Cinema and Media Studies Planet of the Apes
by
De Witt Douglas Kilgore
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 July 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0318

Introduction

Planet of the Apes, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, was released in April 1968 and became an unexpected commercial success with modest critical support. That success inspired four sequels, two television series, comic books, toys, video games, and other merchandise. Thus it inspired the almost organic evolution of producing and exploiting popular film in a new way: the cultural business model we now call the franchise. The Apes franchise advanced into the 21st century with a 2001 remake of the first film by Tim Burton, succeeded by a reboot trilogy that has benefited from advances in performance capture acting: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (directed by Rupert Wyatt, 2011), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (directed by Matt Reeves, 2014), and War for the Planet of the Apes (directed by Matt Reeves, 2017). The source of the inaugural film is Pierre Boulle’s novel La Planéte des singes, a satire that tests the pretensions of Western (as human) civilization against the achievements of a futuristic society of intelligent apes. The motion picture reshapes Boulle’s scenario into an allegory for the sociopolitical concerns of 1960s America. Issues such as civil rights, racial conflict, cold war militarism, women’s roles, and the generation gap all have a place in its estranged diegesis. Planet of the Apes follows Taylor (Charlton Heston), an astronaut who lands on a planet that flips the order between human beings and sentient apes. He becomes a caged beast, denied the dignity of membership in a dominant species. Escaping captivity, he is shocked to find a half-buried Statue of Liberty. He is not on some distant planet but in the future of his own world. Written by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, this fantastic adventure continues to engage cultural critics as a grim allegory of the inevitable wages of racial conflict. Its persistence in American culture seems due to the nation’s irresolution about race, white male identity, and national destiny. What began as a modest exercise in French colonial critique (Boulle) is now a global cinematic phenomenon that forecasts the end of human (as white, Western, and male) primacy and its displacement by either another mode of being or universal destruction.

General Overviews

Scholarship on the Planet of the Apes uses Greene 1998 as its touchstone. It is an incisive study of the original film, its sequels, and franchise offshoots. Russo, et al. 2001 is a non-academic history that benefits from access to primary production materials and filmmaker interviews. Freeman 2015 updates the survey, framing the Apes franchise as the foundation of contemporary transmedia storytelling/world building. Huss 2013 is an interesting critical anthology covering a variety of cultural and theoretical approaches to the film series. Rinzler 2018 provides a definitive history of the 1960s Planet of the Apes production with generous use of archival sources. Forbidden Zone and Hunter’s Planet of the Apes Archive are the most reliable fan sites for the Planet of the Apes franchise.

  • Forbidden Zone.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a fan-created miscellany of news, articles, trailers, film clips, screenplays, and interviews. It is valuable as a resource for items not archived in an easily accessible research library. Forbidden Zone is not an active discussion forum but it has been updated to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first film.

    Find this resource:

  • Freeman, Matthew. “‘Who Knows about the Future? Perhaps Only the Dead’: Configuring the Transtemporal Timespace of Planet of the Apes as a Transmedia Saga.” In Time Travel in Popular Media: Essays on Film, Television, and Videogames. Edited by Matthew Jones and Joan Ormrod, 165–177. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This essay offers a bird’s-eye view of the first Planet of the Apes series as a founding example of transmedia storytelling. The scholar uses Henry Jenkins’s formulation of transmedia world building to explicate the series’ complex time travel structure in relation to its political aesthetic and its broad commercial success. The piece is useful not only in organizing our understanding of the founding series’ structure but also in providing an analytical frame for approaching subsequent transmedia story worlds such as Star Wars.

    Find this resource:

  • Greene, Eric. Planet of the Apes as American Myth: Race, Politics, and Popular Culture. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Since its publication this book has been the foundation of Apes studies. It remains the only academic monograph that submits the original Planet of the Apes franchise to rigorous analysis. Greene treats the series as political films thoughtfully engaged with the most salient domestic and international issue of the era: the revolt against white supremacy. In five chapters the book describes a thematic evolution from apocalyptic despair to an optimistic resolution secured by racial harmony.

