Planet of the Apes (1968 film)

Planet of the Apes (1968 film)
Planet of the Apes

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
Produced by Arthur P. Jacobs
Screenplay by Michael Wilson
Rod Serling
Based on La Planète des singes by
Pierre Boulle
Starring Charlton Heston
Roddy McDowall
Kim Hunter
Maurice Evans
James Whitmore
James Daly
Linda Harrison
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Editing by Hugh S. Fowler
Studio APJAC Productions
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) February 8, 1968 (1968-02-08)
Running time 112 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5.8 million
Box office $32,589,624

Planet of the Apes is a 1968 American science fiction film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, based on the 1963 French novel La Planète des singes by Pierre Boulle. The film stars Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison. It was the first in a series of five films made between 1968 and 1973, all produced by Arthur P. Jacobs and released by 20th Century Fox.[1] The series was followed by a remake in 2001 and a reboot[2] in 2011.

The film tells the story of an astronaut crew who crash-land on a strange planet in the distant future. Although the planet appears desolate at first, the surviving crew members stumble upon a society in which apes have evolved into creatures with human-like intelligence and speech. The apes have assumed the role of the dominant species and humans are mute creatures wearing animal skins.

The script was originally written by Rod Serling but had many rewrites before eventually being made.[3] Directors J. Lee Thompson and Blake Edwards were approached, but the film's producer Arthur P. Jacobs, upon the advice of Charlton Heston, chose Franklin J. Schaffner to direct the film. Schaffner's changes included creating a more primitive ape society, instead of the more expensive idea of having futuristic buildings and advanced technology.[4] Filming took place between May–August 1967, mostly in California and Arizona, with the opening scene shot at Lake Powell, Utah. The film's budget was approximately $5,800,000.

The film was released on February 8, 1968 in the United States and was a commercial success, gaining $32,589,624 at the international box office. The film was groundbreaking for its prosthetic makeup techniques by artist John Chambers,[5] and was well received by critics and audiences, launching a film franchise,[6] including four sequels, as well as a short-lived television show, animated series, comic books, various merchandising, and eventually a remake in 2001 and a reboot in 2011. In particular, Roddy McDowall had a long-running relationship with the Apes series, appearing in four of the original five films (absent, apart from a brief voiceover, from the second film of the series Beneath the Planet of the Apes in which he was replaced by David Watson in the role of Cornelius), and also in the television series.

In 2001, Planet of the Apes was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".



Astronauts Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunner), Dodge (Jeff Burton) and Stewart (an uncredited Dianne Stanley) are in deep hibernation when their spaceship crash-lands in a lake on an unknown planet, after a 2006-year voyage at near-light speed (during which the crew ages only 18 months due to time dilation). However, due to an air leak, Stewart's suspended animation equipment fails. The astronauts awaken to find Stewart's body desiccated and their ship sinking. They use an inflatable raft to reach shore. Before departing the ship, Taylor notes that the current year is 3978 A.D. Once ashore, Dodge performs a soil test and pronounces the soil incapable of sustaining life.

Scenes from the first parts of the movie were shot around Lake Powell.

Despite this, as the three astronauts set off through a desert, they gradually encounter plant life. They find an oasis at the edge of the desert and decide to go swimming, ignoring strange scarecrow-like figures. While they are swimming, their clothes are stolen. Pursuing the thieves, the astronauts find their clothes in shreds, their supplies pillaged and the perpetrators — a group of mute, primitive humans — contentedly raiding a cornfield.

Suddenly, clothed gorillas on horseback charge through the cornfield, brandishing firearms, snares, and nets, which they use to capture whatever humans they can and kill those they cannot. While fleeing, Dodge is killed, Landon is knocked unconscious, and Taylor is shot in the throat. The gorillas take Taylor to Ape City, where his life is saved by two chimpanzee scientists, animal psychologist Zira (Kim Hunter) and surgeon Galen (Wright King). Upon awakening, Taylor — now housed in a cage with a girl whom he later calls Nova (Linda Harrison) — discovers that his throat wound has rendered him mute.

Taylor discovers that the apes, who can talk, are in control and are divided into a strict caste system: the gorillas as police, military, hunters and workers; the orangutans as administrators, politicians, lawyers and religious clerics; and the chimpanzees as intellectuals and scientists. Humans, who cannot talk, are considered feral vermin and are hunted and either killed outright, enslaved for manual labor, or used for scientific experimentation.

Zira and her fiancé, Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), an archaeologist, take an interest in Taylor. Taylor attempts to communicate by writing in the dirt, but his writings are hidden by Nova and Cornelius's boss, an orangutan named Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans). Eventually, Taylor steals paper from Zira and uses it to write messages to her. Zira and Cornelius become convinced that Taylor is intelligent, but upon learning of this, Zaius orders that Taylor be castrated.

