Late summer is always a challenge for The Boy and I, movie-wise. (The heat ain’t great either, but that’s not really relevant here.) The big budget films stay around longer than anyone (but the studios) want, even if they flop badly (like Jason Bourne, Star Trek Beyond and Ghostbusters) and that often seems to coincide with uninspired indie films, perhaps because the ones with the best prospects don’t want to get buried in the summer. (Like, it’s rather a bad sign for the Meryl-Streep-Does-A-Quirky-Historical-Character-Drama Florence Foster Jenkins to be released in mid-August. Earlier this year, we had Marguerite which was the same story and looked like a much better film from the trailer. The Streep one looks like an Oscar-bait misfire.)
Anyway, we’ve pretty much licked that this summer by seeing classic movies, from On The Waterfront to Dr. Strangelove. We now have three steady venues: TCM Presents has a classic monthly, our (nearly) local art house has “Throwback Thursday”, and a theater near where The Boy and I work has “Flashback Tuesday”. (Yeah, I don’t get it either, it should be “Trowback Tuesday” or something.)
But the funny thing about classic movies is, like classic literature, “classic” doesn’t necessarily mean “good”, where “good” can mean “something that holds up over the years” or even “something I’m in the mood for now”. And a lot of times, over the years, our sense of a movie’s quality is influenced by our experience seeing it on TV, where it’s smaller, where we’re not as engaged, where we can pick over things in a way that was never meant. And, for me, Planet of the Apes was one of those movies I wasn’t sure was still going to work. The ape makeup. The zoom lens. The height of late ’60s/early ’70s nihilism. The staginess of the action scenes, particularly in this world of sweeping camera vistas and CGI everything.
On top of that, we weren’t able to catch the Sunday show, and we ended up having to see it on Wednseday afternoon, in the middle of the day. And the “projectionist” (by which, I mean the guy who presses “play” on the DVD players they use now) had screwed something up so it was 20-30 minutes late. And, bizarrely, this theater was so cold—something that almost never happens anymore—that the guys next to us used the delay to get blankets to cover up.
Then, I was a little nervous because comedian Dana Gould (whose ’90s stuff I thought quite funny) spends a fair amount of time interviewing with Ben Mankiewicz as “Dr. Zaius”, in full ape makeup, as though “Dr. Zaius” were an actual ape-man and actor who had landed the role in ’68.
It’s a lot of build-up, if you know what I mean. And yet.
It’s great. Just great.
The only really awkward part of the film is the beginning. And while, in most cases, you probably shouldn’t front-load your message in your film (if, indeed, it must be loaded at all), here it actually makes a lot of sense, as does Taylor’s (Charlton Heston) broad cynicism. The movie really kicks into gear when the apes show up, but even the long trek across the wastelands at the front ends up paying off at the end.
It’s so well constructed, you think “Hey, what else has this guy directed?” And then you go look under Franklin J. Schaffner and see he has an Oscar for Patton and also directed Papillon and Boys from Brazil. And also that he directed many episodes of “Playhouse 90” and “The DuPont Show of the Week”.
Well, I guess they made a monkey out of me. (Said song from “The Simpson’s” pretty much The Flower’s only exposure to this movie prior to seeing it.)
The Boy and The Flower were both enthusiasic, in spite of everything. And Gould as Zaius was really, really funny.
If you have a chance to see it on the Big Screen, by all means, check it out.