    Find this resource:

  • Hunter’s Planet of the Apes Archive.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a fan site hosting a wide variety of past and present Apes ephemera. The scope is international including material from the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Autographs, coloring books, fan art, movie scripts, sheet music, and video files are among the items shared by the site. Of particular note are links to the fanzines, Simian Scrolls (UK) and Ape Chronicles (Canada).

    Find this resource:

  • Huss, John, ed. Planet of the Apes and Philosophy: Great Apes Think Alike. Chicago: Open Court, 2013.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This scholarly anthology is divided into nine sections covering the following topics: Ape Minds, Ape Science, Ape Equality, Ape Spacetime, Ape Politics, Ape Ethics, Ape Cinema, Ape Identity, and Planet. The variety of fields and perspectives represented offer a broad view of the Apes franchise as a popular generator of knowledge about the human animal as it is continually (re)shaped by political and scientific revolution. Since the book is pitched to a popular audience it lacks footnotes.

    Find this resource:

  • Rinzler, Jonathan. The Making of Planet of the Apes. New York: Harper Design, 2018.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is an invaluable and corrective production history of Planet of the Apes, strongly supported by archival research. It includes detailed summaries of the Serling and Wilson scripts, production illustrations and photographs, and a broad range of interviews covering all aspects of the film’s unique mise en scéne. The author provides welcome detail on how the filmmakers sought to balance political commentary with entertainment. The film’s production and reception are made sense of in relation to contemporary debates about race, class, and civilization.

    Find this resource:

  • Russo, Joe, Harry Landsman, and Edward Gross. Planet of the Apes Revisited. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is an ambitious survey that covers the first film series, its televisual spin-offs, and the preproduction phase of Tim Burton’s 2001 cinematic revival. The authors were the first to gain full access to the archives of Arthur P. Jacobs’s company, APJAC Productions. The book is distinguished by long interviews with prominent cast and crewmembers. The scholar will find it useful to compare particular statements with remarks made elsewhere as s/he seeks to correct for the vagaries of retrospective memory and individual perspective.

    Find this resource:

Comparative Studies

McCullough 2001 and Vint 2009 compare Planet of the Apes to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the other 1968 film that featured human actors giving ape-like performances. Both are space age films that measured human destiny against an evolutionary past.

  • McCullough, John. “The Exile of the Professionals: John Glenn, Planet of the Apes, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.” Canadian Journal of Film Studies 10.2 (Fall 2001): 36–58.

    DOI: 10.3138/cjfs.10.2.36Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article argues that the Planet of the Apes shares with John Glenn’s NASA and 2001: A Space Odyssey a set of “image clusters” representing white, middle-class fears as civil rights and national independence movements challenged the norms authorized by Western capitalism. Through Marxist feminist analysis the piece takes the measure of popular discontent with the professional class empowered by the Apollo-era space program.

    Find this resource:

  • Vint, Sherryl. “Simians, Subjectivity and Sociality: 2001: A Space Odyssey and Two Versions of Planet of the Apes.” Science Fiction Film and Television 2.2 (2009): 225–250.

    DOI: 10.1353/sff.0.0076Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This animal studies–inspired essay explores the ethical line between human beings and their subordinate (companion) species. The author argues that the Schaffner original mounts a critique of human conceit that the Burton remake overturns: the former makes fun of Taylor’s infuriated claims for white male supremacy while the latter is a nostalgic reconstitution of that position. Its conclusions are a productive interchange on species discourse as theorized by Heidegger, Haraway, and Derrida. The article is also in dialogue with Greene 1998 (cited under General Overviews) and McHugh 2000 (cited under Race).

    Find this resource:

Race

McHugh 2000 provides an account of how Planet of the Apes uses its fantastic scenario to produce a fearful parable not for the human race but for the white men who would claim dominion over it. Nama 2008 reads Planet of the Apes as an explicit allegory of 1960s race relations that seeks to defamiliarize whiteness and its presuppositions. Rankin 2007, however, cautions that the film’s critique of settled race and gender investments is blunted by uncritical projection of class hierarchy onto the three species that comprise Ape society. Chambers 2016 argues that the critical focus on race undervalues the role that religion plays in the first film’s social commentary. Packer 2015 observes that the allegory of the original series has disappeared from the franchise’s recent cinematic reincarnation.

