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50 Years of Planet of the Apes: 9-Movie Collection - Blu-ray Review

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Planet of the Apes‘It’s a mad house! A mad house!’

So it felt to me finding the entire Planet of the Apes cinematic journey in this new mammoth sized 50th anniversary set in the mail. I’ll try to keep the review succinct as there are 5 movies in the original series, the Tim Burton remake and the new series of 3 films from the last decade. 9 films, but 12—count them—12 discs to pour through.

"I have to say, if you already own the previous Blu-rays, I see no reason to invest in the 50th anniversary set"


Planet of the ApesPLANET OF THE APES (1968)

The greatest of the original series, a massive box office hit for the time, and the one that’s pedigree warrants a series that has endured for over 50 years. The Franklin J. Schaffner adaptation of French writer Pierre Boulle’s novel is a bona fide classic for a reason.

Veering heavily away from the original tome, which purported to show apes in a modern world, this one sees a group of 3 astronauts land on some (originally thought) far flung planet where apes are the dominant species and human beings are some prehistoric plaything for them. It doesn’t take long for them to be caught. Taylor (Charlton Heston), the only one who makes it into capture breathing or whole, shocks the apes when he demonstrates the ability to speak. This ability shakes ape society to its very core beliefs, and places Taylor’s fate in doubt. But with the help of the apes, Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowell), he is able to escape and search for answers in this topsy-turvy planet—but the answers may not be to Taylor’s liking.

This is a fantastic science fiction picture: a perfect blend of social allegory, fantasy and adventure. The make-up of the apes it’s remarkable for the time. The effects are clever and judicious in their usage. The vistas are spectacular and the acting is… serviceable, and of the time period. Heston was always one of this reviewer’s favorite over-actors. He could out yell Nicholas Cage any day of the week, with his wonderful hyperbole mannerisms and leading man charm. “Get your stinking paws of me, you damn dirty ape!” and “You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you all to hell!” are forever ingrained in movie history thanks to his delivery.

This film also still has the distinction of having one of the best plot twists in cinematic history. No small feat, considering this film is now 51.

I can’t gush about this film enough, but I have a few more to write about.

5/5 beers


Beneath the Planet of the ApesBENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970)

20 million at the box office was nothing to sneeze at back in the late 60s. Blockbusters like Jaws and Star Wars, even The Godfather, were a few years away. Any and every studio loved profit. Planet of the Apes had proven very profitable for 20th Century Fox and another round with the Apes was ordered. Heston was reluctant to return, and only agree after the studio said his character would be killed and his salary would go to charity (a fair trade if ever I heard one).

A new script by new writer Paul Dehn was drafted after novelist Boulle had his attempt scrap-heaped. What he came up with (then heavily rewritten by director Ted Post) was an allegorical take on post nuclear trauma.

A search crew sent after Taylor’s missing rocket crashes into the planet. Taylor, unbeknownst to new lead astronaut Brent (played by TV actor James Fransiscus) has disappeared into some mystery portal, leaving Nova all alone. Brent finds Nova, wearing Taylor’s dog tags, and soon discovers all we did in the previous flick. What’s new is the apes are planning an invasion into the forbidden zone, and Brent and Nova find out the hard way that forbidden zone harbors telepathic, mutant humans who are descendants of humanity’s fall. With both the mutant psychics and the apes hell bent on domination and a relic from those horrible times set to obliterate the planet, Brent is put into a no win situation. When Taylor is discovered in the mutant’s prison cells, and the apes invade, Brent is forced to fight on all fronts to try and save the planet.

Yeah, this is a convoluted downer not worthy of the original. 20th Century Fox were doing it tough that year after a few box office bombs and halved the budget. It shows. This film has none of the wit, the careful allegory or the cleverness in any part of its production. Lead actor Fransiscus is the Diet Coke of Heston, and it doesn’t help that Heston shares the screen with him, albeit briefly. The jettison actors and production design for something cheap and every turn and quickly cheapen the franchise.