Taylor manages to escape and during his flight through Ape City he finds himself in a museum, where Dodge's corpse has been stuffed and put on display. Shortly thereafter, Taylor is recaptured by gorillas; finding that his throat has healed, he angrily addresses them, shouting "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!" (This quote would become one of the most famous parts of the film.) Back in his cell, Taylor is separated from Nova and the warden Julius (Buck Kartalian) sprays Taylor with water.

The apes hold a tribunal to determine Taylor's origins run by the President of the Assembly (James Whitmore), Dr. Zaius, and Dr. Maximus (Woodrow Parfrey) with Dr. Honorious (James Daly) as the prosecution. Taylor tells of his two comrades and at this point the court produces Landon, who has been subjected to a lobotomy that has rendered him catatonic.

The final scene was filmed on a stretch of beach between Malibu and Oxnard in California.

After the tribunal, Dr. Zaius privately threatens to lobotomize Taylor if he doesn't lie about where he came from. With help from Zira's socially-rebellious nephew Lucius (Lou Wagner), Zira and Cornelius free Taylor and Nova, taking them to the Forbidden Zone, a region outside of Ape City subject to an ancient taboo that has remained quarantined for centuries. A year earlier, Cornelius led an expedition into the Forbidden zone and found a cave containing artifacts of a previous non-simian civilization. The party then set out for the cave, to answer the questions Taylor has about the evolution of the Ape world and to prove he is not of their world.

Arriving at the cave, Cornelius is intercepted by Dr. Zaius and his soldiers. Zaius agrees to enter the cave, to disprove their theories and also to avoid any physical harm to Cornelius and Zira. Cornelius displays the remnants of a technologically advanced human society pre-dating simian history. Taylor identifies some of the more recent artifacts as dentures, a pair of prescription glasses, a heart valve and to the apes' astonishment, a talking children's doll.

Dr. Zaius admits that he has always known that human civilization existed long before apes ruled the planet. He explains that the Forbidden Zone was once a paradise, but man's destructive tendencies caused it to be annihilated "ages ago." Zaius agrees to exile Taylor and Nova, implying that somewhere within the zone lies something that completely reveals the truth about the vanished human civilization. Once Taylor and Nova have ridden away on horseback, Dr. Zaius has the gorillas lay explosives to seal off the cave and destroy the remaining evidence of the human society while having Zira, Cornelius and Lucius charged with heresy.

Taylor and Nova follow the shoreline and eventually discover the charred remnants of the Statue of Liberty, thus revealing that this "alien" planet, that previously had a human civilization long before apes ruled, is actually post-apocalyptic Earth.


Cornelius and Dr. Zaius, two characters from Planet of the Apes.

In the late 1960s, most studios were not convinced that this film was a feasible production. One script that came close to being made was written by The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, though it was finally rejected for a number of reasons. A prime concern was cost, as the technologically advanced ape society portrayed by Serling's script would have involved expensive sets, props and special effects. Serling's script was rewritten and the ape society made more primitive as a way of reducing costs.

However, his stylized twist ending (a trademark from his Twilight Zone days) was retained, and became one of the most famous movie endings of all time. The exact location and state of decay of the Statue of Liberty (as seen in the 1998 documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes)[7] changed over several storyboards. One version depicted the statue buried up to its nose in the middle of a jungle while another depicted the statue in pieces.

To convince the Fox Studio that a Planet of the Apes film could be made, the producers shot a brief test scene using early versions of the ape makeup. Charlton Heston appeared as an early version of Taylor (named Thomas, as he was in Rod Serling-penned drafts of the script), Edward G. Robinson appeared as Zaius, while then-unknown actors James Brolin and Linda Harrison played Cornelius and Zira. Harrison, who was the girlfriend of the head of the studio at the time, later played Nova in the 1968 film and its first sequel, and had a cameo in Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes more than 30 years later (as did Heston). This test footage is included on several DVD releases of the film, as well as the documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes. Dr. Zaius was originally to have been played by Robinson, but he backed out due to the heavy makeup and long sessions required to apply it. (Robinson later made his final film, Soylent Green (1973), opposite his one-time Ten Commandments (1956) co-star Heston).

John Chambers had actually tested the ape makeup some time earlier, in the TV series Lost in Space (1965–1968) (another 20th Century Fox production at the time). In one episode,[8] Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) and Major West are imprisoned along with an ape-like alien. Harris was offered a role in Planet of the Apes but, like Edward G. Robinson, turned it down due to the complexities of makeup.

