The Planet Of The Apes Phenomenon

1 Conversation

Planet Of The Apes is probably best remembered as the film staring Charlton
Heston, in which his character explores a strange world inhabited by talking apes, and
the shock ending with him riding along the beach and finding the Statue of Liberty
buried in the sand, however this film is only a tiny part of the cult and many people
may not know that it was not the beginning of the phenomenon, and is far from the

Planet Of The Apes began life as a novel by French writer, Pierre Boulle,
entitled ‘La Planete des Singes’, it was later published in English, and in 1968
a feature film ‘Planet Of The Apes’, was produced, this spawned four sequels,
a TV series, a cartoon, various comics and a new, re-imagined film in 2001, along
with a whole host of merchandise.

The Basis Of Planet Of The Apes

Although the ideas and stories differ in each version the basic premise of Planet of
the Apes
remains pretty much the same,

Planet of the Apes is set on a world where apes are the most intelligent
species of the planet, they talk, dress and behave much as humans do on Earth (as we
know it anyway), humans on the other hand are little more than dumb animals.

The apes are divided into three separate fractions that being, gorilla’s chimpanzee’s
and orang-utans. Gorilla’s, tend to be the more aggressive and military, the
chimpanzee’s being scientists, and orang-utans the bureaucrats.

In each version humans land on the planet and discover, that apes are the dominant
species and can talk and humans are dumb animals.

The Original Novel, By Pierre Boulle

Pierre Boulle

Pierre Boulle was born in Avignon in 1912, he spent some time in the French army
and was captured by the Japanese during the second world war but managed to
escape. After the war he returned to a previous profession in the rubber industry
before he took up writing. Besides The Planet Of The Apes he also wrote
The Bridge Over The River Kwai.

The Novel

Planet Of The Apes was first published in France in 1963 as ‘La Planete
des Singes’
, and a year later an English translation was published in Great Britain
as ‘Monkey Planet’, which later became ‘Planet Of The Apes’ in

The novel is considerably more slow moving than compared to the films, as can be
expected, it has little of the social commentary or the action that exists in the films.
The interest lies in the study by the protagonist, Ulysse, of way apes live and how
similar and different it is to our own society, and also how man exists on the planet
Soror. There are three different parts of the book and it is in the last where the
mystery is dealt with, the questions Why has ape society not progressed in the last
10 thousand years?
, and Why does there exist no evidence of ape society
before this?
. The end is truly remarkable, the discovery of the truth of the origins
of the apes society and the same fate befalling man on earth, makes a more shocking
end than that of the first film.

Story Line1

It begins with two people travelling in a spaceship and seeing a bottle drifting in
space, they manage to catch it and inside they find a manuscript. It tells of a man,
Ulysse Merou, a French journalist, one of three people who travels on the first
spaceship on course for the nearest star to Earth, once arriving they land a small
shuttle on an inhabitable planet they name Soror. Soon they encounter dumb humans
(one being a female which Ulysse names Nova), to their surprise Apes on foot and
horseback attack and in running to escape, the three get separated.

Ulysse, along with a number of other humans, including Nova, are captured and are
taken into the city. Ulysse realises that apes are the intelligent species and have a
society much like his own. He spends the next few months in a cage (along with the
other humans to be used in experiments), his relationship with Nova strengthens as
she is put with him. He begins to communicate with some of the apes, Zira and
Cornelius, a couple who work experimenting on the humans, and after learning their
language, he is presented at a congress. Proving he is intelligence, Ulysse is accepted
as an equal and is given a job.

The apes have found, and are examining, ancient ruins, they find a human doll and
evidence that humans could have been the dominant race on Soror at one time. Also
they find, on experimenting on live human brains, that the humans can talk and they
talk about times when apes were the slaves and when they took over and forced the
humans into the woods.

