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Case Number 15020

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Planet Of The Apes: 40 Year Evolution (Blu-ray)

Planet Of The Apes
1969 // 112 Minutes // Rated G
Beneath The Planet Of The Apes
1970 // 95 Minutes // Rated G
Escape From The Planet Of The Apes
1971 // 97 Minutes // Rated G
Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes
1972 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG
Battle For The Planet Of The Apes
1973 // 86 Minutes // Rated G
Released by Fox
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // November 17th, 2008

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All Rise...

Judge Clark Douglas demands equal rights for talking apes! The rest of 'em can keep eating bananas.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Battle For The Planet Of The Apes: Extended Edition (published April 18th, 2006), Planet Of The Apes (published August 7th, 2000), Planet Of The Apes: 35th Anniversary Edition (published February 10th, 2004), Planet Of The Apes (Blu-Ray) (published November 17th, 2008), and The Planet Of The Apes Legacy Collection Box Set (published May 22nd, 2006) are also available.

The Charge

The films that changed the face of science fiction forever are now playing in the ultimate format!

Opening Statement

This lavish Blu-ray collection includes the iconic Planet of the Apes and all four sequels. It is worth checking out?

Facts of the Case

Planet of the Apes tells the story of George Taylor (Charlton Heston, Touch of Evil), one of four astronauts on a very mysterious space mission. They have landed in an area that no one recognizes, and there are no signs of life around. Taylor quickly realizes the truth: the astronauts have been launched roughly 2,000 years into the future. That's not the most startling discovery he will make. In the future, the world is run by intelligent, English-speaking apes, while humans are nothing more than dumb beasts who are hunted for sport. It's a dire situation, but there is hope. Taylor not only finds a lovely female companion (Linda Harrison, Cocoon) to drag around with him, but also receives aid from some sympathetic ape scientists named Zira (Kim Hunter, A Streetcar Named Desire) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowell, Midas Run). What is the secret behind The Planet of the Apes?

Damn them all to hell, they blew it up! Beneath the Planet of the Apes picks up right where the previous film left off, and shows the quick emotional recovery of Taylor after his little fit on the beach. Taylor plans to just settle down with his gal pal Nova and jump start humanity again, but something strange happens. Taylor is swallowed up by some sort invisible force field. Just after this happens, we meet Brent (James Franciscus, Butterfly), another astronaut from the past who followed Taylor's path when the U.S. Government got worried. Now it's Brent's turn to figure out all the secrets of the Planet of the Apes! Also, he must find a way to rescue Taylor from a group of super-intelligent humans who worship a golden atomic bomb.

That golden atomic bomb kinda sorta went off and destroyed everything in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, but never fear…a way to provide a sequel was found! Apparently, Cornelius and Zira managed to escape in Taylor's spaceship, and they have been transported back to the early 1970s in Escape From the Planet of the Apes. Most American citizens are startled by the appearance of talking apes, but Cornelius and Zira are quickly welcomed as celebrities and adored public figures. Unfortunately, a government agent (Eric Braeden, The Young and the Restless) thinks that these two apes will bring about the destruction of mankind, and determines to convince the President to destroy them.

Sadly, Cornelius and Zira were thrown into a Bonnie and Clyde-style showdown, but fortunately their child survived to star in yet another sequel, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Here, we fast-forward 20 years, to a world in which all the cats and dogs have died and the apes have become slaves. Apes are treated horribly by humans, and are frequently beaten by cruel government officials. Caesar (Roddy McDowell again) is the only ape with the ability to speak, and he is outraged by what he sees. Determined to make things better for his fellow apes, Caesar begins to plan a violent revolution. Do the apes stand a chance against the humans?

Apparently so, because in Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Caesar is serving as ruler of the ape community. Humans live in relatively peaceful co-existence with the apes, but are generally regarded as inferior citizens (particularly by the gorillas, who love war and hate things like art, education, and complex thought). Unfortunately, this somewhat pleasant society is about to come under attack, as a group of mutant humans have determined to get revenge on the apes for their hostile takeover of the earth. Will this epic battle be the beginning of the end of the world, or can the future be changed?

The Evidence

Planet of the Apes is a genuine sci-fi classic. It's a bit corny and over-the-top at the time, but it still holds up nicely as an effective drama and as a social parable. The film was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, a good director who could be great when he needed to be (Patton being the most notable example). This is one of his best films, and Charlton Heston effectively demonstrated how well his earthy masculinity could work in a largely philosophical science fiction film. A thoughtful screenplay courtesy of Michael Wilson & Rod Serling, excellent makeup and special effects, a groundbreaking Jerry Goldsmith score, and a final scene that no one will ever forget combine to make Planet of the Apes an iconic film. It deserves to be loved and remembered.