The film is more action heavy, but the film for this reviewer has always been one of the worst of the series, and is hard to sit through. It’s a downer without the poignancy or sense of loss from the original.

It’s one of the die-hards only.

2/5 beers


Escape From the Planet of the ApesESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971)

When budgets are a concern set your movie in modern day. That is exactly what Beneath writer Paul Dehn was asked to do when penning the next entry in the franchise. Fortunately, he had the good sense to enlist the help of Apes novelist Boulle this time. Necessity is the mother of invention, and with next to no budget and a limited shooting window (allegedly 6 weeks) they concocted the next adventure.

Although Earth was destroyed in the last movie, this one employs time-travel, and follows Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowell returning after being unavailable in Beneath) transported back to Earth circa 1973. What unfolds is essentially a role reversal, where the apes are discovered by the technological dominant human race, are a curiosity, then a novelty. There is another interesting twist in which they are, for a short time, seen as celebrities and doted on. But the caustic nature of the human race comes to fore soon enough, and Cornelius and Zira are forced to defend themselves to the government and the court system. Things go from bad to worse, when Zira discovers she is pregnant and the Feds become paranoid about how the apes became the dominant species in the future. The two apes and their unborn child become something to be dealt with. They are forced, with the help of one, to try an escape to survive.

It’s a novel idea that has more poignancy than the last entry and a solid commentary on human failings. The one constant in these films is the combination of us and the apes = oil and water, and this film is no different. It is a testament to Hunter and McDowell that they transcend their encompassing make-ups to provide two very relatable and very tragic characters to follow.

This was a much cheaper production and the film looks it. There is cost cutting galore, but the featured apes actors’ make-ups are still solid. I suppose they kept the cost down by only having two of them, and using stock footage for the rest.

The fact that this was set in (at the time) the modern world, and is completely removed from the more dystopian ape world, requires they lean heavily on story. And this was a great one. In a way, they returned to the more topical, allegorical mythology that made the first movie so beloved.

3/5 beers


Conquest of the Planet of the ApesCONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972)

Set in a then future 1990s, Conquest sees the infant Caesar (Roddy McDowell), son of Cornelius and Zira, all grown up and hiding in the circus where his murdered parents left him. The world has become a police state, where astronauts brought back diseases that wiped all cats and dogs from the face of the Earth. Apes are being imported to America for menial service and are brutally mistreated by the human race. Caesar sees this and finally yells out in protest. The kindly man who took Caesar in (Ricardo Montalban) takes the fall for Caesar, and the ape is taken into servitude and slavery. Covertly, Caesar begins to rally the apes to his cause, with the intent of creating a revolution. When a human named Breck cordons on to the fact that Caesar is far more intelligent than the rest of them, he orders his death. Caesar’s resistance wins the day, and as the human race fall to the might of the apes, the ape’s leader is forced to make a choice: eradicate the humans or leave their fate to God.

According to writer Dehn (back again!) this one was to bring the story full circle, and is heavily hinted at in Caesar’s final speech at the end of the film. It’s a worthy round up to how and why things turned to shit for humanity. So much so, the new series of films borrowed heavily from this set-up. This film is the darkest of the original five and this reviewer’s favorite of the sequels. McDowell, his voice so recognizable, still manages to deliver a much different ape, playing his original character’s son. His monologue at the end is some damn fine acting.

As a side note: test screenings saw Fox decide that the original ending of this film was too much of a downer (what series of films were these turkey’s watching???), so they reshot the ending or rather reedited it to be less definitive and downbeat. (wonderfully, you get both theatrical and restored versions on this blu-ray)

This one’s the swing upward on the quality graph. It made ten times its small budget back. The world was primed for another one.

4/5 beers


Battle for the Planet of the ApesBATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973)

This is where the original series draws to a close. Set in the 21st century, Earth, as it was, has fallen into a post apocalyptic state after a nuclear war. Caesar has survived and is trying to rebuild a civilization where apes and the surviving humans can co exist peacefully. Unfortunately even the apes are breaking off into factions, and Caesar must deal with a militant gorilla by the name of Aldo, who believes the road to peace will only be possible with the eradication of the humans.