Nova becomes pregnant, and the apes become scared of Ulysse and his life, along
with that of his child, becomes under threat. A probe is due to be sent into space with
three humans on board to test the effects that it will have on them, Zira and Cornelius,
help Ulysse to escape by switching him, Nova and the baby for the three that were to
be used, once on the probe and in space, they dock with the space ship and travel back
to Earth.

On arriving on Earth, they find that apes have taken over, just like they did on Soror,
Ulysse takes off again, in the hope that they will find a planet inhabited by humans.
The couple reading the manuscript we discover are apes, and disbelieve the fantastic

The Films

Six films have so far been made, the first in 1968 followed by four sequels, and a
re-imagining version in 20012,

The First Five Films

In 1968 a feature film was produced by Twentieth Century
Fox3, based on Pierre Boulle’s novel, however the story was
radically changed in several ways,

  • Due to budgeting costs, the Ape civilisation was regressed in time from a present day
    earth setting to a much earlier period,

  • Nova becoming pregnant was dropped, it was felt that this would raise too many
    unanswered questions,

  • The Statue of Liberty appearing at the end, was added, possibly for a quicker, sharp
    shock ending and that fact that the spaceship crashed and sank at the start.

  • The lead role being an American, not surprising as it was an American made film.

  • The Apes speaking English, this making the film flow more easily and helping the
    end seem more believable.

  • The social commentary in the film(s) is huge, the way the apes are presented; the way
    they act and treat humans seems at first, quite horrific, but the true fact of the matter
    is that the way the apes treat humans is the way humans treat animals. There is also
    the fact that the planet of the apes was created by humans finally destroying the world
    by constantly warring.

    The success of the first film meant that a sequel was ‘a must’, and as there was never
    a sequel to the original novel the further films were therefore only based on characters
    created by Pierre Boulle. It also meant that some of the unused ideas in the original
    novel could be used, one being the way in which the apes took over the planet.

    The biggest disappointment with the sequels was that the budget for the first was $5
    million in 1968, and went down to something like $1.5 million for the last in 1973,
    this meant that the standard and quality of the films went down with each sequel. The
    greatest achievement with the films is that each film carries on the threads that began
    and were expanded upon in the previous ones, with the finale film actually breaking
    the cycle of events that led up to the story status of the first film.

    Also the continuity between the films is also almost perfect, there being only a couple
    of points that could be argued with, which is typical with films in which a sequel was
    never considered. One of the reasons why the films follow on so well is because,
    firstly, they were all produced by Arthur P Jacobs/APJAC Productions, and secondly,
    in each of the sequels, the screenplay and story were all by Paul Dehn (based on
    characters created by Pierre Boulle), except for the second in which the story was by
    Paul Dehn and Mort Abrahams. The screenplay for the original film itself having
    been written by Michael Wilson and Rod Stirling (based on the novel).

    Planet Of The Apes (1968)

    This was directed by Franklin J Schaffner and stared Charlton Heston as ‘Taylor’,
    Roddy McDowel as ‘Cornelius’, Kim Hunter as ‘Zira’ and Linda Harrison as ‘Nova’.

    This film also won an Honorary Academy Award for outstanding make up,
    beating 2001 A Space Odyssey, but only, probably, because they didn't realise that the
    apes in 2001 were actors, see '2001: A Space Odyssey' -
    The Film

    Story Line

    Four astronauts land on a strange planet, with one having died during the journey, the
    three survivors travel across the barren land until they find savage humans. Almost
    immediately they are attacked by apes on horseback, running to escape they get split
    up and one of the astronauts, Taylor, is captured, hurting his throat in the process.

    The captured humans including Taylor, are taken back to the ape city and are put in
    cages, one being a female human that Taylor names Nova. Being unable to talk, he
    finds that apes are the dominant species on this planet and humans are nothing more
    than dumb animals. Regaining his voice he makes friends with two apes, Cornelius
    and Zira, but as other apes find out about his ability to talk he is condemned as being
    a freak of nature and put on trial.

