMORPHIC and how can something shot in 1.85 be it?! Here's my beef. 2.35 ANAMORPHIC has nothing to do with the f-ing transfer. 2.35 Anamorphic refers to both the Aspect ratio and the TYPE of lens used to shoot the movie. Just because a movie is 2.35 doesn't mean it is ANAMORPHIC. 2.35 movies (like Titanic or say, The Matrix) were not shot in an ANAMORPHIC FORMAT. They were shot in SUPER 35 which is a spherical lens. The 2.35 ANAMORPHIC lens is not spherical. There is a major difference between the two formats. Movies with a lot of effects shots are usually shot widescreen using the Super 35 format because it a much more flexible format for various reasons that I'm not going to go into here because it would take too long. Just like this fucking talkback already has. I just wanted to get this off my back because I'm tired of people talking out of their asses regarding this. Thanks for your support.

  • Sept. 6, 2000, 4:08 p.m. CST


    by RobinP

    This is anamorphic, this is not, and so on and so forth.....whatever happened to just buying a tape or disc or whatever your preferred visual media delivery system is, inserting it into whatever compatible player you have, cooking up a BIG batch of popcorn, and simply......watching it. You know, the simple act of rental or purchase, and then watching ! A lot of people these days are way too anal retentive about the technical details and specs of the release to spend time enjoying what they're watching. Unclench those butt cheeks and enjoy the movie. Now then....although I have no DVD system (yeah, whatever) reading this thoughtful review has made me want to drag the box set of tapes down and watch them all over again. Good job done. And for the record....I'm in the "curious to see Burton's take, but believe that the original still stands up well" camp. Now, if you'll excuse me, an "Ape" marathon beckons.

  • Sept. 6, 2000, 4:25 p.m. CST

    Best review this site has seen...

    by Clem

    in months. Complete and even handed, with valid ponts and lucid explanations, not to mention more than a few laugh out loud moments. Great reading...Thanks! Maybe the other hack writers who post on this site can learn a lesson.

  • Sept. 6, 2000, 4:28 p.m. CST

    Best review this site has seen...

    by Clem

    in months. Complete and even handed, with valid ponts and lucid explanations, not to mention more than a few laugh out loud moments. Great reading...Thanks! Maybe the other hack writers who post on this site can learn a lesson.

  • Sept. 6, 2000, 6:43 p.m. CST

    What maxwell demon said

    by Eyegore

    Right on brother. By the time we have some real affordable widescreen HDTVs, DVD will be history. From what I understand DVD is the JPG of's all compression. Why do perfectionists worship this compressed format? It exists only because of the limitations of the medium. I guess it's better than videotape, but it's certainly not the holy grail of video formats. PS: I've always loved the ape movies simce I was 7 and my parents brought me to see them all in one night at an all night drive in movie event. You just don't see that sort of thing nowadays. Drive-ins rule.

  • Sept. 6, 2000, 8:58 p.m. CST

    POTA 2-5 would have been better if all the monkeys did was throw

    by Lenny Nero

    It would be a vast improvement, and could be very funny when drunk.

  • Sept. 7, 2000, 2:40 a.m. CST


    by Roj Blake

    makes his/her points and makes them quite well. For the record, I think the labelling on The Fisher King disc is a misprint in more ways than one. I've seen more than a few other DVD's that claim their 1.85 movie is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen. Go fig. Some pinhead at the controls at either the printers or the transfer house or probably both.

  • Sept. 7, 2000, 2:50 a.m. CST

    But wait, there's more!

    by Roj Blake

    Oh yeah - I forgot to mention - I have the DVD box set in question and I thought it was great fun. If you've already got the "simianly" packaged VHS or LD equivalents, then there are probably better ways to spend your $90, but if, like me, you failed to ever own them in a widescreen format, then this box is FUCKING HEAVEN. Love the Apes - all of 'em. Hell, I might even spring for a run of the TV series if they ever put that on DVD. (Although I think it'd be tougher for them to wrench $$ away from me for the cartoon version.) Roddy McDowell is great as whatever ape he might have been playing at the time - particularly noteworthy is the stuff he did with Ceasar in Conquest to differentiate the character from Cornelius - 'tis subtle, but 'tis there. And there is no chance in hell that Burton's version will ever be as cool as the original. It'll entertain I'm sure, but that'll be about all it will do.