He may be right. The humans are mobilizing to fight the apes. But civil war is looking more and more likely amongst the apes on how to deal with the situation. Through tragedy and betrayal, Caesar comes to realize that apes are no better than humans when it comes to their failings and self destructiveness. The price of that realization is high.

This story had the opportunity to be an epic conclusion and dramatically has the legs to accomplish it. But the film was never given the budget needed, and new writers were brought in after Paul Dehn (writer of all the sequels) couldn’t return, due to ill health. He did, however, do a polish/rewrite after they were done and tried to get co writer credit (which was denied). McDowell again gives an amazing performance through the rubber and is complimented by many other players doing a grand job as well. Director J. Lee Thompson really struggles to transcend the limitations of the budget this time.

The actual production looks cheap and rushed. Its’ sum total being a good idea that couldn’t pull off its grand sensibilities. It’s a damn shame this was the bookend chapter in the series, as there is enough within its flaws to have tease at what might have been. The last two films in this run actually make up the basis for better delivered narrative for the modern trilogy. They both have great ideas that weren’t afforded the budgets to do them justice. It still made four times its budget, but Battle fairs the worst.

Note: You get both the theatrical and the extended cuts. For me, the theatrical is the favored one here.

3/5 beers

 


 

Planet of the Apes (2001)PLANET OF THE APES (2001)

You ever have an impulse that you’re so tempted to indulge but know you shouldn’t? Such as being an amateur boxer and wanting to go around with a world champion? Or finding that perfect set of sneakers, only to find out there not quite the right fit? But you REALLY want to indulge.

Tim Burton must have had that impulse. There would have been no question in anybody’s mind around the turn of this century that he could create amazing visuals, and he, like many, had reverence for the original. But this was an impulse he should have resisted. Just because you love a created world doesn’t mean you should contribute it, if that world isn’t in your wheelhouse.

Burton’s awesomely slick looking take at Apes sees an astronaut, played by then star on the rise Mark Wahlberg, crash land on a planet where apes are the apex species and man are dense oppressed mutes. When he is captured and discovered to be more intelligent than the human pets he’s herded in with, a militant chimpanzee, General Thade (Tim Roth) deems him a threat and wants him taken out.

Let’s get the nasty out the way right up front. The script is bad. BAD, bad, bad—it meanders through a  tweaked rehash of the original into odd, protracted scenes of ape domesticity, so called humor, and then toward alleged pathos, tension and a bonkers finale. It’s rubbish. It doesn’t clearly define what it’s trying to be at all. Don’t even get me started on the stupid twist ending. Apparently the script was still being ‘polished’ when sets were being knocked up--a hell of a stupid way to spend 100 million dollars.

Production design is as good as it gets. Rick Baker absolutely kills it with the ape prosthetics that stand up on a massive 4K TV without an issue. The actors were also trained to move in a more ape-like fashion and sell that excellently as well. Wahlberg’s character is generic, unmemorable and a waste of a good talent. Roth is and impressively threatening bad guy.

This film hammers home that Burton’s wheelhouse in fantasy and visuals. Any sense of poignancy or allegory, that must be staples in the Apes films, is eschewed for awesome production design. It’s essentially a very elaborate stage based film. A car can be pretty but if it doesn’t run, what is the point? These visions of the ape world would have been better (and a damn sight cheaper) in an art book.

The most expensive, impressive looking apes film to date back in 2001, and a total waste of money.

2/5 beers


Rise of the PLanet of the Apes

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, AND WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES… ALL 5/5 AND NOT TO BE MISSED

Why aren’t they here? Glad you asked. I reviewed them last week in the 4K trilogy pack. Unbeknownst to me this Blu-ray pack of all the Apes movies also includes the 4K discs and the Blu-ray versions to boot. So to read my musings on those discs please go to the 4K Planet of the Apes Trilogy review.

