Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Director(s): Franklin J Schaffner
Cast: Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, Roddy McDowall
Genre: Science Fiction
Run Time: 112 minutes
Theatrical Release: 02/08/1968
MPAA Rating: G
Common Sense Says: Original Apes mixes smart sci-fi and fighting, sexy stuff.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that Planet of the Apes is the original 1968 sci-fi movie that yielded five sequels (and counting), one remake, two TV series, as well as toys and games; it was extremely popular in its day and still has many fans. It's one of those rare sci-fi movies that's based on thoughtful ideas, but also contains fighting and action. Characters fire guns, a little blood is shown, and characters die. Humans are held prisoner and mistreated, and there's violent struggling. A decomposed corpse is shown in one shocking scene. Several male astronauts are naked (nothing sensitive shown) and sex is discussed. Language is mild, but contains uses of "God," "damn" and "hell." With the success of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and with the promise of new sequels coming, teen sci-fi fans may want to go back and watch this. Though the MPAA gave it a "G" at the time, it's probably the equivalent of a PG-13 film today.
- Families can talk about the movie's violence. In what ways are the humans mistreated? Do you notice any similarities to how humans treat animals? What is the reason for the mistreatment?
- The movie seems to suggest that science is better than blind faith. Do you agree? Is there a way the two can go together?
- The movie's twist ending has become fairly famous. Did you know about it before watching the movie? How did it affect the story?
- Who is a better role model: the human astronaut, or the ape scientists? Why?
What's the story?
Four astronauts travel at the speed of light, hoping to explore new galaxies. They suddenly wake up from stasis to find themselves crashing on a planet with a sustainable atmosphere. The only survivor, Taylor (Charlton Heston), discovers a race of intelligent apes and winds up their prisoner. With his throat wounded, he is unable to speak, but tries to catch the attention of a pair of ape scientists, Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter). They wish to communicate with him, but unfortunately, ape leader Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) believes he's a threat and puts him on trial. Taylor escapes with the help of the scientists, seeking a cave full of artifacts that prove human intelligence. But can Taylor make his case in time?
Is it any good?
The direction by Franklin J. Schaffner -- who would win a Best Director Oscar two years later for Patton -- is impersonal and uninspired, and Charlton Heston's lead character is hard-headed and inflexible, but somehow this melding of clever science fiction ideas with old-fashioned popcorn thrills just clicked. Perhaps screenwriter Rod Serling, creator of the legendary Twilight Zone TV series, is part of the reason. Or perhaps it was the novelty of seeing apes riding horses and shooting guns.Heston gets some memorable lines, but it's Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter as the two ape scientists that anchor the movie, embracing communication and connection between two species. Their open-mindedness and open-heartedness are key. The question of science versus faith is still relevant, but perhaps even more so is: What happened to the humans? How could they wipe themselves out? If viewers don't feel like answering those questions, then there are the good chases and battles to focus on.
The Good Stuff
Messages: The movie raises questions about faith versus science, and suggests that science is the more open-minded path. But it's also a cautionary tale that raises the question: What could man have done to wipe himself out? It also suggests that cruelty due to ignorance is a bad thing.
Role Models: The human hero never seems to learn much of anything, but the two ape scientists learn to become enthusiastic about the possibility of communicating with another type of creature. They realize that communication is better than ignorance.
What to watch out for
Violence In a scary scene, a female astronaut dies and decays in her stasis chamber, which malfunctions. Other characters die. The apes shoot guns. The hero's throat is wounded, rendering him unable to speak for a time. A little blood is shown. The apes keep humans as prisoners. The humans are sometimes mistreated, though not exactly tortured. A human and an ape have a hands-on fight in a cage, and there is a great deal of arguing, struggling, and chasing.
Sex: The male astronauts go swimming and lose their clothes. They run through the jungle naked, though nothing sensitive is shown. The main character is given a "mate," (a female human who does not speak), and he talks about all the "lovers" he had back on earth. He mentions a female astronaut, who died during the journey and was supposed to be the "new Eve."
Language: Language is not very frequent, but includes "Goddamn," "oh my God," "hell" and several uses of "damn," including the famous line: "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"
Consumerism: Not an issue
Drinking, drugs & smoking: Charlton Heston's character smokes a cigar in an early scene.