    Taylor and Nova, with the help of Cornelius and Zira escape, and he and the apes
    make it to an archaeological dig, in a cave they find a talking human doll, and other
    evidence of a human civilisation. Apes from the city have followed them here and
    make an attack. Taylor manages to escape with Nova and they ride off along the
    beach. Rounding a corner they run into a half buried Statue of Liberty, and to Taylors
    horror he finds that he’s been on Earth all the time.

    Beneath The Planet Of The Apes

    This, the first sequel, was made in 1970, and was directed by Ted Post. It stared
    James Franciscus as ‘Brent’, Kim Hunter reprised her role as ‘Zira’, as did Linda
    Harrison as ‘Nova’. The part of Cornelius this time wasn’t played by Roddy
    McDowell, as it was in the first and in the subsequent films.

    Charlton Heston didn’t want to reprise his role from the first film, and so only agreed
    to appear if his character ‘Taylor’ was killed off in the first scene, a compromise was
    reached, and so he disappeared in the first and was killed in the last (almost).

    Story Line

    This film is set shortly after the events of the first; a mission is sent to uncover the
    fate of Taylors mission, soon after landing on a strange planet the co pilot dies,
    leaving only Brent to carry on the search.

    Travelling across the land Brent finds Nova, who is wearing Taylors dog tags, but as
    Nova can’t speak, Brent asks her to take him to where she last saw Taylor (in a
    flashback, Nova saw Taylor disappear in a wall of fire). Nova takes him back to the
    ape city and to Zira and Cornelius.

    After meeting with Zira and Cornelius, and seeing the apes talking about an attack on
    the forbidden zone, Brent gets caught in a scuffle and escapes the ape city with Nova,
    they find and hide in a opening in the ground.

    The opening leads to a part of an underground rail line. Brent finds that mutant
    humans, disfigured by radiation, still live and talk underground, underneath the
    forbidden land, they have also developed strong mental powers and worship an
    atomic bomb.

    The Mutant humans are able to control people and lock Brent in a cage with Taylor,
    forcing them to fight. Elsewhere, the apes are attacking the forbidden zone much to
    the Mutant humans horror. The bomb is detonated and the planet is destroyed.

    Escape From The Planet Of The Apes

    This was made in 1971, and is the third in the Planet of the Apes film series,
    it was directed by Don Taylor. Roddy McDowel returns to play Cornelius, and Kim
    Hunter again, plays the part of Zira.

    Story Line

    A spaceship lands on present day earth4, and is greeted by officials, out step three
    astronauts and, as they are welcomed to Earth, the astronauts take off their helmets to
    reveal that they are apes/chimpanzees.

    The three astronauts are, in fact, Zira, Cornelius and another chimpanzee, Dr Milo,
    and they are taken to the local zoo for the mean time. At first they hold back from
    talking due to fearing the repercussions that it will have. A gorilla in the zoo attacks
    Dr Milo, and kills him.

    The people at the zoo begin some simple tests on the apes, and Zira speaks to the
    humans, after some interrogations they become celebrities. In being taken around the
    city to functions and events, Zira collapses and its discovered that she is pregnant.

    The humans are fearful of a talking baby ape and are worried that this could be the
    action that starts the chain of events that create the planet of the apes. Cornelius, Zira
    and their baby go to a travelling zoo, run by animal lover Armando, from there they
    hide out on a ship in dock, but they are discovered and killed.

    Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

    The fourth of the five films, made in 1972 and directed by J Lee Thompson, Roddy
    McDowell this time, stars as Caesar, and Ricardo Montablan reprises his role as

    Story Line

    At the end of Escape From The Planet Of The Apes we discovered that Zira
    and Cornelius had swapped their baby for a baby chimpanzee in the zoo, now its
    many years later and the baby is an adult called Caesar. Caesar was brought up by
    Armando - the circus owner, and this film starts with Caesar and Armando going into
    a city to put up posters advertising the circus, however, since the last film, a plague
    wiped out cats and dogs and humans took apes as pets, and when it was discovered
    that they could do menial tasks, they became slaves.

