Classic Cinema: Planet of the Apes (1968) – By Jason S. Lockard

My name is Jason Lockard and as an independent filmmaker like many other filmmakers Planet of the Apes inspired me to become a filmmaker! Well, this month I decided to take a look back at one of my favorite sci-fi films of all time and in my humble opinion the best sci-fi film of all time the Arthur P. Jacob’s Production 1968s Planet of the Apes, but instead of boring you with a review which you’ve probably read thousands of, I’m going to tell you why this film almost never made it to theaters and also take a look at how different this film is from the original novel by French author Pierre Boulle.

Planet of the Apes was an ambitious undertaking to say the least by Producer Arthur P. Jacobs, but if they would have stuck to the original novel it could have never been produced on budget. That’s why one of the greatest science fiction screen writers of all time Rod Serling creator of The Twilight Zone was brought in to adapt the novel into a workable screenplay and he did just that! Now interestingly enough Pierre Boulle was asked to read the screen play and when asked his thoughts he felt “..the film should be dismissed in it’s entirety..”, but the production would go on!
Changes from the original novel by Pierre Boulle included the lead character Ulysse Merou a French Journalist become an American Astronaut Col. George Taylor. The humans would were animal skins instead of running around naked [after all who would want to see that for two hours.]! The apes speak English and Taylor is shot not being able to speak to them in the film whereas in the novel the apes have their own language and Ulysse had to learn their language. In film the apes society is a very primitive one yet in the novel ape society is extremely advanced! Than finally one of the biggest changes was that Planet of the Apes in the novel was not earth it was a planet in the solar system Betelgeuse and when Ulysse returns to earth he finds earth has followed the same route apes have now taken over Earth! Can you imagine how different this film could have been!  

This wasn’t the only problem with getting this production into theaters. 20th Century Fox was worried about the budget but that was under control with the new script but now came the problem how to make the apes look realistic not just look like someone in an ape mask! For this they brought in master make-up artist John Chambers, John came in they produced a test film of the ape make-up with the great Edward G. Robinson [who signed on to play Dr. Zaius but later pulled out because of the long hours in the make-up chair]! 20th Century Fox executives were amazed at Chamber’s make-up and decided to green light the project and on May 21st 1967 filming began on The Planet of the Apes!

Early scenes of the film were shot in Northern Arizona near the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, Lake Powell and Glen Canyon, while the ape village was shot on the Fox Ranch in Malibu Creek State Park in Los Angeles! The final shot on the beach was accomplished by lowering cast crew, equipment and horses down onto a California seacoast between Malibu and Oxnard where the cliffs towered 130 feet making it impossible to get there on foot!

While Planet of the Apes looked like it may never make it to theaters after all these problems it finally did and what survives is one of the most ambitious, energetic, haunting, thought provoking and entertaining films of all time! Serling’s script shows an apes society that is relying more on brute strength to keep dominating control over the humans than using technology which I think works extremely well. The final twist ending with Taylor in the sand screaming “You blew it up!” is so reminiscent of the old Twilight Zone Shows it gives me chills even to this day! I feel it’s a great script even if Pierre Boulle didn’t think so!

The Planet of the Apes was past over for best picture, director, actor and so on by the academy, it was however nominated for best costume design for Morton Haack, best score for Jerry Goldsmith for his avant-garde compositional techniques. Goldsmith’s score was later honored with the number 18 spot on AFI’s Top 100 movie scores as well! And Make-up artist John Chambers won an honorary Oscar for his outstanding make-up achievement!

This 1968 film spawned four sequels, a TV series, a cartoon series, comics books novels, ect all which didn’t live up to the original. Than in 2001 director Tim Burton “Re-Imagined” the classic film while the films special effects were second to none the film lacked the impact of the original.

Whether it stayed true to the original novel or not Arthur P. Jacobs, Director Franklin J. Schaffner, Screenwriter Rod Serling as well as the whole cast should have been proud of the production because it will stand forever as one of the great sci-fi cinema classics of all time! So if you ‘ve never seen this 1968 classic where have you been?! And if you have relive this classic once more. It never gets old!

So until next time when I bring you another film from the achieves of film history this is Jason Lockard saying if you want a good film check out a classic!


Moral Rating: Violence and Nudity
Audience: Teens & Adults
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 112 min.
Year of Release: 1968
Our Rating: B+