  • Chambers, Amy C. “The Evolution of Planet of the Apes: Science, Religion, and 1960s Cinema.” Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 28.2–3 (Fall 2016): 107–122.

    DOI: 10.3138/jrpc.28.2-3.3399Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chambers argues that the critical focus on Planet of the Apes as racial allegory underplays the range of the film’s social commentary. Her particular concern is with how religion displaces evolution as the vehicle of social critique. Her approach highlights Michael Wilson’s creation of the Ape religion and its role in the writer’s critique of authoritarian strands in 1950s and 1960s American political life. The article maintains that this aspect of the film helps explain its continued relevance and popularity.

    Find this resource:

  • McHugh, Susan Bridget. “Horses in Blackface: Visualizing Races as Species Difference in Planet of the Apes.” South Atlantic Quarterly 65.2 (Spring 2000): 40–72.

    DOI: 10.2307/3201811Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Donna Haraway’s 1990s study of the science stories told in primatology is a significant touchstone for this piece. Specific emphasis is placed on the race/class structure of the film’s incipiently utopian Ape society and the limits of its sociality across the human/animal divide. The article also conducts an invaluable analysis of Dodge (Jeff Burton), the virtually silent black astronaut, and his role in delimiting how race functions in the film’s projection of ape/human species difference.

    Find this resource:

  • Nama, Adilifu. Black Space: Imagining Race in Science Fiction Film. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Nama offers a vigorous analysis of the so-called Apes Pentalogy as a racial allegory fully engaged with the movement for black equality in the 1960s and the racist institutional violence that sought to constrain it. He argues that Planet of the Apes’s most powerful rhetorical images are the result of decentering whiteness and recasting the usually triumphant white male as an abject signifier for blackness. The result is a robust critique of the myth of black inferiority as an excuse for using police and judicial power to enforce compliance.

    Find this resource:

  • Packer, Sharon. Neuroscience in Science Fiction Films. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This broad study of brain and neuroscience in science fiction cinema offers a few pages on Planet of the Apes as a “sanitized” metaphor of racism for the civil rights era. Its author observes that the film found favor with a youth culture willing to embrace critiques of the domestic and international racism that characterized the Vietnam War era. She concurs with other scholars that the 21st-century remake drops the social consciousness of the original Pentalogy.

    Find this resource:

  • Rankin, Sandy. “Disalienation and the Irrepressible Revolutionary Wish: Apes, Heston, Ludics, Home.” Journal of Popular Culture 40.6 (December 2007): 1019–1031.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5931.2007.00483.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rankin argues that the class-race-species metaphorization and white resignification prompted by the filmmakers’ liberalism is undone by an “undecidability” that renders its political critique “harmlessly ambiguous.” The “revolutionary wish” for a better world fitfully represented by Heston’s character and the masked humans of the ape society is thereby neutralized and moved into the realm of the “not yet.” The article invokes the utopian/critical Marxist tradition of Bloch, Jameson, and Foucault and uses Greene as the necessary touchstone of Apes scholarship.

    Find this resource:

Gender

While race has been the dominant analytic framework for Planet of the Apes, Conrad and Magowen 2015 reminds the reader that gender and sexuality are also imbricated in its anxious portrayal of cross-species contact. Allen 2002 analyzes the relationship between Taylor (Charlton Heston) and Zira (Kim Hunter) as a teasing parable of incipient cross-species miscegenation and equality.

