Planet of the Apes (Ultimate Collector’s Edition) - Planet Of The Apes (TV) Review
As part of this Ultimate Planet Of The Apes boxset, albeit getting by without the rubber head, I have been handed Tim Burton's remake, or re-imagining, of Planet Of The Apes as well as this 1974 television show and the later animated series, Return To The Planet Of The Apes for review. In writing this with Burton's Planet Of The Apes unwatched, it is the one that I have the greatest concern over, such is the reputation that precedes it, with it apparently having such a confusing ending that it has already become quite legendary. In his review of the original release of the DVD, Raphael Pour-Hashemi devotes an entire paragraph to this conclusion of the film without ever seeming to make sense of it and so the film waits in its wrapping, for another day at least, until I find myself quite ready for it.
Although, having read through much Planet Of The Apes canon in preparing for these reviews, I can't say that any of it makes a great deal of sense with the exception of the original film. With it having had some basis in time travel, the various journeys of men and apes through time and sequels has left the entire Planet Of The Apes franchise scrabbling around for whatever ideas fall out of the conflict between apes and what stray humans arrive in their, or rather our, world. With a reputation for violence that precedes them, these humans don't cut a particularly threatening figure but the apes, whose society looks to be built on a fear of them, bicker between those who want to study them and whose who want to kill them. However, with the apes and humans who have come and gone through time and through various ages of their respective species, one can only conclude that the Planet Of The Apes saga found an appropriate end point in Burton's film. If, that is, it's as confusing a film as word has it.
Even in comparing the two television shows - this one and the animated Return To The Planet Of The Apes - both see humans arrive on an Earth in the far future but where the animated show is set in 3976AD, this live-action series is set almost 1,100 years from now in 3085AD. That as may be, a General Urko features in both series, which suggests that there are two Urkos separated by 1,000 years but with a similarly aggressive temperament, that gorillas of the future can live to more than 1,000 or that the makers of these shows were simply making it up as they went along, assuming that Planet Of The Apes was such a good idea that it was worth using more than once.
And indeed anyone watching this series after the original series of films will wonder if there's any originality left in it at all. Instead of Charlton Heston, we have astronauts Colonel Alan Virdon (Ron Harper) and Major Peter Burke (James Naughton) leaving Earth with a colleague in 1980 but who are thrown through a time portal and arrive on Earth some 1,100 years in the future. Crash landing, they wake to the third astronaut dead but are rescued by an old man who lets them rest in an old bomb shelter of his. There, they learn, thanks to a book owned by the old man, where they are but it takes a visit back to their spaceship to learn what year in Earth's future they are in.
Their spaceship is seen, however, by a young chimpanzee out walking his dog who informs the police of the arrival of the humans. Dr Zaius (Booth Colman) orders General Urko (Mark Lenard) to bring the humans in, which he does, but Galen (Roddy McDowall) leaves their cell door open, letting them escape and accompanying them back to their ship. As Virdon and Burke fetch their ship's flight log, Galen reads through the book given to them by the old man and begins doubting the ape history that he has believed in all his life. When Galen confides in Zaius, he's accused of heresy and, facing death, escapes with Virdon and Burke. With Urko and his troops pursuing them, Virdon, Burke and Galen learn from one another that apes and humans are not so different but with each new town or city they arrive at, the two astronauts must face up to the horror of man's past and of the knowledge that they will never again see their families nor know what became of them.
Whilst no doubt a good ruse to make use of footage and makeup from the movies and makeup, Planet Of The Apes is still a somewhat ropey old concept. It is, though, one that will be familiar to anyone with some knowledge of network television dramas, particularly the likes of Quantum Leap, The A Team and Battlestar Galactica. Each week - this was originally broadcast in the US from 13 September to the 6 December 1974 with The Liberator being the only episode not broadcast - Burke, Virdon and Galen arrive at a new location and despite the suspicions of whatever apes and humans they meet, they leave some forty-seven minutes later having done some good. Their renegade status ensures that a gorilla patrol is never too far away whilst there are a good many apes who are willing to inform the authorities on them in the hope of a reward from General Urko.
However, much like the old Battlestar Galactica, Planet Of The Apes does rather run out of ideas and there's not only a good deal of footage used time and again throughout the series but also stories and subplots. The seaside setting of Tomorrow's Tide does look to make a return in Up Above The World So High, as does the raft that Burke and Virdon use to escape. Again like the original series of Galactica, there isn't a clear conclusion to Planet Of The Apes, suggesting that its producers were optimistic about their chances of getting a second series. But the sight of Virdon, Burke and Galen wasn't the last time these characters saw an outing in the world of the apes, with there being five made-for-television movies being spun out of the fourteen episodes here as well as four tie-in novelisations.
Planet Of The Apes, isn't at all bad, though, and despite it operating on a much lower budget than the films, Planet Of The Apes makes do. Where the film had great tribes of apes, the series has a scattering of patrols and although its city doesn't extend to being much more than an office or two, it works well with its budget-imposed limit, being more western than science-fiction and all the better for it. An episode like The Good Seeds is amongst the best here as it sits easily within genre conventions but Planet Of The Apes is good fun throughout. Not that it ever answers any of the questions posed by earlier films but I suspect that ardent Ape-fans are well-used to strands of Ape-lore beginning and ending without ever suggesting consistency. Accept Planet Of The Apes in keeping with that and there's a fair amount to enjoy here but it's predictable and, after the first few episodes, it tends to tread familiar ground. Watching it now, it's obvious that new ideas were becoming increasingly rare, only leaving 1975's Return To The Planet Of The Apes before the series would taken an extended and well-earned break, returning in Burton's Planet Of The Apes.
