Reading the Screen: Another Trip to the Planet of the Apes?
Posted by: David Pitt
I just found out — and I’m very upset with you for not telling me sooner — that there’s going to be another Planet of the Apes movie. It’s called Caesar: Rise of the Apes (or just Rise of the Apes, depending on which report you read), and apparently it’s a prequel to the original 1968 movie.
Planet of the Apes, its various sequels, and Tim Burton’s remake — sorry, “re-imagining” — are based, of course, on Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel La Planete des singes, which was titled Monkey Planet in its original English translation and was retitled Planet of the Apes when the ’68 movie came out. Got all that?
If you haven’t read the novel, you really ought to. Cosmetically it’s vastly different from the movie — the apes live in cities, wear clothing, smoke pipes, and are nearly as technologically advanced as their human visitors — but thematically it’s quite similar.
Like the movie (and here I’m talking about Franklin J. Schaffner’s ’68 masterpiece, and not Burton’s 2001 version), the novel is a satire of politics, racial discrimination, and class divisions. Schaffner and his screenwriters, among them The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling, made a film that looks entirely unlike the book, but they kept what was important.
If you’re a fan of the Apes movies — and, seriously, how could you not be? — you should also check out Joe Russo’s Planet of the Apes Revisited (2001), an excellent look at the production and cultural significance of Schaffner’s movie and its sequels. Oh, and the live-action and animated television series, which came and went too quickly in the 1970s.
Not that it has anything to do with apes, but Boulle also wrote the classic Le Pont de la Riviere Kwai (1952), which was made into the classic movie The Bridge over the River Kwai. The book shares some of Monkey Planet’s cheerful themes: oppression, bigotry, and torture.
And in closing: “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!”