  • Allen, Louise. “Monkey Business: Planet of the Apes and Romantic Excess.” FEMSPEC 3.2 (2002): 3–15.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The general tendency of Apes criticism treats the film as a parable of the black/white racial binary of mid-20th-century America. This piece argues instead that what Planet of the Apes unravels is heterosexuality structured around the male/female binary. Allen’s reading spirals outward from the oblique romance implied by the cross-species kiss between the human astronaut Taylor and the chimpanzee scientist Zira. The article engages late 1990s debates in feminist science studies, presaging queer theory and performance studies.

    Find this resource:

  • Conrad, Dean, and Lynne Magowen. “Damn Dirty Dames: Dissecting Difference in Planet of the Apes.” In The Fantastic Made Visible: Essays on the Adaptation of Science Fiction and Fantasy from Page to Screen. 101–116. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This essay’s primary concern is with how reading Planet of the Apes only as racial allegory eclipses its anemic handling of female characters, ape or human. Despite the filmmakers’ liberal sympathies, the misogynist and patriarchal assumptions of the Pierre Boulle novel, the commercial investments of Hollywood filmmaking, and their own social preoccupations restricts readings of Planet of the Apes as a parable that fully champions the social logic of civil rights and the burgeoning women’s movement.

    Find this resource:

On Charlton Heston

In the reckoning of 1960s Hollywood Planet of the Apes was a Charlton Heston vehicle. Allen 2002 (cited under Gender), Greene 1998 (cited under General Overviews), and McHugh 2000 (cited under Race) directly address the difference that he made to the film’s racial satire and its longevity. Eliot 2017 is the first full biography of Heston as a cinematic icon and his activism in liberal and conservative politics. Heston 1978 is a valuable primary source for insight into both aspects of his career and how he viewed his role in the film.

  • Eliot, Marc. Hollywood’s Last Icon. New York: Dey St., 2017.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Eliot’s biography offers a mostly reverential account of Heston’s life and career. It does, however, offer interesting insight into Heston’s role in supporting Arthur Jacob’s odd project at Twentieth Century Fox. Eliot argues that the film is the most successful of Heston’s career and helped create the market conditions that made Star Wars possible. Eliot dismisses the film’s politics and insists that it has no point other than to entertain and titillate.

    Find this resource:

  • Heston, Charlton. The Actor’s Life: Journals, 1956–1976. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1978.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    For Charlton Heston Planet of the Apes occupied only a small part of a long and busy career. His primary interest was in telling Taylor’s story and in creating a balance between social commentary and “thrilling adventure.” In this phase of his life Heston, an active public figure, broadly agreed with the liberal critique metaphorized by screenwriters Wilson and Serling. Detailed examination of this record yields the seeds of his later repudiation of the commitment to social justice that made his performance resonant in the broader culture.

    Find this resource:

Music

Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Planet of the Apes is considered a landmark in 20th-century film music. It is one of the five motion pictures he scored for director Franklin J. Schaffner. During the course of a five-decade-long career he composed for a wide variety of film genres including westerns, comedies, war films, and science fiction, demonstrating tremendous flexibility and stylistic range. Fitzgerald and Hayward 2013 and McGinney 2013 offer insight on how his technique established the film’s unique, atmospheric future.

  • Fitzgerald, Jon, and Philip Hayward. “The Sound of an Upside-Down World: Jerry Goldsmith’s Landmark Score for Planet of the Apes (1968).” Music and the Moving Image 6.2 (Summer 2013): 32–43.

    DOI: 10.5406/musimoviimag.6.2.0032Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Planet of the Apes is placed under a musicological microscope. The writers argue that the composer’s innovative use of early-20th-century musical techniques from Stravinsky, Bartók, Berg, and Schoenberg helped him create an atonal, dissonant soundscape well suited to the film’s environmental and social dislocations. This article’s notes provide a window into the musical history of Planet of the Apes and general film music scholarship.

    Find this resource:

  • McGinney, William L. “Inside the Underscore for the Planet of the Apes.” In Planet of the Apes and Philosophy: Great Apes Think Alike. Edited by John Huss, 213–227. Chicago: Open Court, 2013.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This chapter evaluates how Goldsmith’s modernist score brought particular meanings to setting and character in Planet of the Apes. It is insightful on how Taylor (Charlton Heston) is figured as an anti-hero in the film’s score. Goldsmith’s use of modernist compositional techniques confers a unique identity on the Apes Pentalogy as it underscores the first film’s critique of Taylor’s presumption of superiority as the representative of Western culture.

