Towards an Ape Theatre (Part 2): Duck-Billed Apocalypse (Then)

Duckbilled Platypus Though the 1968 film Planet of the Apes won an Academy Award for make-up effects, many people have maintained that the make up was not very good and that the characters looked duck-like or more specifically like the duck billed platypus. I tend to agree with that criticism, but I believe this is what makes the costumes so great. After forty years of watching the original film it has very little to do with apes. It is simply a human drama with very unique costumes. McDowell, Hunter and Evans were well known first-rate actors in 1968. We know them and know that they are in costume. We have entered the theatre and we play along. And since they speak English, it’s easy! Cornelius, Zira and Taylor (Planet of the Apes, 1968 The apocalyptic narrative is an important part of the film, but it is not the central theme. According to the film’s producer Arthur P. Jacobs, he came up with the idea for the film’s conclusion when having lunch with Blake Edwards at a delicatessen in Burbank. A mural of the Statue of Liberty on the deli wall was the genesis for the film’s dramatic final scene. Some might say the idea that Taylor is on earth the whole time is already suggested in the Boule novel. In either case, Jacob’s claim sheds light on the inner workings of Hollywood and how the frivolous can quickly become the sacred. Dr. Zaius (Planet of the Apes, 1968) The real story is that of George Taylor as portrayed by Charlton Heston. Heston was perfect for the role, as we believe he can handle the endless physical and psychic contortions. We identify with him because he can survive it, but the bond ends there. His oration at the film’s beginning tells us a lot about him and we continually learn more. As a sort “last man on Earth” character, it is a role straight out of Serling’s Twilight Zone that makes the viewer very uncomfortable. We know that Taylor had lost faith in his fellow man before he crashed into Planet of the Apes. His calloused worldview, his frustration and arrogance are put on vivid display in his treatment of his fellow crewmen Landon and Dodge. The torture he receives at the hands of the apes mirrors his own angst-his own inhumanity, now off the charts. What Taylor finds on Planet of the Apes is himself or his “doppelganger,” in the form Dr. Zaius. Human compassion combined with courage greet him in ape form. These are the chimp scientists Zira and Cornelius as played by Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowell. These truth seekers do for Taylor what he would not have done for them. With the aid of their nephew Lucius (Lou Wagner) they risk life and liberty to save Taylor and his new gal Nova (Linda Harrison) from lobotomy and certain death at the hands of Dr. Zaius. The irony is that the monstrous planet (this “mad house” as Taylor calls it) possessed genuine human compassion, and that Taylor’s horror, his apocalypse, is his own. - Sidral Mundet see part one http://thecentralshaft.blogspot.com/2011/08/towards-ape-theatre-part-1.html