  • Sept. 7, 2000, 5 a.m. CST

    Exone and Roj: Regarding "Anamorphic" DVDs...


    Hey guys, just so ya know, when people scream about Anamorphic DVDs (or, more to the point, ones that aren't,) they're actually *not* talking out of their asses. It's NOT the same thing as camera aperture technology. (In fact, it's really got nothing to do with cameras at all.) It's just the same idea, not the same application. See, with the new 16:9 screen TVs, the screen is already wider, so you don't need the framing bars of a letterboxed movie to present it "wide." So the studios produce discs which have the ability to squeeze the picture back inward (the same way a lens squeezes the shot onto the film,) which would then fill in the empty space at the top and bottom of the screen, but since the TV itself is wide, *you don't lose any of the original 2.35:1 photography.* (Does any of that make sense?) Basically, it allows people to remove the framing matte of a letterboxed movie, while still preserving the composition (and sharp picture quality of a DVD.) Obviously, it's a sweet deal, BUT it means that, when studios don't put out "anamorphic" transfers, the people who have grown accustomed to it raise hell. So, as you see, these people really do have a point. They're not ranting about cinematography science that they know nothing about (hey, even I thought that was the case until I found out about this;) they're simply getting upset about watching widescreen movies on a screen that's already wide. Cool? Lightstormer OUT.

  • Sept. 7, 2000, 5:10 a.m. CST

    PS: You're kind of right, though, Exone...


    Aside from the two different applications of the term, if something had been shot in 1.85:1, the lens was obviously not anamorphic. (As noted, though, that's not what Columbia Video meant by the word, correctly spelled or otherwise.) And it would be sad if future film students go into USC under the assumption that the word is simply synonymous with "widescreen" or "letterboxed," just because their DVDs referred to the films as such.

  • Sept. 7, 2000, 9:14 a.m. CST

    re: mikski and 10 minutes cut

    by MGTHEDJ

    Ok gang . this is an assumpsion since i have not seen the reissue, but based on Alex's review this MAY explain. 1)"Beneath" is set in NYC were the Alpha Omega bomb is stored when heston launches the puppy. 2) in "Escape" cornilius, zira and their friend land in the pacific are are brought to LA, were Z gives birth and Z and C are killed. 3)"Conquest" is set in the 1990s but in a city that is obviously NOT NYC (it was shot in downtown LA but it could be any US city not on the northeastern seaboard: the buildings are too far apart). 4) "Battle" is a few years after "Conquest" and a few days ride BY HORSE from the city in "Conquest". now how would "Battle"'s city dwellers get the Alpha Omega bomb to the ruins of NYC so chuck could launch it 1,900-something years later?? cut the scene or scenes referring to it and you don't have continuity hell (and to see how that will mess you up go read the talkbacks for Highlander: Endgame. jeessssuuus is it brutal over there). now i could wrong so people with the reissues post already, mikski wants to know. later..........m

  • Sept. 7, 2000, 9:30 a.m. CST

    Does the reviewer realize they ALTERED time?

    by Drath

    The stuff she(I'm guessing the gender because of the "lass" remark) says is apocryphal in "Conquest" and "Battle" doesn't make any sense to me. Cornelius and Zira changed time by traveling the past in "Escape". The uprising their son starts in Conquest was not the one that their history remembered, and so everything they "predict" was rewritten. Actually, that's why the last film has any sense of hope at all, history was changed so that apes and humans get along. Theoretically, the events of the first two films will not happen. Now, sure this is one hell of a paradox, and I've got a lot of guts to talk about this like it's worth arguing about. However, time was screwed with in this series like Ving Rhames in the basement in Pulp Fiction. I never got the sense that there was a clear "circle" at the end, everything had been changed. I'll guess for the better, but since the entire space time continuum is going to collapse as soon as Cornelius and Zira don't go back in time, maybe nothing was saved after all. Oh shit, I have a headache now. And I'm convinced that idiot Star Trek writer Brannon Braga would love this insane time-loop crap.