I'm not sure that a sequel to Planet of the Apes was necessary, much less four sequels. Nonetheless, we got a sequel called Beneath the Planet of the Apes, which makes a couple of significant mistakes. First of all, Heston's role is merely a cameo, so he is replaced with a new character played by James Franciscus, who basically attempts to do a Heston impersonation. It's a bad performance, and one that very much invites comparison with Heston due to the movie's baffling desire to have Franciscus discover all the secrets of the apes all over again. The material in the second half involving the bomb-worshiping cult feels original, but I fear that it leads to an ending that serves as a metaphor for the movie: everything is blown to pieces. Bitter producer Richard Zanuck had hoped that would kill the franchise (a fascinating story you can hear more about in the supplements), but of course, Fox found a way to keep going.

Escape From the Planet of the Apes represents a sharp change in tone for the franchise, as Cornelius and Zira travel from the future to the past, and make an attempt to become part of human society in the 1970s. Of course, a large part of this plays as light comedy, and it's actually quite funny. McDowell and particularly Hunter are in top form, and manage to carry the movie nicely without the aid of some shirtless action hero. Unfortunately, the film suffers from some of the dumbest villains ever committed to film. When they are informed that apes will rule in the future, they determine that the solution to the problem is to kill the two apes from the future. Idiots! Don't you remember Zira telling you that the ape revolution came about as a natural result of evolution? Your plan should be to kill all of the apes, not just these two. If you think your plan is a sound one, you deserve to be ruled by monkeys. Nonetheless, Escape From the Planet of the Apes is one of the stronger sequels.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes starts out well enough. Like most of the Ape films, the strongest parts are those that attempt to offer some sort of social parallel, and this film has a lot of that to offer. The movie is nothing less than an angry tale about racism, with plenty of images that conjure up memories of slavery, race riots, and other controversial moments in American history. Director J. Lee Thompson lets things get a bit too obvious and heavy-handed at times, but it's an effective film for the first 50 minutes or so. After that, everything falls apart. The film concludes with an overlong, incredibly dull, surprisingly violent battle sequence between the humans and the apes. It's a clunky and uninteresting climax, I must say. The theatrical version and the slightly more violent unrated version are both included here.

Unfortunately, Battle for the Planet of the Apes suffers from almost exactly the same problems. The racism parallels continue, but this time the film attacks subtler forms of bigotry and prejudice. Also, this time the humans are the minorities, and are held to a different standard of behavior than the apes. Once again this material is reasonably interesting, and once again the film decides to give way to poorly-staged action in the final act. The "epic battle" is not only poorly directed (which is surprising considering some of the entries on Thompson's resume), but also severely lacking in visual spectacle. The film was given a pretty small budget, and it really shows. The series has fallen a long way in terms of special effects since the original Planet of the Apes. McDowell's fine performance and an all-too-brief appearance from John Huston are welcome attributes, but this is a weak conclusion to the series. The theatrical version and the extended version are both included.

The packaging on this set is exceptional. A large, rectangular cardboard case containing all of the discs fits snugly inside a thick shell that covers about half of the case. Once you open the case, a thorough timeline covering all the major events in the films is offered up. The primary physical extra is a gorgeous hardbound book with behind-the-scenes info and lots of photos. Thick, glossy, high-quality paper is used, and the packaging is designed so that you can read the book while it is still attached to the case (you can also easily remove it). Excellent stuff.

Every Planet of the Apes supplement you have seen has been included in this set, along with a handful of new material that you haven't seen. Of course, the first film is given considerably more in the bonus features department than the others, which is appropriate. Two audio commentaries are included here. The first features actors Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, and Natalie Trundy, along with makeup artist John Chambers. This one is okay, but there are a lot of dead spots. I preferred the second track, featuring composer Jerry Goldsmith. This audio commentary is essentially an isolated score track featuring comments from Goldsmith between cues. If you're a film score lover like me, you'll definitely enjoy this one, as Goldsmith is a smart and thoughtful guy. We also get a text commentary from Eric Greene, which is surprisingly less substantial than you might think. "The Science of the Apes BonusView" is also included, which offers informative video clips as the film progresses. If you just want to see the clips by themselves, you have the option to do so.