    Find this resource:

Contemporary Reviews

Accounts of the film often claim that Planet of the Apes was a resounding critical as well as commercial success. Contemporary film reviews were, however, more mixed than this retrospective view implies. Renata Adler (Adler 1968) of the New York Times thought it poor stuff, Roger Ebert (Ebert 1967) of the Chicago Sun-Times found it an entertaining adventure film but not “significant or profound,” and Richard Roud (Roud 1968) of the Guardian critiqued it as a safe film that showed the limits of its director’s talent. Pauline Kael (Kael 1968) of the New Yorker gives a more positive assessment of it as a dark comedy that lampoons Heston’s incarnation of the (white) American Adam. This small sample indicates that the immediate critical response did see the film’s topical significance but dismissed it as a resonant account of the issues invoked.

  • Adler, Renata. “Planet of the Apes, February 9, 1968.” In A Year in the Dark: Journal of a Film Critic, 1968–69. By Renata Adler, 37–38. New York: Random House, 1968.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This notice judges Planet of the Apes as a poor cinematic experience that doesn’t quite measure up to the average Star Trek episode. Adler does, however, appreciate the dramatic potential of the film’s “wonderful anthropoid makeup” and she allows that there are “fun moments.” She is, however, unconvinced by the picture’s metaphorical exploration of “militarism, fascism, and police brutality.”

    Find this resource:

  • Ebert, Roger. Planet of the Apes. 15 June 1967.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The Chicago Sun-Times film critic frames his review by acknowledging the split between theatergoers lining up for Planet of the Apes tickets and “those who wouldn’t be caught dead” seeing it. He gently chides the “snobbery” that prevents appreciation of a film “whose philosophical pretensions don’t get in the way” of it being “completely entertaining.” Ebert finds even its clichés “part of the fun” secured by Heston’s “effortless performance” and ape makeup that helps audiences suspend disbelief.

    Find this resource:

  • Kael, Pauline. “Apes Must Be Remembered, Charlie.” The New Yorker (17 February 1968): 108–109.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Kael’s well-informed and detailed review places Planet of the Apes within the tradition of science-fiction films and argues that it is “one of the best science-fiction fantasies to come out of Hollywood.” She praises the “extraordinary” structure of the Wilson/Serling script and the balance it strikes between “maximum commercial appeal” and “cautionary message.” Heston’s performance, Kim Hunter’s acting, Leon Shamroy’s photography, and the ape makeup and costuming make for a “rather witty” film that is “successful as a comedy.”

    Find this resource:

  • Roud, Richard. Planet of the Apes. The Guardian. 22 March 1968.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this review Planet of the Apes is primarily a vehicle for the talents of its director, Franklin Schaffner, and its star, Charlton Heston. Roud is impressed neither by the film’s social allegory nor its script. The latter is important only in what it reveals about the limits of Schaffner’s talent. His overall assessment is that the film is good enough to pass an afternoon but is otherwise a disappointment.

    Find this resource:

Original Sources and Commentary

Planet of the Apes differs markedly from the Pierre Boulle novel and Rod Serling’s initial screenplay. This difference underscores both what makes the film unique and how it walks a tightrope between political satire and popular entertainment. Boulle 1963 lays the groundwork by calling into question the optimistic assumption that humanity will achieve a transcendent destiny in outer space. Porter 1995 helps us see how Boulle both critiqued and replicated the supremacist assumptions that drove European imperialism. Webb 1998 recovers how Rod Serling’s first screenplay picked up Boulle’s pessimism and made it more immediate to the concerns of 1960s America. McHugh 2000, Wilson and Serling 1968, and Dehn 1961 allow us to take into account the sensibilities of the screenwriters who succeeded Serling in defining the Apes franchise as an apocalyptic space-race parable.

