Planet of the Apes: 35th Anniversary Special Edition (1968)

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Released 5-May-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Composer (Jerry Goldsmith)
Audio Commentary-Actors And Make-Up Artist
Subtitle Commentary-Text Commentary By Eric Greene
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-2
Featurette-Make-Up Test With Edward G. Robinson (1966)
Featurette-Roddy McDowall's Home movies
Featurette-Planet Of The Apes Dailies And Outakes (No Audio)
Featurette-Planet Of The Apes (1967) N.A.T.O. Presentation
Featurette-Planet Of The Apes Featurette (1968)
Featurette-Don Taylor Directs Escape From The Planet Of The Apes
Featurette-J. Lee Thompson Directs Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-4
Notes-Film Reviews (1968)
Gallery-Posters, Original Sketches, Stills
Gallery-Ape Merchandise And Ape Collections
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1968
Running Time 107:28
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (45:26)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Franklin J. Schaffner
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Charlton Heston
Roddy McDowall
Kim Hunter
Maurice Evans
James Whitmore
James Daly
Linda Harrison
Robert Gunner
Lou Wagner
Woodrow Parfrey
Jeff Burton
Buck Kartalian
Norman Burton
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $31.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
Dutch
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Dutch Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Dutch Text Commentary
English Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
English Text Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    This is the second DVD release of this film in Region 4, following a relatively bare-bones issue a couple of years ago. This is billed as a "35th Anniversary Special Edition", which is fair enough until you realise that it has been 36 years since the film was released. I guess "36th Anniversary Special Edition" does not quite have the same impact. I will preface this review by admitting that while I have seen this film a number of times, each time has been on a TV broadcast and therefore I have not (a) seen it in widescreen until now and (b) seen it without a commercial break every 10 minutes or so. In fact, it may be as many as twenty years since I last saw it, so much of it seemed fresh this time around. Obviously I have not watched the earlier DVD, so for comparison's sake I will directly address the comments regarding video and audio quality made by reviewers of that release. I will also be brief concerning the plot so that readers who have not seen the film before can enjoy the surprises, and those readers who have will not be unduly bored.

    The film is based on a novel by the French writer Pierre Boulle called La Plančte des singes, which translates directly as The Planet of the Monkeys, though it is usually referred to as Monkey Planet, the title of the English edition of the book.

    The basic plot set-up is that sometime in the future an expedition has set forth to prove the theory that accelerated travel through space causes time to slow down, so that while these travellers have experienced only 18 months of travel, nearly two millennia have passed since they left Earth. The ship lands in the middle of a lake in an otherwise barren land. The three survivors led by Taylor (Charlton Heston) travel across a desert seeking life, and come into contact with a group of humanoids who seem to be mute. Suddenly a group of apes riding horses appear and capture or kill many of the humanoids, including our intrepid heroes. For Taylor, the truth about this planet is shocking: it is ruled by apes who can speak and who behave much like humans.

    Unlike the ill-conceived Tim Burton remake from 2001, this group of apes behave more like humans rather than caricatures. They also behave towards humans in the way that humans behave towards apes, or like some humans behave towards other humans that they look down on. This film does not have that one bad ape that spoils the whole barrel of monkeys, as in the remake. There is what appears to be a villain, but if you think about it after the film has ended, there is no real bad guy/ape in this movie. Perhaps the filmmakers gave audiences a bit more credit for sophistication back in 1968.

    The screenplay is by Rod Serling and Michael Wilson, and is filled with wry humour, some of it quite subtle. The positions that the three orangutans adopt during the inquiry sequence when they hear a blasphemous speech is very funny, and I had never noticed this in previous viewings of the film, for obvious reasons, given the pan and scan nature of the prints I saw. You can also see the hand of Serling in the opening speech by Taylor before he enters suspended animation.

    The direction by Franklin J. Schaffner is excellent, with good use of the wide screen and some striking touches, particularly in the first fifteen or twenty minutes. Charlton Heston is his usual monolithic self most of the time, but for once this suits the character he plays. He is the only recognisable human in the cast, the rest of the name actors wearing the superb ape makeup of John Chambers. Maurice Evans as Dr Zaius comes off best among the simians, with good work by Kim Hunter as Zira and Roddy McDowall as Cornelius.

    Seen in a widescreen transfer of this quality, Planet of the Apes is reaffirmed as a superb film which has hardly dated after three-and-a-half decades. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed watching this film again, even though I had to watch it five times for review purposes. Apart from the remake, there were four sequels made over the next 6 years, with only the second of these (Escape From The Planet of the Apes) being worthy of mention, and two short-lived TV series over which a veil should be drawn.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The film looks very good in this transfer. The image is very sharp and clear, with a considerable amount of detail present. I did not notice anything in relation to the clarity of the image that concerned me, apart from the very last shot in the film, which looks to have been optically zoomed and is of lesser clarity than the rest of the film.

    Shadow detail is also very good. There are few low light level sequences in the film, and even in outdoor sequences the shadows reveal some detail. Colour levels are good, but the film stock is quite different to that which modern audiences may be used to. There is a slight lack of richness to the colour, which looks less immediate as a result. Flesh tones are very close to realistic. Black levels are very good and I could not discern any low level noise.

