It’s been fifty years since talking apes first took over theater screens across the world. Planet of the Apes first screened for U.S. audiences in the spring of 1968, ushering in the dawn of a new age in sci-fi and dystopian film and the rise in a level of movie make-up on a scale not seen before. In the battle for your movie-going dollars, the conquest was won many times over by each additional entry in the franchise. All told nine times the story would gain new light on the big screen–so far–it would return with four sequels, two television series, numerous graphic novel adaptations, a remake, and a modern film saga. Fortunately for fans the war will never end. Beneath it all was Pierre Boulle’s original novel published only five years before, La Planète des singes, still in print and available here. All these years later you still cannot escape the iconic imagery, first and foremost that way-too-far-past the spoiler alert image of the upper half of a destroyed Statue of Liberty perched on the beach. And we eagerly await each new way to title a sequel that the next creators taking over can come up with.
How many kids sat up at the end of the film asking how the Statue of Liberty got all the way to the ape planet? Somehow even the young ones got it, and we’d get our early taste of movie tie-ins in the form of trading cards and model kits (my own prize for weathering a hernia surgery at 4 years of age was the great Dr. Zaius model from Addar Plastics Co.). As part of the observance of 50 years of the original film, Entertainment Earth has just begun accepting pre-orders for its first-ever line of Kenner-style vintage action figures (click on each of the six images below to learn more and/or order). General Ursus looks great! (Toymaker Mego had its own line of larger figures back in 1974). The 50th anniversary is also celebrated with a Monopoly tie-in, 1960s style (available here) and a great retrospective look from Abrams Books at the vintage trading card series (reviewed here). No single box set assembles all the films, although you can get a recent release of the original five films here and the recent trilogy here, all at Amazon.
When we speak in terms of genre landmark franchises we usually begin with the 50-year mark of longevity with the big or small screen, including James Bond, Doctor Who, Superman, Batman, and most recently Star Trek. Planet of the Apes took its first step into that rare class with the novel’s anniversary in 2013, but it is now forever cemented with legendary status. Here is a vintage TV trailer that played on your wood-grained Zenith console 50 years ago this week (although most of the U.S. watched this in black and white, as the new-fangled color TV was too expensive for the average household):
Here are the other four of the first wave of Super 7 action figures, now available for pre-order at Entertainment Earth:
Oddly enough no 50th anniversary national screenings have been announced. But you still have a few ways to get your fix. And if you missed it, check out our look at the second wave of the Planet of the Apes figures coming soon here.