Filming began on May 21, 1967, and ended on August 10, 1967. Most of the early scenes of a desert-like terrain were shot in northern Arizona near the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River, Lake Powell,[9] Glen Canyon[9] and other locations near Page, Arizona[10] Most scenes of the ape village, interiors and exteriors, were filmed on the Fox Ranch[11] in Malibu Creek State Park, northwest of Los Angeles, essentially the backlot of 20th Century Fox. The concluding beach scenes were filmed on a stretch of California seacoast between Malibu and Oxnard with cliffs that towered 130 feet above the shore. Reaching the beach on foot was virtually impossible, so cast, crew, film equipment, and even horses had to be lowered in by helicopter.[12] The remains of the Statue of Liberty were shot in a secluded cove on the far eastern end of Westward Beach, between Zuma Beach and Point Dume in Malibu.[13] As noted in the documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes,[7] the special effect shot of the half-buried statue was achieved by seamlessly blending a matte painting with existing cliffs.

The spacecraft onscreen is never actually named in the film or the script, but the name Icarus was applied later by fan Larry Evans. It is now generally referred to in fan circles by that name. Wilco models produced a 1/48 scale Icarus kit in 2004,[14] and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) features references to the launch of a probe called Icarus.[15]


Planet of the Apes was well received by critics and is widely regarded as a classic film and one of the best films of 1968.[16][17][18] The film holds an 89% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 44 reviews.[19] In 2008, the film was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[20]

The film won an honorary Academy Award for John Chambers for his outstanding make-up achievement. The film was nominated[21] for Best Costume Design (Morton Haack)[22] and Best Original Score for a Motion Picture (not a Musical) (Jerry Goldsmith).[23] The score is known for its avant-garde compositional techniques, as well as the use of unusual percussion instruments and extended performance techniques.

American Film Institute Lists

In 2001, Planet of the Apes was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[28]


As the film has been further ingrained into pop culture, numerous parodies have appeared in films and other media, including Spaceballs, Futurama, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Family Guy, and The Simpsons among others.

A parody of the film series titled The Milking of The Planet That Went Ape was published in Mad Magazine. It was illustrated by Mort Drucker and written by Arnie Kogen in regular issue #157, March 1973.[29]

Later films and adaptations

Planet of the Apes was followed by four sequels:

and two short-lived television series:


  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) A series reboot, directed by Rupert Wyatt, was released in August 2011 to critical and commercial success. It is intended to be the first in a new series of films.[2]

Marvel Comics produced full comic book adaptations of all the films[citation needed], a number of original stories in the Apes universe, including Terror on the Planet of the Apes, Future History Chronicles and others. Mailbu Comics also produced several Planet of the Apes titles, including Planet of the Apes and the Alien Nation crossover Ape Nation.


  1. ^ "Those Damned Dirty Apes!". Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  2. ^ a b "Collider Visits The Set of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES; Plus Video Blog". Lussier, Germain. (April 14, 2011). Retrieved 2011-06-13.
  3. ^ "30 Years Later: Rod Serling's Settling the Debate over Who Wrote What, and When". Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  4. ^ "Those Damned Dirty Apes!". Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  5. ^ Biography for John Chambers (I), August 4, 2007
  6. ^ "Planet of the Apes (1968) A Film Review by James Berardinelli". Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  7. ^ a b "Behind the Planet of the Apes" (1998) (TV)
  8. ^ "Lost in Space" Junkyard of Space (1968)
  9. ^ a b Planet of the Apes Revisited, p. 61
  10. ^ Planet of the Apes Revisited, p. 59
  11. ^ Planet of the Apes Revisited, p. 68
  12. ^ Planet of the Apes Revisited, P. 79
  13. ^ Final shot location at Westward Beach, Malibu at
  14. ^ "Top 75 spaceships in movies and TV part 2". Retrieved 2011-05-31. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "The Greatest Films of 1968". AMC Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  17. ^ "The Best Movies of 1968 by Rank". Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1968". Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  19. ^ "Planet of the Apes Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Empire's The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire Magazine. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  21. ^ Planet of the Apes awards & nominations Retrieved 2011-05-31.
  22. ^ Morton Haack at the Internet Movie Database
  23. ^ Wiley, Mason; Bona, Damien (1986). MacColl, Gail. ed. Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 768. 
  24. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
  25. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains Nominees
  26. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  27. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  28. ^ "Planet of the Apes: Award Wins and Nominations". Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  29. ^ MAD Cover Site, MAD #157 March 1973.
  30. ^ "Planet of the Apes (2001)". Retrieved June 6, 2010. 

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