    In terms of film to video artefacts and compression artefacts, I did not notice anything serious on a first viewing of the film. Edge enhancement is present, for example at 21:01. There is some mild aliasing as noted in our previous review.

    There are somewhat more disturbing film artefacts. At 21:25 the screen loses most of the colour saturation for a couple of seconds, resulting in a very washed out appearance. This is probably inherent in the film print used. There is a little bit of dirt and dust present, and there are some tiny hairs in the gate during the opening credits. I noticed some tiny white flecks from time to time.

    Film grain is quite good throughout, with only a couple of sequences where the level of grain was noticeably higher..

    One effect which I noticed twice was a warping of the image towards the left of screen as the camera panned across the landscape, such as the sequences beginning at 7:25 and 8:31. I am guessing that there was an issue with the anamorphic image during shooting which was not corrected.

    There are several subtitle streams. The main subtitle stream in English is in white characters with black borders. These seem to be very close to the dialogue judging by the samples I made. It seemed to me that the subtitles appeared on screen slightly later than they should. They are still synchronised with the dialogue, but they appear a fraction of a second after each piece of dialogue begins. This was a little disconcerting to me.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc. I missed the layer change when watching this film. It occurs at 45:26 and while it happens mid-scene it was not disruptive on my player.

    In summary, I think that this is the same transfer as used for the previous DVD release in Region 4.

    Note added 14 Dec 2004: One of my colleagues has compared the original Region 4 release with the Special Edition and reports that viewed on a projector, the original release is sharper with less visible edge enhancement.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are a plethora of audio tracks on this DVD. The default track is a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, and there is a DTS 5.1 track. There are also two commentary tracks which are dealt with in the extras section.

    The DTS track has the non-dialogue audio spread across the front soundstage very effectively. I was aware of a frontal wall of sound in the opening sequence with better integration of the three speakers than is present in the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. I found this overall to be a much better audio mix than the Dolby Digital 5.1 track, though the limitations of the original audio are still present. The rear channels only seem to be used for music and even then this is at such a low level that the audio does not seem to be in surround. Perhaps there is a faint opening out of the soundstage, but for mine the rear channels do not add very much to the overall effect. The subwoofer is only noticeable during the opening landing sequence, and just fills in some additional bass sounds carried by the mains, rather than having a discrete range of sound to itself. My main speakers have very good bass reproduction anyway, so on speakers that do not reproduce bass sounds as well the subwoofer channel may contribute more.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is barely distinguishable from the DTS track. The only difference I could detect was that perhaps the bass was less rich and the separation of the front speakers more obvious. But the difference is very slight.

    Dialogue is well-handled and sounds clear and distinct. Audio sync is not always perfect, I think arising out of some of the dialogue, particularly that of Charlton Heston, being looped after the filming.

    The music score is by Jerry Goldsmith. This is an excellent score in the 12 tone fashion, with just the right amount of unusual sounds (including steel mixing bowls) and discordance to complement the dislocation experienced by the astronauts. This is one of this composer's finest scores, and he received an Oscar nomination for it (an accolade which probably meant more then than it does now).

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A very good selection of extras, although the two audio commentaries are not handled well. Apart from the commentaries, the extras are on a second disc. All of the extras that have dialogue also have subtitles, including the audio commentaries, which is a nice touch.

Main Menu Introduction, Audio and Animation

    Nicely animated introduction and menu designs with background music from the score, this aspect is well done and the menu is easy to use.

Audio Commentary with Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Natalie Trundy and John Chambers

    Those of you who are aware that both McDowall and Hunter have died in the past few years would wonder how this commentary came into being. It sounds like it has been pieced together from the interviews for the 1998 Behind the Planet of the Apes documentary also included on this disc. The commentary is interesting when it appears, but it is not continuous throughout the film. In fact, there is not much more than thirty minutes of commentary in total, and there are no cues to get to the next piece of commentary as there is on the Ben Hur disc, for example. I found myself using the fast forward button a lot to try to find the start of the next bit. This was pretty disappointing and reduced my enjoyment of this extra.

    This audio commentary is in Dolby Digital 2.0 and has subtitles in both English and Dutch.

Audio Commentary-Composer (Jerry Goldsmith)

    This audio track has the full soundtrack rather than just being an isolated score, with Goldsmith giving an interesting commentary on his choice of musical style and instrumentation. He also regularly criticises more modern scores for their lack of subtlety, which is true enough but probably could have been left out of this commentary. There are long stretches without any commentary at all, and at a guess there might be somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes of commentary in total.

    This commentary is in Dolby Digital 2.0 and has subtitles in English and Dutch.

Subtitle Commentary - Text Commentary by Eric Greene

    A text-based commentary, this is interesting stuff that gives background to the film, its production and impact - Greene has written a book on the series of Apes films. There are some lengthy gaps but this is slightly better in this respect than the audio commentaries. Some of the text only appears on screen briefly so you need to be alert in order not to miss anything.