Here we are at the end. The Apes films are classic science fiction at its allegorical best. It was an absolute delight to binge through this set and relive this series (for the most part anyway). I have to say, if you already own the previous Blu-rays, I see no reason to invest in the 50th anniversary set. You get a new box, and massive hard shell case, and a nice set of collector cards with the all the film’s theatrical posters replicated, but actual content is limited to previously available supplementary offerings and nothing new is added. If you don’t own the previous offerings, then I wouldn’t hesitate. If you own a 4K TV, or even just a large screen, a great time at home is assured. 

5/5 beers

Planet of the Apes

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

Home Video Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Available on Blu-ray
- October 9, 2018
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional)
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital Mono (Original); Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Twelve-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

VIDEO:

Truly extraordinary looking picture. One wonders just what, if any, noticeable improvements there might be, going back to camera negatives for a 4K or higher native scan. Although this is a 1080p transfer, let me tell you on an 82’ QLED 4K upscale, it’s a thing to behold. The artifice of the effects, the make-ups and the sets come through in glorious clarity. Minor blemishes in blink and you’ll miss them moments are present. They may be dated, but just how impressively this production sewed it altogether is captured in every frame. There is a subtle but consistent layer of grain, maintaining that vintage, but the picture as a whole looks clean with colors blazing off the screen at times. Flesh tones and fabric fibers are natural and nuanced. It’s the same transfer as has been released many, many times before, but where it’s this good, why go again (unless in 4K)?

AUDIO:

This 5.1 DTS-HD mix could use with an update. It’s very centre channel heavy and inconsistent with its balances. Sometimes it blares and others it’s softer, prompting you to reach for the remote. Directionality is also wanting, but there are some moments, if your volume is up high enough, where the action is rendered capably. For purists, the original mono track is on offer.

Supplements:

All ported over from the previous releases but copious and informative and enough to keep you watching for a couple of days. This disc is the embodiment of generosity and film buff nirvana. If one is to be greedy, we could ask for some contemporary pieces from the few surviving contributors left, but on the whole, everything you could possibly want is on this single disc.

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars

 


 Beneath the Planet of the Apes Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970)

Home Video Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Available on Blu-ray
- October 9, 2018
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional)
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Music: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: Dolby Digital Mono; French: Dolby Digital 2.0; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Twelve-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

VIDEO:

As impressively transferred as the original. There’s a little bit more grit within shots with compositing, but likely due to the cheaper production. It’s—again—of its vintage, so the science fiction future elements are dated and showing their limitations, but there are rendered accurately and are a fine picture of things as they were. Flesh tones are impressively detailed, as is the clothing or rags in some characters’ instances. Blacks seemed even better in this one; that may have something to do with the subterranean locale of half the movie, but it’s welcome. You can see the cheapness of the production, but it’s a solid representation of what they made back in the day.

AUDIO:

Again, you get a 5.1 DTS-HD lossless mix and, again, the original mono track. It was a cheaper score than the original, so you’re gonna get what they paid for. It’s decent enough, but again centre channel centric.

Supplements:

Has a short 20+ minute featurette that was on the last release. It may be short but is super informative, and a wonderful look at the studio mindset back then and the time it was made. You have an isolated track option if you just want to listen to score. Nowhere near the amount of stuff as the first film’s disc, but what you get is good.

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 2/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars

 


Escape From the Planet of the ApesBlu-rayBlu-ray Details:

ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970)

Home Video Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Available on Blu-ray
- October 9, 2018
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional)
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Music: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English: Dolby Digital Mono (Original); French: Dolby Digital Mono; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Twelve-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

VIDEO:

Another solid MPEG-4 1080p transfer. Like the previous two, this movie has fine grain and great detail in every frame. Being set in the 1970s, the clothes, both of the apes and the humans, are striking in an unremarkable (as far as set pieces) setting. It’s really quite impressive seeing the fibers and the materials used. The make-ups also show a well oiled machine at work, with the movie magic dated but still serviceable on modern technology.