    Caesar sees a slave ape being beaten and shouts out in anger, the human race
    xenophobic as ever, and still scared that a talking ape could destroy their world, still
    consider the possibility a threat, and interrogate Armando. Caesar meanwhile, has no
    option but to blend in, and so locks himself in a cage with a batch of new apes. Along
    with the new apes, Ceasar is trained to become a slave, and once he completes his
    training he is bought. Horrified by the treatment of his species Caesar, aided by other
    slave apes, starts a revolution.

    The film climax’s when the apes turn on the humans and, as the apes are winning,
    Caesar begins a speech telling that this is the day man will be destroyed, during the
    speech a female ape speaks and says ‘No’, Caesar, due to the female ape’s reaction,
    doesn’t exact the revenge he planed5.

    Battle For The Planet Of The Apes

    The last in the original five films was made in 1973, and again was directed by J Lee
    Thompson. Roddy McDowell once again stars as Ceaser.

    Story Line

    The film begins with a teacher telling a story to a group of both Ape and Man who
    seem to be equal, the film is the story of how it came about. The story is set some
    time after the last film, and after a bomb that ravaged the planet was detonated, at this
    time ape and man both talk and live together, but man is now submissive to Ape.

    Caesar’s son is killed, and Caesar himself is considered by some not to be a good
    leader. Caesar finds out that in the forbidden city there is film footage of his parents,
    and so decides to travel there to find it, in the process he starts a war with the
    underground radiation affected humans who still exist and hate apes and want the
    planet for themselves.

    Following a battle Caesar wins, and he realises that for the world to exist both man
    and apes must live as equals.

    Planet Of The Apes (2001)

    This version made in 2001, and was again based on the original novel and on the
    original film, the plot however was almost entirely new, a few notable similarities

    With the original novel - The way apes used both feet and hands equally and
    The end,

    With the original film - The ape city and technology being mostly the same,
    the lines “Get your hands off me you damn dirty human(ape)” and “Damn
    them (you), damn them (you) all to hell
    ”, also there is the forbidden zone, and the

    In all three - The human and ape kiss, the landing and running away as the
    apes attack through the jungle, the nice female ape and human girl love interest.

    Although the 2001 version is an interesting film in itself, it fails on several levels, one
    is that it is neither a totally new version, a re-make or a film of the novel. The links
    with the previous versions are all too apparent, and do little more than distract from
    the plot. The plot itself is also not an original one, and the ending, however close to
    the original novel, merely confuses the film and bewilders the audience. Some of the
    social commentary is there, but not in the outstanding way in which it appeared in the
    original film. This version is far from what it could, or perhaps, should have been.

    The Re-imagining

    This was directed by Tim Burton, written by William Broyles and stared Mark
    Wahlberg as ‘Leo’, Helena Bonham Carter as ‘Ari’, and Tim Roth as ‘General
    Thade’. It also has cameo appearances by Charlton Heston, who played ‘Taylor’ in
    the original film, and Linda Harrison who played ‘Nova’, also in the original film.

    Story Line

    Captain Leo Davidson, is training monkeys to pilot space shuttles at a small space
    station, when a wormhole opens up near by. Sending a monkey in first, they soon lose
    contact, and Leo, against orders, goes after him. Leo finds that he too is in trouble and
    gets pulled through the hole, time jumps forward and crashes in a jungle on a strange

    Almost immediately he encounters humans, wearing animal skins, running away from
    something, and so runs too, he finds that what their running from are talking apes, he
    and several others humans are captured and are put into cells to be sold off as slaves,
    a female ape Ari, a human sympathiser, objects to their treatment, and Leo manages
    to talk her into buying him and a girl from the jungle.

    At Ari’s home Leo is to be a slave, but as night falls Leo, the girl, the girls family, and
    the rest of Ari’s family’s human slaves, Ari herself and her ape friend escape the city,
    much to the annoyance of General Thade, who is in love with Ari, and of whom
    mounts an attack to stop them.

