Planet of the Apes: More Clever than Camp / Retro Review by Ian M. Clarke

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Ape, Heston, Microphone, Harrison

Animal rights. Racial inequality. Militarism. Objectivity of history. Class structure. Individual rights. Military-industrial expansionism. Socio-political commentary.
It’s science fiction in a world without technology, yet it takes place in the future. Monkeys talk, people grunt. What the hell is really going on in Planet of the Apes (1968)?

“Apes with Mullets.” A sequel that was wisely abandoned

This film is clever. An audience is barely given time to jeer at the sight of a horse-mounted ape soldier before a thematic element is introduced that pulls the narrative in a different, serious direction.

It’s a period piece in the best sense. 1968. At no other time in cinematic history could Planet of the Apes have evolved into anything other than Drive-In movie fare (where, incidentally, I saw it, on a double-bill with Easy Rider. Someday someone should edit those films together. It would work.)

We have a child’s story for grown-ups. There’s astronaut Charlton Heston as the hero, a knight in fur briefs, handsome and decisive, with a shaved chest. Heston, who, like William Shatner, realized early on that the only way to get through this kind of stuff is to really crank it up.

Astronauts have amazing dental benefits

And the love interest? Linda Harrison didn’t have much of a film career. She didn’t need one. This single, non-speaking role guaranteed her a lifetime income from signings at fan conventions (although she never needed the money, having married wealth). Anyway, the resourceful always survive. Even when she was captive in a hideous ape prison, her hair remained long and shiny, her eyebrows shaped, and her patchwork swimsuit form-fitting and sensuous.

 

The final image in the film, which shall not be revealed, is as iconic as Rocky’s fist pump. In fact, both films resolve in ambiguity, leaving unanswered questions and possible plot extensions – with lots of room for sequels…oh man, lots and lots of room…