  • Boulle, Pierre. Planet of the Apes. Translated by Xan Fielding. New York: Ballantine Books, 1963.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A satire that offers an acerbic take on the cultural pretensions that inspire scientific exploration. The novel’s astronauts are quickly stripped of civilized accouterments, reduced to animal status, and made to confront their species’ specious claims to sovereignty over creation. The films that follow its lead share the novelist’s pessimism. However, they differ by producing a fairly primitive Ape society stratified by race and class and a more topical representation of American social fractures around race and gender.

    Find this resource:

  • Dehn, Paul. Quake, Quake, Quake: A Leaden Treasury of English Verse. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Paul Dehn, the British screenwriter whose scripts defined all but the first film of the series, published this book of poetry in light of the atomic age anxieties characteristic of the 1950s. It treats the prospect of nuclear Armageddon with bitter humor and is enlivened by American artist Edward Gorey’s illustrations. Doug Moench’s comic book adaptation of Dehn’s script for Beneath quotes the poet’s satiric rendering of the nursery rhyme “Ring a Ring o’ Roses” from this volume.

    Find this resource:

  • McHugh, Susan Bridget. “Horses in Blackface: Visualizing Races as Species Difference in Planet of the Apes.” South Atlantic Quarterly 65.2 (Spring 2000): 40–72.

    DOI: 10.2307/3201811Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article’s illustration of the contrast between Boulle’s novel and the film is also useful. Boulle gives us a pan-species ape astro future while the film shows us an earthbound, technologically primitive dystopia stratified by species/caste. His human characters are all white while the film adds a token black man. The anti-hero, Ulysse Mérou, produces a “savior” with Nova, his New Eve. Planet of the Apes avoids any hint that a human renaissance is possible. It is a bracingly downbeat popular film.

    Find this resource:

  • Porter, Laurence M. “Text of Anxiety, Text of Desire: Boulle’s Planétes des singes as Popular Culture.” French Review 68.4 (1995): 704–714.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Porter’s psychoanalytic reading of the novel recovers Boulle’s simplistic equation of whites with humans and blacks with Ape kind. The film series inspired by his work follows and complicates this formula.

    Find this resource:

  • Webb, Gordon C. “30 Years Later: Rod Serling’s Planet of the Apes.” Creative Screenwriting 5.4 (July–August 1998): 37–44.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Webb’s carefully researched article follows the process of adapting Boulle’s novel into a filmable screenplay. Particular emphasis is placed on correct attribution of the script’s innovations in setting, tone, and plot device. Serling laid the foundation and created the Statue of Liberty ending. Wilson established the film’s primitive mise en scéne and made its dialogue resonate with contemporary culture. Producer Mort Abrahams and uncredited writer John T. Kelly are assigned credit for some of the filmed story’s lighter notes.

    Find this resource:

  • Wilson, Michael, and Rod Serling. Planet of the Apes: Screenplay. 20th Century Fox, 1968.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The Wilson and Serling screenplay for Planet of the Apes is a pessimistic parable of the atomic/space age. Taylor’s complaint about the madness of his situation is in tune with the anxieties of a generation that lived through hot and cold wars, at home and abroad. Racial conflict, ideological strife, and concern about the destiny of human civilization are married to the desire for a technocultural escape through space and time. It is a grim science fiction that entertains through novelty.

    Find this resource:

The Planet of the Apes Media Franchise

Planet of the Apes is the first of a media franchise comprising five films (the Pentalogy) and two television series. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (directed by Ted Post, 1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (directed by Don Taylor, 1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (directed by J. Lee Thompson, 1972), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (directed by J. Lee Thompson, 1973) follow the original film. The science fiction and fantasy franchises of the decades following their release have used them as a model for cinematic world building and property exploitation. The Planet of the Apes Legacy Collection includes theatrical and extended cuts of the films as well as valuable documentary material with filmmaker commentary. Twentieth Century Fox reshaped the property for two television series in the 1970s, Planet of the Apes (1974) and Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975).

