sunday-matineeThe other big sci-fi movie that opened on the same day as 2001: A Space Odyssey back in April of 1968 was a little film called Planet of the Apes.

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (Patton, The Boys from Brazil) and based on French novelist Pierre Boulle’s La Plan├Ęte des Singes. Boulle also wrote the novel The Bridge over the River Kwai which was also turned into a movie.

planet-of-the-apesAstronauts Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunner), Dodge (Jeff Burton) and Stewart (Dianne Stanley) are traveling through space at the speed of light and go into hibernation sleep when their crashes on an unknown planet. Stewart’s cryo chamber was damaged during their flight and aged to death during their journey. The three surviving crew flee the ship which crashed into a lake. Taylor notices that they have been traveling for the equivalent of almost 2000 Earth years.

The planet they have crashed on is Earth-like. They finally find some plants and water. They go swimming to find their stolen and destroyed by primitive humans. The field they are in has scarecrows and soon humanoid gorillas on horses attack and capture and kill the humans. Dodge is killed, Landon is wounded and Taylor is shot in the throat. Taylor survives and is taken to Ape City where he is bandaged and kept prisoner with the other captured humans. Taylor discovers that the world is run by apes and the humans are the lower life forms. Because of his injury Taylor can’t talk and prove that he’s from another planet. As he heals he tries to understand this strange world.

Taylor ends up befriending to chimpanzee scientists Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter). Their boss the orangutan Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) disbelieves that Taylor is intelligent. Taylor manages to escape but is quickly recaptured. When he’s captured he finally manages to talk shocking everyone. Soon a trial is held to determine what to do about Taylor.

One of the screenwriters for the movie was Rod Serling who came up with the twist ending. The ending has been spoiled enough so I’m not going to but it was one of the most well known and parodied endings. The success of this film kicked off four sequels, two TV series, a remake and more recently a three movie prequel reboot. The original is still the best of the bunch.