The disc opens in an unusual way, with an animated version of the Lawgiver informing us of the many supplements on the disc. This ape also offers an introduction to the film itself. There's still a whole lot more, so let's carry on. A cutesy Public Service Announcement from ANSA is included, as is a "Beyond the Forbidden Zone Adventure Game." "Evolution of the Apes" (23 minutes) examines the Darwinian aspects of the film, while "Impact of the Apes" (11 minutes) is a look at the fans of the film. "Behind the Planet of the Apes" (126 minutes) is the best of the supplements, an in-depth and fascinating making-of documentary. There's even a 2-minute promo for "Behind the Planet of the Apes"! "The Archives of the Apes" offers a makeup test, on-set footage, dailies and outtakes, vintage featurettes, and trailers. "The Galleries of the Apes" is a series of photo galleries? production stills, advertising materials, etc. Man, this disc is loaded. For those of you with this interactive "D-Box" technology (just sounds creepy to me), the disc is D-Box enabled. Apparently, you can buy a special chair the will shake and tremble and lick your ear while the movie plays. No thanks.

The other four films are all a good deal lighter on supplements. Before getting into specifics, let me give you a brief rundown of some features that are included on all of the sequel discs: each sequel receives an isolated score track, various still galleries, and theatrical trailers.

Each disc also receives 1 or 2 featurettes. Beneath the Planet of the Apes offers "From Alpha to Omega: Building a Sequel" (22 minutes), a pretty interesting making-of piece that attempts to rationalize the idea of creating a sequel to a film that wasn't exactly begging for one. Escape From the Planet of the Apes gives us "The Secret Behind Escape" (16 minutes), along with a vintage featurette called "Don Taylor Directs Escape From the Planet of the Apes." Conquest of the Planet of the Apes contains a 20-minute featurette called "Riots and Revolutions: Confronting the Times," along with a couple more vintage featurettes. Finally, Battle for the Planet of the Apes turns in "End of an Epic: The Final Battle" (16 minutes), which has some interesting discussion about how the final chapter was originally supposed to play out.

The transfers on all of these films are quite solid, particularly considering that these were made during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Fox has done a nice job of cleaning up all of these films, and they just look superb in hi-def. Grain, flecks and scratches are kept to an absolute minimum, and blacks are nice and deep in all five films. Audio is quite strong as well, with a 5.1 DTS HD mix given to each film. The music is very sharp and dynamic on all of these films, and the sound effects have been nicely redistributed. For purists out there who prefer the original mono mixes, those have been included here as well. Well done.

Closing Statement

Honestly, there is only one truly exceptional film in this series, and that is the original Planet of the Apes. After that, nothing is a complete waste of time, but I can't honestly say that any of the sequels are entirely satisfactory. They are ambitious films that are in need of sharper plotting and less action. Every one of these films deals with some interesting concepts, but the execution is botched to some degree in all of the sequels. However, this Blu-ray collection is worth an upgrade for all diehard Apes fans. The films look and sound excellent, and the packaging is superb. Casual fans are better off just picking up the first film (which has been released separately on Blu-ray), as it is easily the best of the bunch and contains the bulk of the supplements.

The Verdict

The verdict varies from film to film, but this collection is a very fine one.

Not Guilty.

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Genres

• Action
• Blu-ray
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• Science Fiction

Scales of Justice, Planet Of The Apes

Video: 95
Audio: 90
Extras: 100
Acting: 90
Story: 92
Judgment: 92

Perp Profile, Planet Of The Apes

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
Audio Formats:
• DTS 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Cantonese
• Korean
• Mandarin
• Spanish
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 1969
MPAA Rating: Rated G

Distinguishing Marks, Planet Of The Apes

• Commentaries
• Interactive Game
• Public Service Announcement
• Documentary
• Featurettes
• Galleries
• Trailers
• Dailies & Outtakes

Scales of Justice, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes

Video: 95
Audio: 90
Extras: 80
Acting: 78
Story: 80
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
Audio Formats:
• DTS 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Cantonese
• Korean
• Mandarin
• Spanish
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Rated G

Distinguishing Marks, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes

• Featurette
• Galleries
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Escape From The Planet Of The Apes

Video: 95
Audio: 90
Extras: 80
Acting: 86
Story: 80
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile, Escape From The Planet Of The Apes

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080 Widescreen)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Cantonese
• Korean
• Mandarin
• Spanish
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1971
MPAA Rating: Rated G

Distinguishing Marks, Escape From The Planet Of The Apes

• Featurettes
• Galleries
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes

Video: 95
Audio: 90
Extras: 80
Acting: 80
Story: 78
Judgment: 79

Perp Profile, Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Cantonese
• Korean
• Mandarin
• Spanish
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes

• Featurettes
• Galleries
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Battle For The Planet Of The Apes

Video: 95
Audio: 90
Extras: 80
Acting: 80
Story: 70
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile, Battle For The Planet Of The Apes

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Cantonese
• Korean
• Mandarin
• Spanish
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Rated G

Distinguishing Marks, Battle For The Planet Of The Apes

• Featurette
• Galleries
• Trailer








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