  • Planet of the Apes Legacy Collection. Blu-ray. Beverly Hills, CA: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2014.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The collection includes all five films with commentary by actors Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter, and Natalie Trundy and makeup designer John Chambers. Two documentaries, From Alpha to Omega: Building a Sequel (2008, 22:10 min.) and The Secret Behind Escape (2008, 16:04 min.), offer accounts of how Beneath and Escape were produced. Theatrical, extended, and unrated versions of the last two films round out the package.

    Find this resource:

Television

The first film series’ popularity prompted the production of two short-lived television shows: the live-action Planet of the Apes (1974) and the animated Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975). They replicate and reshape the Apes mythology for prime-time and Saturday morning television. The process repressed the franchise’s commitment to social critique through satire-tinged adventure. Greene 1998 and Freeman 2015 (both cited under General Overviews) provide valuable summaries and evaluations of both series.

  • Planet of the Apes (1974).

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A television series broadcast shortly after Battle for the Planet of the Apes. It is a loose adaptation that nominally takes place one thousand years before the first film. Two time-traveling human astronauts and their chimpanzee partner (Roddy McDowell) wander the Ape world using 20th-century knowledge to solve problems. Human beings are presented as second-class citizens, not wild animals, and Ape society is relocated from New York to San Francisco. The show’s shoddy construction led to its swift cancellation.

    Find this resource:

  • Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975).

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Produced by animators David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng, this thirteen-episode series is minimalist in terms of its animation and storytelling. Its art direction follows the Pierre Boulle novel by representing an Ape civilization with 20th-century technology and a capital city reminiscent of Washington, DC. Stirring adventure replaces the dystopian fatalism of the cinematic series. Astronaut adventurers Bill, a white man, Jeff, a black man, and Judy, a white woman, replace Taylor signaling mid-1970s children’s television pluralism.

    Find this resource:

Comics Books and Graphic Novels

Comic books have been part of the cultural footprint of Planet of the Apes since the mid-1970s. Greene 1998 (cited under General Overviews) provides a history of Apes comic magazines from 1975 to the mid-1990s. Bechko 2013, Gregory and Magno 2011, Tipton and Tipton 2015, Thompson 2017, and Walker 2018 are recent examples of the form. Moench 2017 is a republication of Marvel Comics’ 1970s adaptation of two Apes films into comic books. Serling, et al. 2018 is a graphic novel version of the original Serling screenplay.

  • Bechko, Corrina. Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm. Los Angeles: Boom! Studios, 2013.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of several comic book prequels to Planet of the Apes, Cataclysm dramatizes the ideological, religious, and racial conflicts that inspire three atomic explosions. The first ends human supremacy, the second destroys the moon and disorders the rigidly stratified Ape society, and the third destroys the planet as three chimpanzee scientists leave it. The plot revolves around struggles between segregationists that value the status quo, reformers who champion equality, and doomsday cultists who strive for a final solution.

    Find this resource:

  • Gregory, Daryl, and Carlos Magno. Planet of the Apes. Vols. 1–5. Los Angeles: Boom! Studios, 2011.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This title is a prequel to the original film series. It takes place thirteen hundred years before Taylor found himself trapped in a dystopian future. The peaceful civilization that ended Battle is torn apart when the Lawgiver is assassinated. His Ape and human granddaughters lead two sides of a civil war that will determine which will rule. The graphic novel follows the Ape Pentalogy’s race war diegetic.

    Find this resource:

  • Moench, Doug. Planet of the Apes: Archive. Vol. 2. Los Angeles: Boom! Studios, 2017.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The second in a series of three anthologies collecting several issues of Planet of the Apes Magazine, comic books published by Marvel Comics from 1974 to 1978. This volume reprints the first eleven issues of the magazine including energetic adaptations of the first two films by Doug Moench, an award-winning comic book writer. As direct adaptations of the screenplays authored by Wilson, Serling, and Dehn they highlight the literary and political vision of the films.