  • Sept. 7, 2000, 9:51 a.m. CST

    Now that's more like it.

    by Studio Lackey

    Man, it's been so long since I've read a genuinely well-written, funny review on this site. And we didn't even have to wade through yet another endless, self-indulgent "Moriarty opening." Guys, when Moriarty does it, it's amusing, but that doesn't mean everybody has to do it.

  • Sept. 7, 2000, 1:16 p.m. CST


    by exone

    Point taken, man, but we're talking about two different things. You're talking about a transfer that can and should be called either, "widescreen", "letterboxed" or "16X9 enhanced", but not an "Anamorphic" transfer. Remember, camera lenses and technology came along way before DVD's did. The manufacturers have usurped the "anamorphic" term to make people think they're seeing something "grand" and "theatrical". Your explanation of the squeezing and unsqueezing is correct when it comes to film processing, etc., but not DVD's. Anarmophic transfers can't be anamorphic if the film is Super 35. I know that you're thinking that I'm missing the point, but I'm not. I'm just being an extremely specific ballbuster to the details. Why? I don't know. I'm bored at my job right now., seen any good movies lately?

  • Sept. 7, 2000, 5:10 p.m. CST

    I agree great review

    by Eyegore

    We didn't have to wade through paragraphs of what I did this morning, who's ass I'm going to kiss, how totally fucking cool this and that and that was, etc to get to the good stuff, and it was indeed good.

  • Sept. 8, 2000, 2:58 a.m. CST

    Exone: No, no, no... it's like I said...


    The video itself *is* anamorphic, in that it is compressed inward and expanded back out, the same way an anamorphic lens squeezes the 2.35:1 image inward and the projector un-squeezes it onto the screen. All I'm saying is the process is identical, though the apllications are different. You say, "Anarmophic transfers can't be anamorphic if the film is Super 35." Well, yeah, it can in this regard, because no matter how it was shot, it's still a letterboxed video. And "anamorphic," in this sense, means "it gets rid of the framing bars of letterbox." (Again, it's got nothing to do with the original filming process.) I wasn't trying to say that a film shot in super-35 *magically* becomes a film shot with an anamorphic lens just because the video art people wanted to use big Hollywood words. They re-applied the word itself to describe the process, but I don't think they ever intended to "usurp the term to make people think they're seeing something 'grand' and 'theatrical'." I mean, do you really think people give a rat's ass whether a movie's aspect ratio came from a wide lens or a matte process? I think "letterbox" is enough to make a movie geek happy (and Joe Average mad that he doesn't get his "full frame" viewing... duh...) and I don't think it matters to anyone exactly what process captured the widescreen image. I know I certainly don't, anyway, and I'm a filmmaker. But like I said, anamorphic lenses and anamorphic DVDs ARE two separate animals. The studios aren't just using it as a synonym for "widescreen;" the word actually has its own use in this realm. And have I seen any good movies lately? Shit... X-Men was the last thing I can say really struck a chord. Been kinda slow in the business these days, don't you think? Lightstormer out.

  • Sept. 8, 2000, 3:12 a.m. CST

    Apes ahoy!!

    by Hipalien

    Cool review I always enjoyed these series of films through the years. It is funny unlike others here as kid I always wanted to watch these films, but my parents were always preventing me from seeing them. I also remember back in Texas where I used to live one of the stations had an afternoon movie and sometimes they would show all five of the movies for that week. I also recall after one of the showing they had a bit of a making of segment. Of course I could of imaged this. Funny I have yet to see any of the APES films uncut on film, video or DVD. One more thing I have come into very interesting sites dealing with the APES mythos and some even add some cool back story. Here is a address to a site that has a timeline for the whole APE saga. Incredibly this timeline if I recalls ties in all the movies, tv shows, and even the Marvel comics and somehow makes it all work. Or at least to me. Here is the address you have to go into the FORBIDDEN ZONE section. Also I came across this site dealing with mainly Sci Fi space craft and they have a really cool section for the actual ship from the APE movies and tv show. There also is a back story explaining the reason for the mission of these ships/crew and even show more of what the fully working ship looked like. A very interesting site and the address is That is it transmission to Earth over and out...

