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CHARLTON HESTON & RODDY MCDOWALL IN 'PLANET OF THE APES'

Maurice Evans in PLANET OF THE APES Year: 1968 Rating: ****1/2

With a built-in spoiler title such as PLANET OF THE APES, the fact the apes don't appear, riding like lethal humans on horseback, until 32-minutes in isn't because the first act's created to simply lead into that important moment... instead, the three American astronauts Taylor, Landon and Dodge played by Charlton Heston, Robert Gunner and Jeff Burton, have their very own seemingly separate short film/prologue...

Crash landing on a mysterious planet from an outer-space mission, they search throughout initially lifeless scorched terrain where the characters are economically fleshed-out, particularly Heston's Taylor, poking fun at (or as black astronaut Dodge says, "riding") Landon for still being patriotic... so basically, the shocking and violent ape-hunting-party's more of an interruption of the astronauts' rudimentary journey than their own first act predictably leading to the inevitable reverse-evolution reality...

Charlton Heston and Linda Harrison in PLANET OF THE APES

But soon it's only main star Charlton Heston, caged with gorgeous Linda Harrison's Nova and subjected to a prehistoric-style town's hospital/experimental lab, and, having been injured in the throat, he can't speak... which strategically he shouldn't since humans on this planet can't... so his plight becomes both a physical and mental game...

Making much of the original PLANET OF THE APES a social commentary on the separation of church and state where classy yet close-minded orangutan leader Dr. Zaius, portrayed by British veteran actor Maurice Evans, wants to keep the astronaut discovery a kind of buried (and perhaps even castrated) secret...

Roddy McDowall with Kim Hunter and Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes

Meanwhile logical scientist Chimpanzee couple Cornelius and Zira, played brilliantly by future franchise stars Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter... with groundbreaking makeup and mask-work that punctuates every single expression... will do anything to protect Heston and the truth: the latter that still needs proving...

Overall a balance of science-fiction philosophy and ragged mainstream action directed sublimely by America's own David Lean-inspired epic auteur Franklin J. Schaffner, so even when this original PLANET gets overly thematic, symbolic and preachy, the tense anticipation of how things might turn out (other than Ron Serling's well-known TWILIGHT ZONE-style twist ending) keeps the characters and audience always guessing.

Buck Kartalian and Kim Hunter in Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston, Robert Gunner and Jeff Burton in Planet of the Apes
Charlton Heston with Robert Gunner in Planet of the Apes
Charlton Heston, Robert Gunner and Jeff Burton in Planet of the Apes
Roddy McDowall and Maurice Evans in Planet of the Apes with Buck Kartalian
Linda Harrison as Nova in Planet of the Apes
Linda Harrison as Nova in Planet of the Apes
Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes
Dianne Stanley in PLANET OF THE APES
Norman Burton in Planet of the Apes

From Planet of the Apes
Linda Harrison in Planet of the Apes
Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes

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