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Planet of the Apes, The (Blu-ray)

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Franklin J. Schaffner
Charlton Heston
Roddy McDowell
Kim Hunter
Maurice Evans
Linda Harrison
Bottom Line: 

 "Get your filthy paws off of me, you damned dirty ape!"
Based on Pierre Boulle's novel La Planète des singes (Monkey Planet), 1968's Planet of the Apes was one of 20th Century Fox's biggest hits, paving the way for four sequels, a short-lived television series, and a multi-million dollar merchandising blitz. To this day, Apes' remarkable make-up effects are considered some of the finest ever filmed, and it remains a favourite amongst genre fans the world over. Now, 40 years later, the classic Sci-fi smash comes to Blu-ray!
A crew of astronauts crash land on a strange planet upon which apes are the dominant species, and mute, savage humans are used for experimentation, labor, and sport. The crew, led by Taylor (Heston), are separated when they are caught in a round-up of human slaves in which Taylor is shot in the throat, thus preventing him from being able to speak. He is taken to the lab of Dr. Zira (Hunter), a scientist who studies human behaviour, where his animated (and seemingly intelligent) nature piques her interest. Zira presents him with a mate (the stunning Linda Harrison, who is later dubbed Nova), and monitors his behavior closely, marveling at the way he seems to communicate and understand. Taylor manages to grab a pen and paper from Zira and scribbles down his name, prompting the scientist to take him back to her home and introduce him to her husband, the archaologist Cornelius (McDowell). Taylor writes down his entire story for the couple, explaining how he and his fellow astronauts arrived by spaceship and crashed in the area the apes refer to as the Forbidden Zone. When the elder science official, Dr. Zaius (Evans) is introduced to Taylor, he dismisses the human's abilities as nothing more than parlor tricks, demanding that Taylor be placed in his custody for further experimentation. However, it's obvious to Taylor that Zaius is terrified of him, and that the elder knows much more than he's letting on.
Planet of the Apes is a rollicking sci-fi/action adventure that's also a damned fine piece of social satire, touching upon everything from racial unrest and classism to religeon and politics. It's a film that appeals to both children and casual viewers thanks to it's undeniable entertainment value, but is equally embraced by avid cineastes who've dedicated many an hour to dissecting its rich subtext. While humorists have not been kind to Heston's much-lampooned machismo, the rest of the film has held up remarkably well, especially considering the genre. Apes' primal score by Jerry Goldsmith is still considered one of the most wild and inventive musical experiments to date, and the aformentioned facial prosthetics by John Chambers are as impressive today as they were 35 years ago. And while one would think that the social issues of the late 1960's would feel dated, they seem even more relevent today.

Fox has been impressing the hell out of me thus far with its treatment of catalog titles, and Planet of the Apes is no exception. This film looks simply outstanding, given its age, with fine detail, vivid and accurate color representation, and remarkable depth and clarity. There’s nary an artifact to be found, and, save for light cinematic grain (which is to be expected), the film looks as good as many of the day-and-date titles I’ve seen. I credit this to the fact that all of these films had undergone a total remastering a scant few years back, thus making a quality leap to Blu-ray that much easier and more effective.
Equally impressive is the 5.1 DTS Master Audio track, once again benefitting from a recent overhaul to take advantage of today’s home theater technology. The 35th Anniversary DVD version was already quite a step up from previous incarnations, and the lossless track presented here is just as much of a step forward, with all-encompassing surround effects, robust bass, crisp dialogue, and an all-out aural assault courtesy of Goldsmith’s compelling score, which seems to emanate from every corner of the room. Once again, a superb job by the folks at Fox.

Fox goes ape (groan) with extra features, here, offering up hours worth of material from the 35th Anniversary Edition (in Standard Definition) including two feature-length commentary tracks, the awesome feature-length “Behind the Planet of the Apes” documentary, myriad featurettes, galleries, and more. An abundance of HD goodies, including the “Science of the Apes” (BONUSVIEW mode)  “Beyond the Forbidden Zone” Adventure Game, and two featurettes -  “Evolution of the Apes”- and “Impact of the Apes” – round out a very impressive collection of extras.

Available as a standalone BD or as part of the awesome “40 Year Evolution Boxed Set” (which features all five films, booklet, and more), Planet of the Apes is as vital a piece of Sci-fi entertainment now as it was 40 years ago, and looks and sounds absolutely fantastic on Blu. Hell, were it just the film I’d still recommend buying this disc, never mind the hours worth of extra goodies included here. Quite simply, a must for any Blu-ray collection!

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