Trailer -Behind The Planet of the Apes (2:15)

    This is a trailer for the TV documentary, in 1.33:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0. This gives a good idea of what the documentary is about.

Featurette -Behind The Planet of the Apes (126:47)

    This is a lengthy programme made for cable television to celebrate 30 years since the first film. Hosted and narrated by Roddy McDowall, the first hour deals with the development, filming and impact of the first film, with the remainder looking at the other films and the TV series. Interviewees include actors Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, Linda Harrison, Natalie Trundy and Ricardo Montalban, directors Ted Post, Don Taylor and J. Lee Thompson, producers Mort Abrahams and Richard Zanuck, make-up guru John Chambers and numerous others. This was made only a matter of months before the deaths of McDowall and Taylor. The documentary is quite interesting, although it did serve to remind me how low budget the later episodes in the series look. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and has a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. There is a layer break at 53:10.

Featurette-Make-Up Test With Edward G. Robinson (1966) (9:29)

    This test was made in order to prove to studio executives that the ape make-up would not be laughable. It includes a prologue with paintings of scenes from the earlier draft of the screenplay narrated by the unforgettable voice of Paul Frees, and then features an entire scene from the screenplay with Heston, Edward G. Robinson as Dr Zaius, James Brolin as Cornelius and Linda Harrison as Zira. Notable is not only that the makeup looks quite different from the final film, but also the scene itself, which suggests quite a different film from the finished product. Fascinating stuff. The aspect ratio is 2.30:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

Featurette-Roddy McDowall Home Movies (20:03)

    McDowall made a visual record of the production with his home movie camera, nearly half of which is of himself being made up as Cornelius. It is interesting to see the layers of ape makeup going on. Excerpts from this were included in the featurette. The aspect ratio is 1.33:1 and the audio track is music from the film.

Featurette-Planet Of The Apes Dailies And Outtakes (No Audio) (19:45)

    These are simply rushes and discarded versions of shots, and not of any particular interest. The aspect ratio is 2.30:1 and not 16x9 enhanced, and the absence of any audio is disappointing, as otherwise this is quite dull.

Featurette-Planet Of The Apes (1967 N.A.T.O. Presentation) (10:27)

    No, not that NATO, this is the National Association of Theater Owners, so this is just an extended trailer for the film. The aspect ratio is 2.30:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

Featurette-Planet Of The Apes Featurette (1968) (4:36)

    This advertising piece has some makeup sessions and drawings, together with excerpts from the film. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Featurette-Don Taylor Directs Escape From The Planet Of The Apes (7:43)

    A short publicity sequence of former actor Don Taylor at the helm of the third film in the series. The colour is pretty poor. The aspect ratio is 1.33:1.

Featurette-J. Lee Thompson Directs Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes (1:07)

    This is blurry colour footage of not very much at all, just some actors putting ape masks on and Lee Thompson telling some of them what to do. 1.33:1.

Teaser Trailer (2:18)

    This gives a fair bit away about the film, and is not restored. It is 16x9 enhanced however, being in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

Theatrical Trailer (3:04)

    This also gives away much of the film, and is unrestored. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and 16x9 enhanced.

Trailer- 4 (10:36)   

    Trailers for the other films in this series. All of the trailers are 16x9 enhanced. They give away significant plot points, so don't watch these before watching the films.

Notes-Film Reviews (1968)

    Two short text reviews from the year of release, by John Mahoney and Richard Schickel. Interesting but unremarkable.

Gallery-Posters, Original Sketches, Stills (2:12)

    A series of international posters, costume sketches and production and publicity stills from the film, all 16x9 enhanced and featuring music from the film.

Gallery-Ape Merchandise And Ape Collections (1:05)

    Under the title Ape Phenomenon, this is a series of photos of toy figures and some of the original costumes and masks from the film.

Easter Egg - TV Commercial (1:22)

    (added 30/06/04) A TV commercial for the Apes toys, in quite poor condition from a VHS tape with distorted sound. This can be accessed by (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) clicking the right arrow key on the Ape Phenomenon screen, which will highlight one of the ape figures on the screen. Click on enter and the video will play.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 special edition has some weblinks, apart from which there is no difference in content between this and the Region 4.

Summary

    A fine presentation of a now-classic film, this is a worthwhile purchase for anyone who does not already have the original release. Those who do may be interested in the extras, but the transfer of the main feature appears to be the same.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are substantial but the presentation of the commentaries is not ideal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, April 30, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews
AllZone4DVD - RobertW
DVD Net - Terry K

Comments (Add)
No isolated score? - Daniel REPLY POSTED
The score - Simon O'Connor (I wouldn't suggest reading my bio)
Beneath the Planet of the Apes is the second - Georgiarose REPLY POSTED
Recycling Extras - BruceM (read my bio)
wheres the pota easter egg!?! - james avalos REPLY POSTED
Jerry Goldsmith - Award Winning Film Composer Dies - NewcastleBoy (read my bio)
Jerry Goldsmith - Award Winning Film Composer Dies - NewcastleBoy (read my bio)
RE: Jerry Goldsmith: 1929-2004 - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)
You missed one of the features! - Anonymous