  • Sept. 8, 2000, 11:43 a.m. CST

    Exone / Lightstormer

    by Bob X

    Gotta agree here. The term "anamorphic DVD" has nothing whatsoever to do with the Film being shot with anamorphic lenses. It's simply used by the DVD industry as a synonym for "16:9 enhanced". So we got "anamorphic" as opposed to "letterboxed" (or "pan & scan" *yikes*) and not as opposed to "1.85:1".

  • That's why they constantly spoof it. The McClure musical is only the most obvious (and glorious); they also have a pre-church child round-up copying the corn-field humans round-up in POTA, and the press conference before Homer is shot into space ("...unless they send us to that terrible planet of the Apes!...wait, statute of liberty...that was our planet! You maniacs!"). And those are just the ones off the top of my head. The first POTA, against all logic, is an amazing and glorious film, and the Simpsons writers know it.

  • Sept. 10, 2000, 1:05 p.m. CST

    ALTERED TIME theory of the saga

    by Obi Wan's Clone

    This is mostly in response to Drath's comment about the time paradox issues of the last three movies. It seems pretty clear to me that the last movie left it up to the viewer to decide whether the future was changed or not. The ending of the movie in the scenes with the Lawgiver occurs sometime in the 2500's and POTA occurred in what 3900 or something? That's a huge gap of time (which I believe is needed for the mutants to develop their skills) so anything can happen in that time. Sure humans and apes get a long fine but through in a 100 years of oppression and you have the humans beaten back into the stone age. Or, as the film and Drath suggest the future has been changed and is a much happier one. What's interesting is how different are we suppose to view it with the scenes cut or not. It's up to you though. My opinion (especially with the cut scenes put back in) would be that there is only one timeline and that it's simply a loop where the there's a cause and effect and the effect is the cause of the effect... However what's interesting is that you could have the loop repeating constantly creating subtle differences (perhaps the apes still time travel but the world is not destroyed in some timelines) in timelines until it is broken in a happy ending. I do have to say this is an amazing series of movies how this sort of dilema could arise from something that was only planned from movie to movie. Yes the budget shrunk and the movies suffered somewhat because of it but that's not the point the story is amazing and I'll take this series over the hopeless drivel coming out of Hollywood today any day.

  • Sept. 12, 2000, 3:07 p.m. CST

    Cheesy masks? Fuck you!

    by Charlie & Tex

    John Chamber's prosthetic work was pioneering and while you're taking swipes at them, why don't you also slag off Georges Melie for his crappy FX in Journey to the Moon while your at it...

  • Sept. 13, 2000, 7 p.m. CST

    Downhill Ape make-ups

    by Horus

    The first films make-ups were wonderful, real pioneering stuff.Theres not a lot that could be improved on today{just look at the prosthetics for the *Grinch who stole christmas*or the recent Island of dr Moreau}But.. come even the first sequel , corners were being cut, Chambers was handing more and more, of the crucial sculpting and application work over to his assistants.And bad overhead masks were creeping in all over the shot, even for close ups.Beneath has some truly shit *joke shop* stuff, in place of make -ups{The bit where all the gorillas are in an arena type thing ,listening to a speech comes to mind}.That scene where Ursus and Zaius are in the sauna is dreadful.Ursus ,looks like hes wearing a low rent fur -fabric monkey costume!Things kind of improved a bit for Conquest , but Battle and the Tv series have horrible make -up work.Just Compare Dr Zaius on Tv to the Maurice Evans first film version..Its shocking!I was hoping for the Burton remake, that they were going to go towards a *Greystoke* approach to the ape characters . Tarzans Chimp *mum* would be a great look for Dr Zira...but from the sound of the casting{With big names playing the apes} It seems like theyre more likely to go for the prosthetic way.

  • Sept. 18, 2000, 11:50 a.m. CST

    original ending of Conquest

    by MRupprecht

    It seems the first cut of Conquest of the POTA was previewed to an audience in Arizona who found it too revolutionary. Caeser's speech in the version we now see is toned down to offer compassion towards the humans. The new cut is obvious. The sound is off and the picture does not show Caesar's mouth. Does anybody have a script of the orignal cut, or any information on what the director initally had in mind for Conquest's ending?

  • April 23, 2009, 4:12 p.m. CST


    by squarebird