Escape From Tomorrow (47m44s): Astronauts Alan Virdon and Peter Burke crash land on a strange planet and find themselves rescued by an old man who takes them back to a disused bomb shelter. There, they find a book and learn that this planet is Earth but, with humans now subservient to apes, is one unknown to them. Arrested by the gorilla army of General Urko, a trap is set for them to escape, during which they will be killed, but Galen assists them and accompanies Virdon and Burke to their ship, where they learn the year is 3,085AD. On the run from the apes, Virdon, Burke and Galen disappear into the countryside but Urko is not far behind.
The Gladiators (47m45s): Virdon, Burke and Galen see two humans fighting one another. Assuming that it ought to be stopped, they intervene but find that the fight turns against them, during which Virdon drops the flight log from his ship. On hearing a horse approaching, which is the sign of an ape, they run but see the flight log get picked up and taken to a nearby village where humans fight in a gladiatorial contest for the entertainment of apes. Burke is chosen to fight but stops short of killing his opponent, which puts the idea of the importance of life into the son of the man who's life Burke spared, Dalton (Marc Singer).
The Trap (47m47s): Arriving at a ruined city, Burke is trapped in an underground station with Urko and although Burke has not gained the gorilla's trust, they agree to work together to escape. Above ground, Virdon and Galen strike a deal with Urko's gorilla army but as Burke turns his back, Urko spots an ancient poster for San Francisco zoo, showing a gorilla behind the bars of a cage. Quietly, he puts it and a sharp piece of metal up his sleeve and waits for his opportunity to strike.
The Good Seeds (47m47s): With Galen having injured his leg, Burke and Virdon take him to a farm for treatment but when a cow falls ill after their arrival, they're accused of putting a curse on it. With Galen recovering, Burke and Virdon work on the farm, teaching the apes who own it how best to tend their crops and put up fences but Anto (Geoffrey Deuel) cannot forgive them for the curse on his cow. Nor can he let temptation pass by when he spots a gorilla patrol approaching.
The Legacy (47m48s): Arriving in the ruined city of Oakland, Burke and Virdon search for a computer, which stores a complete set of human knowledge, something that the humans hope will explain what happened to mankind. But soon after they arrive, Virdon gets captured and Urko persuades a young boy to tell him of his whereabouts.
Tomorrow's Tide (47m48s): Arriving at the coast, Virdon and Burke begin fishing but an ape plans on using them for slaves when an opportune moment presents itself. But using their knowledge of the waters, Virdon and Burke begin to bring the locals over to their side, making nets and even catching a shark that has prevented fishing in the waters, whilst all the time planning their escape.
The Surgeon (47m44s): When Virdon is shot by one of Urko's troops, Galen tracks down an old girlfriend of his, Kira (Jacqueline Scott), who is now a surgeon but who requires a book on human anatomy to carry out the operation. That book, however, is in Zaius's office and only Galen knows how best to get it. Meanwhile, Burke must overcome the fears of a young woman who has been cast out of a human society for she may hold the key to saving Virdon.
The Deception (47m43s): Arriving at a small village, Galen, Burke and Virdon befriend a blind female ape, Fauna, whose father has recently been murdered by a gang of ape dragoons. Learning that these dragoons are guilty of more crimes than just that one, Burke and Virdon aim to put a stop to their raids on the town but first Burke has to contend with Fauna, who believes him to be an ape, falling in love with him.
The Horse Race (47m10s): When a gorilla patrol brings General Urko's favourite horse to a village to be shoed and cared for, they're unaware that Galen, Burke and Virdon are hiding out there. When news comes to them of an upcoming race, Virdon agrees to race against Urko, who has never lost. But much is at stake - if Virdon wins, the son of the local blacksmith, who has been arrested by Urko's men, goes free.
The Interrogation (47m45s): After being captured by Urko's men, Burke is given a choice of two tortures during his interrogation - either he can be brainwashed in an experimental procedure or he can simply be killed by Urko. But Virdon and Galen do not intend to let any harm come to Burke and mount a rescue attempt at where he is being held in Central City.
The Tyrant (47m44s): A small community of human farmers is barely surviving on what remains for them after Aboro, a tyrannical ape who collects taxes on behalf of Urko, takes his share of their goods. Remembering the tale of Robin Hood, Galen, Burke and Virdon decide to distribute the wealth a little more evenly.
The Cure (47m41s): When malaria strikes in a small village, Burke and Virdon know that with their knowledge of medicine they can cure the villagers. Whilst they risk being detected, they also know they must act before Urko takes care of the village in his own fashion - by burning it to the ground and killing everyone within it.
The Liberator (47m42s): Not included in the original broadcast schedule of Planet Of The Apes, this episode sees Burke and Virdon captured by a group of humans who sell on other humans to the apes as slaves. Their only hope is to convince their captors not to do so and to rise up against the apes.
Up Above The World So High (47m45s): When Galen, Burke and Virdon met Leuric, they learn that he is attempting to fly by building himself a hang glider. Whilst able to spot his ambition, they also sense that Carsia, a chimp scientist, plans on using Leuric's flight for her own means, one that involves a box of fragmentation grenades stored in her office.
Presented in 1.33:1, with a 2.0 Mono soundtrack and averaging four episodes per disc, Planet Of The Apes doesn't look at all bad, albeit not that exciting either. There's some damage to the image and the soundtrack allows the occasional burst of noise through but it's perfectly watchable with decent colour and brightness and only a touch of noise in the image.
There are two trailers on the fourth disc in the set, one for the Planet Of The Apes DVD Collection (1m05s), which gives away the ending of the first film completely, and another for the Cinema Release (1m31s) of Tim Burton's remake.