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  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
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  • 5 Theatrical trailer - for all five POTA movies
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Planet Of The Apes - First Movie

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 107 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

1968 was quite a year for films especially science fiction. Three movies would define the genre - 2001, Barbarella and Planet of the Apes.

Planet of the Apes would have four successors and two TV series and its remake would be the stuff of legends - a saga spanning a decade and about to conclude in a few months time. It would embroil many famous directors, producers and actors and it would 'court controvery' to say the least in its reworked plot.

The original Planet of the Apes would mark a shift for its lead (Charlton Heston) from biblical epics to what was quite a new and unappreciated art - modern science fiction.

This is another one of those movies that everyone over a certain age (perhaps 25?) has seen. I have seen it three times - once on TV, once on VHS and now on DVD.

The plot has a certain familiarity. A group of astronauts travel into the future. Due to Einstein's Law of Relativity, they would not age but the 'outside world' would have advanced a millenia. How this would advance science I do not know but plotholes be thy name.

The astronauts land on an unknown planet and come across a backward world, both in evolution and technology. Charlton Heston would reprise unique mannerisms from previous roles as he struggles against his captors, both physically and philosophically.

In the end, there is a certain familiarity to this world and the one they left - to be concluded at the shocking ending.

I would also note that it is quite a deeply intelligent and insightful film. Perhaps borne out of its Cold War and 'hippie' Era, it reflects quite well on issues like religion, science, evolution, race relations and the role of the state in non-secular affairs. It's also leavened with quite a vicious sense of humour. Although I have seen it three times, I felt I was seeing it for the first time when I spun up this DVD. In fact, as a kid I did not pick up some of the satirical humour when I first saw it.

Let me cut a bit from Steve's reviewing guidelines: "...(the review should be) hinting at the plot rather than revealing any spoilers..."

In that respect, you should avert your eyes from the cover slicks and the menus. I don't know what Fox were thinking. The original covers on the IMDB would be unsuitable I guess...

  Video
Contract

There's one reason you should buy this one over the American release. It's a nice anamorphic version - a version that Fox America have said is not possible for the r1 release either technically (I doubt it since Japan have it in anamorphic and NTSC) or economically (no comment). I know American fans are quite disappointed with their inferior non-anamorphic release.

Let me tell you that this film NEEDS 16x9 presentation. It is bookended by some quite stunning vistas of American desert - it looks like Death Valley to me. As a holder of a Earth Sciences degree, I was quite stunned with the inventive shooting style that captured the eerie beauty of the American landscape and the distinctive geological formations. It looked quite like a classical Western with the rock mesas and meandering rivers. I would note that Star Trek would utilise scenery like this in the original series and the modern 'Next Generation'.

I hope the DOP/Cinematographer won some recognition because they deserve it.

There was noticeable film noise and some annoying lack of sharpness in certain scenes. I was quite impressed with most outdoors scenes especially the ones with abundant vegetation or bodies of water. I noticed compression artefacts in certain places perhaps worsened by movement and limited focus and depth of field.

Colours seem quite well rendered although the palette is quite limited. The final scenes on the beach are perhaps the worst presented. I noticed quite a drop in quality. In certain places you can see film imperfections, scratches and the like.

The scenes in the ape village were quite well done however. I couldn't detect a layer change but rarely can on a well buffered HTPC (home theatre PC) based system.

  Audio
Contract

Sound is 384k Dolby Digital 5.1 however that's misleading - I could detect no subwoofer or rear channel activity.

It is effectively 2.0 - very nice 2.0 but stereo nonetheless.

I noticed quite reasonable front dynamics and steering. Good vocals and the Goldsmith score is remarkably well preserved and extremely effective. In fact, the score is one of the best and most complementary I've ever heard.

It does lack fidelity as audio of that era is decidely dodgy. My keen ears (!) felt the instruments sounded a bit 'off' but that is typical for that time. You know what I mean, the violins sounded particularly hollow and artificial in timbre.

The reasons why 2001 sounds so much better is that it was remarkably well preserved and utilised revolutionary audio techniques and was tweaked mercilessly today.

  Extras
Contract

I was most shocked to see an animated menu (!) and a quite sophisticated one at that. It's the type that pans full screen left and right as you choose menu options. It even has morphing.

There are a whole set of theatrical trailers for the five Planet of the Apes movies. You can slowly see the plots get more and more outlandish as the series continues. Even though I am a fan of the first movie, I don't feel any compulsion to watch any of the others like I don't feel any need to experience Police Academy VI (or the original for that matter...)

Charlton Heston has gone AWOL from the sequels (perhaps to 'save' the National Rifle Association?) - I suggest you do the same (go AWOL I mean :-)

There is a box set I'm told (in the US at least).

There is also a series of small movie stills, some from behind the camera (see Heston play frisbee in a loincloth...) and some storyboards/conceptual drawings.

Also of note are some 'before' and 'after' shots of the actor with and without ape makeup. I notice that Roddy McDowell is quite distinctive even under his makeup due to his unique mannerisms.

I wish there were a few words about the production because the story would be fascinating especially the remarkable set designs and makeup (it won an honorary Oscar for outstanding makeup although it might seem a bit hokey today).

  Overall  
Contract

Any sci-fi fan needs this disc in his collection. It's a landmark science fiction release and it will hold you in good stead for the remake. I have a soft spot for classic sci-fi. I think I'll dig out my Criterion 2001: A Space Odyssey LD (in glorious uncompressed audio and video!) for some 'old skool' sci-fi. I've been unimpressed with what Dolby Digital does to the two Strauss pieces.

Here's some scoop details for you dvd.net people. I make no comment but the following information should have you people buzzing as it is:

Planet of the Apes (2001) Release Date: 07/27/2001

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kris Kristofferson, Helena Bonham Carter, George Clooney, Spike Honze, Tim Roth, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Estella Warren

Charlton Heston makes a cameo.

Directed By: Tim Burton

Produced By: Richard D. Zanuck

Production Company: 20th Century Fox


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