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Tag Archive: 50th anniversary Planet of the Apes


Review by C.J. Bunce

For the fifth time, writer, editor, and researcher J.W. Rinzler has gone behind the scenes of pop culture’s biggest films for an in-depth look at the creative process.  Following his “Making of” books for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the Indiana Jones films, Rinzler has tackled one of the most iconic of all science fiction franchises in The Making of Planet of the Apes, released this month from Harper Design books.  At last fans of the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, have a definitive, exhaustive look at the film from interviews with the cast, creators, and everyone else involved with the movie from its source in a Pierre Boulle novel to film idea to Rod Serling draft script to casting Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson in lead roles, then switching to Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, and Roddy McDowall.  Readers will get an immersive, inside account of studio politics and deal making leading to the ultimate production of the film, and from marketing the film to its enduring legacy.  We’ve included a 16-page preview of the book below, courtesy of the publisher.

Planet of the Apes is best known for its surprise ending and the groundbreaking makeup work by John Chambers.  Both topics are thoroughly covered in Rinzler’s account.  Through initial sketches, concept designs, storyboards, and rare photographs, readers will see the building of the climactic finale from the ground up, as executives, producers, and cast struggled to determine what would be the final scenes of the film.  Heston’s character Taylor did not survive in many of the draft screenplays (and he wasn’t called Taylor).  And Rinzler reaches back to film archives to trace the steps that led to John Chambers’ final designs for the chimps, the orangutans, and the gorillas–and why baboons were ruled out.  Beginning with techniques used to create the animated facial characteristics for the Cowardly Lion in MGM’s 1939 epic fantasy film The Wizard of Oz, Chambers expanded his own methods and created several iterations of the prosthetic masks and makeups before arriving at the designs we saw on film.

The Making of Planet of the Apes includes a spectacular two-page, detailed image of the specifications for the “ANSA” spacecraft that the three astronauts crash at the beginning of the film.  Perhaps the most eye-opening information about the film came from the late Charlton Heston’s personal archives.  He made detailed diary entries that reflect events during the filming process including scenes, discussions, concepts and people that he approved of and those he didn’t.  His entries, contemporary and recent interviews, and information from Fox and Warner Brothers’ studio archives, and records at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences fill-in the blanks, building a meticulously complete account of the production.

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A month ago here at borg.com we discussed looking outside the comic book medium for the artwork of your favorite comic book artists.  You don’t need to look too far outside of comic books to find the next great artwork from fan-favorite cover artist Ryan Sook.  Every year just in advance of San Diego Comic-Con, comic book stores are stocked with the annual update to The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.  First published in 1970, the 1,200 page log of nearly every comic book published to-date arrives at its 48th volume this summer, dated 2018-2019.  Known as the go-to guide for prices for a generation of collectors, Robert M. Overstreet’s book of prices and thumbnail photos is also a source to glean what’s happened in the past year by way of comic book trends.  It features its own hall of fame for comic book legends, plus full-color sections highlighting some of today and yesteryear’s best covers.

For this year’s comic book store exclusive hardcover edition, Gemstone Publishing tapped Ryan Sook to create a cover to commemorate 50 years of Planet of the Apes films.  Sook reached beyond the original to reflect imagery from throughout the Planet of the Apes movie saga– a great homage to the original shocking environment as Charlton Heston’s astronaut Taylor arrives in the future horrifying world of human scarecrows, with General Ursus leading the charge and the creepy denizens in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the return to the past by spaceship for the apes in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, to the militant world and apes under arrest in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, culminating with the eagerly-awaited first appearance of The Lawgiver in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.  The familiar image of Roddy McDowall behind John Chambers’ Oscar-worthy make-up takes center stage–McDowall connects all of the films alternately as Cornelius and Caesar (and later as Galen in the TV series), and here he cleverly blocks the identity of the planet.

You can only purchase this edition of the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide in comic book stores, so put in a call to Elite Comics to make sure you get a copy when this new edition arrives in July.

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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):

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