AUDIO:

This DTS-HD 5.1 lossless mix isn’t gonna rock your socks off, but it does its job. Crowd scenes and traffic scenes are pretty underwhelming. Dialogue is centre focused and crisp. There is very little directionality

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars

 



Conquest of the Planet of the ApesBlu-rayBlu-ray Details:

CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1972)

Home Video Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Available on Blu-ray
- October 9, 2018
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional)
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Music: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: Dolby Digital Mono (Original); Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono; French: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Twelve-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

VIDEO:

This one’s a step down in quality from the previous 3 discs. The transfer, perhaps owing to the source or budget of the picture, is inconsistent with grain (though never terrible) and has real trouble in darker scenes, of which there are a lot. The canvas, as a result, is washed out and flatter than the others. The colors, artificially elevated by the QLED 82 inch TV, are improved (especially the bold primary colors of the apes costumes) but never leap off the screen. It’s a relatively clean print, but there are more obvious signs of wear. This needs to be updated with a 4K scan.

AUDIO:

Much the same as the last two. Front heavy mix, DTS-HD 5.1 that suffers from any dimensionality but strongly delivers dialogue and serviceable front noise in action scenes. Not immersive but not terrible. Original Mono included as well.

FEATURES:

You get another isolated score feature. A mini-documentary takes an allegorical look at the film against actual racial tensions and conflicts of the time in America. A short bit on Roddy McDowell and director J. Lee Thompson is also in there. All has been included in previous releases, some of it’s interesting, but there nothing new.

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 4/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars


Battle for the Planet of the ApesBlu-rayBlu-ray Details:

BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (1973)

Home Video Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Available on Blu-ray
- October 9, 2018
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional)
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Music: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: Dolby Digital Mono (Original); Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono; French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Twelve-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

VIDEO:

I think Battle is actually a better transfer than Conquest. Its colors seem bolded and the dimension of the picture appears more layered. Grain is fine and steady. Human complexions are great and natural. Blacks are richer. It’s got seldom examples of dirt or scratches, and is on par with the nest of this series for presentation. A great MPEG-4 transfer.

AUDIO: Another capable DTS-HD 5.1 mix. It’s inconsistent, but when it ramps up, it’s REAL good. I even noticed, in some of the battle scenes, some back channel presence this time. It’s still a front heavy mix, and again, dialogue for the most part is centre driven and clear. Lack of directionality and immersion is about the same. It doesn’t suck by any stretch, but it’s in need of an update. Again, the Mono track is offered as an alternative, should that be your druthers.

FEATURES:

Lackluster. It’s pretty thin with an isolated track, very short and meh documentary that runs around 15 minutes, and a trailer etc. Weakest supplements of the set and again ported over from previous releases.

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars

 


Planet of the Apes (2001)Blu-rayBlu-ray Details:

PLANET OF THE APES (2001)

Home Video Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Available on Blu-ray
- October 9, 2018
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Twelve-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

VIDEO:

Oi, oi, oi… this really should have been re-mastered. This, like the other blu-rays, is the same blu-ray from ages since past. Unlike the other movies, this one hasn’t been touched since the early days of blu-ray. It’s a weak, flat, soft looking MPEG-2! transfer (yes, you read that correctly 2!) that’s all kinds of yesteryear and not worthy of a 2019 release. As shitty as this movie is, the production design wasn’t, and it’s a crime that the one thing it deserves to have credit for is robbed with this crap transfer. It’s a clean, filmic scan, with consistent grain and acceptable color, but nothing about this disc is noteworthy.

AUDIO:

In stark contrast, it’s amazing. You get a DTS-HD lossless mix that is base heavy and will give your speakers a fine workout. Layered beautifully and intricately, dialogue is always clear and perfectly balanced in the more action heavy or noisy scenes. Scenes in the forest are detailed and immersive and directionality keeps all kinds of noise dancing around the speakers. Best thing about the disc by the a long shot.

FEATURES:

A Tim Burton commentary… yep, that’s it. I’m out of here.

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 2/5 stars
  Video  2/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars


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