    Find this resource:

  • Serling, Rod, Dana Gould, and Chad Lewis. Planet of the Apes Visionaries. Los Angeles: Boom! Studios, 2018.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is the first direct adaption of Rod Serling’s original screenplay for Planet of the Apes. Serling followed Boulle’s lead introducing his protagonist, Thomas (not Taylor), into the Ape world. These Apes, however, have achieved all the goods of 20th-century civilization: skyscrapers, automobiles, modern lifestyles, and late-night talk shows. Serling retains Boulle’s original intent of satirizing mid-20th-century Western modernity. The graphic novel ends with Thomas’s death at the foot of the partially buried Statue of Liberty.

    Find this resource:

  • Thompson, Robbie. Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern #1–6. Los Angeles: Boom! Studios, 2017.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The Apes and DC Comics universes collide in this franchise cross-hatch. The Green Lanterns discover that a powerful weapon has been hidden in the Apes’ unique spacetime continuum: the Universal Ring. Cornelius finds it and the power, he believes, to change the world for good. This sets off a scramble in which superheroes, supervillains, and Apes compete for the prize. The melee radically alters Apes’ continuity bringing it in line with the protocols of superhero adventure.

    Find this resource:

  • Tipton, Scott, and David Tipton. Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive. Los Angeles and San Diego, CA: Boom! Studios/IDW, 2015.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This graphic novel brings together two popular futurist franchises founded in the 1960s: the utopian Star Trek and the dystopian Planet of the Apes. The Enterprise crew discovers that Klingons have found a way into the Apes’ universe, seeking new conquests. The story picks up right after Planet of the Apes. Kirk and his crew stay long enough to witness the planetary apocalypse that closes Beneath the Planet of the Apes. The tale’s effect is to extend but not change the “history” of either canon.

    Find this resource:

  • Walker, David F. Planet of the Apes: Ursus # 1–6. Los Angeles: Boom! Studios, 2018.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The challenge of spin-off narratives in the Apes franchise is to find new stories to tell within the framework established by the original film Pentalogy. This limited series digs into the mind and memories of General Ursus, the second of the two gorilla generals who are the antagonists of the first two films. We learn about the great love of his life, his resentment of the social order he defends, and the basis for his hatred of human beings.

    Find this resource:

Documentaries

Several documentaries have been released covering the production of the original five films, all developed and distributed by Twentieth Century Fox. Behind the Planet of the Apes is the most extensive, produced as a retrospective and not part of an ongoing marketing campaign. Other titles, included in the Planet of the Apes Legacy Collection (cited under The Planet of the Apes Media Franchise), are supplements offered as part of the home viewing experience. A search of YouTube will net selections from these films as well as Planet of the Apes 50 Years Later, a webcast by the Stan Winston School made in support of director William Conlin’s Making Apes: The Artists Who Changed Film, a documentary currently in production.

  • Comtois, David, and Kevin Burns, dirs. Behind the Planet of the Apes. Beverly Hills, CA: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Created before the recent cinematic revival of the Apes franchise this documentary offers an exhaustive review of the original series and its televised sequels. It is distinguished by interviews with the filmmakers responsible for creating the makeup, sets, and performances of the allegorical entertainment. Of particular interest are interviews with makeup and prosthetics designer, John Chambers; art director, William J. Creber; associate producer, Mort Abrahams; and Richard Zanuck, the studio executive responsible for greenlighting Planet of the Apes.

    Find this resource:

  • Planet of the Apes 50 Years Later: The Ultimate Documentary. Stan Winston School of Character Arts, 15 May 2018.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Hosted by actor Matt Winston, this webcast is a panel discussion in support of a documentary film entitled Making Apes: The Artists Who Changed Film. The panel includes Thomas R. Burman, a makeup artist who assisted John Chambers on Planet, Bobby Porter, an actor/stunt coordinator who played Caesar’s son in Battle, and William Conlin, the documentary’s director. Conlin’s film includes in-depth interviews with filmmakers involved in making the original film series. The documentary achieved a limited release on 9 February 2019.

    Find this resource:

back to top

Article

Up

Down