    Leo has a homing beacon and it shows that his friends from the spaceship have landed
    near by, they need to travel through the forbidden land to reach them, once there he
    finds the ruins of their spaceship, and discovers that his friends arrived centuries ago
    and are all dead.

    All the humans around the area gather round and the apes attack, a huge battle takes
    place, during the battle a small shuttle lands, inside is the ape who came through first,
    General Thade is defeated and Leo takes off and heads back to Earth, but when he
    lands he finds that its now a planet of apes.

    The TV Series

    The TV series was made in 1974, and ran for only one season, comprising of 14, 50
    minute episodes. The TV series was based upon the original film version of Planet
    Of The Apes
    , and it followed on a similar story and theme, that being two
    astronauts arriving on earth aeons in the future and finding it inhabited by talking
    apes, and that humans are dumb animals.

    The Cast

    The TV series stared,

    Roddy McDowall, as Galen

    Ron Harper, as Alan Virdon

    James Naughton, as Pete Burke

    Booth Colman, as Zaius

    Mark Lenarda, as Urko


    Escape From Tomorrow

    The Gladiators

    The Trap

    The Good Seeds

    The Legacy

    Tomorrow's Tide

    The Surgeon

    The Deception

    The Horse Race

    The Interrogation

    The Tyrant

    The Cure

    The Liberator

    Up Above The World So High

    Ten episodes of the TV series were later edited into five 90 minute ‘films’, which
    included introductions by Roddy McDowell. The titles of these ‘films’ are,

    Back To The Planet Of The Apes

    Forgotten City Of The Planet Of The Apes

    Treachery And Greed On The Planet Of The Apes

    Life, Liberty and Pursuit On The Planet Of The Apes

    Farewell To The Planet Of The Apes

    The Cartoon Series

    Return To The Planet Of The Apes, was a cartoon series made in 1975, and
    like the TV series only lasted for one season, this time, 13 episodes, 25 minutes each,
    and it was made by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises Productions. Again it re-explored the
    themes and story of the first film and TV series.

    The Cast6

    The Cartoon featured the voices of,

    Claudette Niviens, as Judy Franklin and Nova

    Phillippa Harris, as Zira

    Jeff Carter, as Austin Stoker

    Tom Williams, as Bill Hudson

    Edwin Mills, as Cornelius

    Henry Corden, as General Urko

    Richard Blackburn, as Dr. Zaius


    Flames of Doom

    Escape From Ape City

    The Unearthly Prophecy

    Tunnel of Fear

    Lagoon of Peril

    Terror on Ice Mountain

    River of Flames

    Screaming Wings

    Trail to the Unknown

    Attack From the Clouds

    Mission of Mercy

    Invasion of the Underdwellers

    Battle of the Titans

    A fourteenth episode A Date With Judy, is rumoured to have existed, but this,
    although novelised, was never made.


    As with most films of this nature, merchandise is widespread, the most prolific being
    the magazines and comics which have ran irregularly over the years. Also there have
    been; Belts/buckles, T-shirts, Polo shirts, costumes, lollipops, models, records,
    posters, puzzles, stickers, toys and various books, to name a few.

    2001, And On

    With the new film having been released, and with the confused ending, a sequel looks
    quite likely, and conceivably a new TV series, there is always the possibility of
    another ‘new’ film, perhaps the one that the 2001 should have been, or even a
    re-make of the original film and there’s the possibility of a direct film of the original
    novel, however with the interest in Planet Of The Apes re awoken by the new
    film, the future for the Phenomenon is definitely looking up and is unlikely to be

    1Based on the English translation by Xan
    2The TV series was also at one time,
    re-edited into several ‘films’, see The TV series for details
    3Although only after, almost every other studio turning it
    41971, presumably, as this was
    when the film was made
    5Due to poor audience reaction the
    end of this speech was recorded and dubbed on at a later date
    6Its possible that these are not correct, as
    they may have played more than one, and or, different characters

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