Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Planet of the Apes.”
The Movie: “Planet of the Apes”
Starring: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter |
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) An astronaut crew crash-lands on a planet in the distant future where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species, and humans are the oppressed and enslaved.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86 percent
Froemming: We have reviewed all sorts of movies here, from gritty dramas to goofy action movies. We tackled the heights of cinema with “Citizen Kane” and the lowest rungs of awful with the “Twilight” saga.
But there has been a glaring omission in our catalog: Talking monkeys.
This week, I decided Brown and I needed to head to the Forbidden Zone and review “Planet of the Apes,” a movie whose politics are pretty forward-thinking for the time it was made, and which fall on the polar opposite of its star, Charlton Heston.
Plus, talking monkeys. Can’t go wrong with talking monkeys.
Brown, get your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape and give us your first impressions.
Brown: This isn’t a question of if we’ll recommend “Planet of the Apes.”
The real question of this review is how many “Simpsons” references will we try to shoehorn into this review. Because, well, we’ve been doing this for a long time and that’s what we do here on the JOE-DOWN.
Now, I don’t know if I had seen this movie in full before our review. I certainly know the highlights and what I learned from Troy McClure’s off-Broadway musical performance. But yeah, I didn’t know how political this movie got or how weird it was to see people in ape costumes try to kiss. I don’t know if I’m a good kisser or not, but I think I do better than our titular apes.
Now, before I start getting more weird and question whether I’m a furry, kick us off, Froemming.
Froemming: Before that, I just want to mention that Rod Serling (of “Twilight Zone”) wrote the first draft of the script and this movie kept some of the best elements of that, especially the twist ending which is spoiled by the (REDACTED) movie cover and posters.
Now, we begin in what is either Heston in a spaceship flying through the cosmos or is watching a Pink Floyd laser light show, it honestly looks like it could be either.
Brown: I thought the inside of the spaceship made it look like they were in Darth Helmet’s head, “Being John Malkovich” style.
Froemming: Heston plays Taylor, an astronaut whose team left earth in 1972 and through a bunch of confusing exposition, we learn he and his team have spent six months in space and Earth has aged 700 years. Like “Highlander 2,” I cannot wrap my head around this time and space nonsense.
Brown: Yeah, it’s some nonsense they made up about how, because they’re traveling at light speed, what is a month of time on the ship is, like, hundreds of years in space or something.
Froemming: Well, they should all be stone dead anyway since Taylor thinks smoking on a spacecraft is a good idea. I’m pretty sure that would be a big no-no from NASA.
Anywho, Taylor then shoots up some heroin so he can be on the nod for another 2,000 years or so in a glass pod thing that has seatbelts in it.
Then the opening credits begin and I am so happy movies started tacking this crap at the end, because I don’t care who the assistant to the lighting director is.
Brown: Those assistants to the lighting director worked hard and deserve for you to see their credit, Froemming, you ass!
Froemming: Much like how I don’t care to know how hotdogs are made, I feel the same with movies.
Brown: So yeah, back to the movie. When Taylor goes to bed in his deep heroin haze, he goes to bed for, presumably months. At least a few weeks considering the beard he and the rest of the male astronauts wake up with. It was to the point that I was really hoping that the one female astronaut, Stewart, also woke up with a beard. Instead, she’s dead to the point of looking almost mummified after her glass bed had a malfunction.
So when the opening credits wrap up and we’re done flying around all the plateaus and canyons of the southwest part of the U.S.A. like we’re in the Metallica music video for “I Disappear,” the ship has crashed into a lake and is quickly filling up with water.
So now our three remaining astronauts have to quickly escape a sinking ship.
… They should all be dead, if for the simple reason that after that long a slumber, they would certainly have muscle atrophy and would not have the strength to climb out of a boat, let alone walk.
Froemming: Also, weird how their beards grew naturally into that freshly trimmed look and the hair on their heads didn’t grow much at all. Science, I don’t get it.
We also learn, before they jump into some body of water with a rubber raft, that the year is 3978, meaning Taylor missed the downfall of the Nixon administration, so maybe that is why Heston was not disillusioned with the Republican Party, he slept through the worst parts.
Brown: At this point, I wish I could sleep until 3978.
Also, with it being the year 3978, I was kind of hoping to hear LaBamba belt out “IN THE YEAR 3000” like he does on Conan O’Brien’s show.
Eventually, our astronauts make their way to land and… it’s pretty much a barren wasteland.
Froemming: Yeah, Arizona is a barren wasteland, my friend.
Brown: I debated whether they were in Arizona or Utah. Either way, you are correct, Froemming. As someone who drove from Phoenix to Santa Fe last summer, I get it. Aside from Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona is beautiful but very, very barren.
Froemming: So, we get to know our hero here a bit as the three of them wander through the desert like they are Soundgarden or something.
We learn Taylor is a cocky SOB who mocks his fellow traveler, Landon, for going to college and getting an education like some schmuck. He is also adamant that they are lightyears from Earth, and there is no way for them to ever get back home. So they better just make the best of this situation.
Also, he makes sure he has his gun with the supplies. Wouldn’t be a Heston movie if he didn’t have his gun.
Brown: Also, Charlton Heston may have the most creepy laugh in Hollywood. Here he is as Landon plants an American flag.
Christ, that is off-putting.
Froemming: That’s because he is a nihilist, Brown.
Brown: That means he’s harmless, right?
Froemming: Taylor joined this adventure because he was sick of the people on Earth, and seeing 2020 roll out, I am completely in his camp on that one.
Brown: Holy crap. He’s Dr. Farnsworth!
Froemming: Our three heroes pretty much wander through the desert for the first half-hour of this movie, taking soil samples and learning life exists on this planet.
Then they find a waterfall which would solve their fresh water situation. And what do these scientists do?
They jump in their water supply buck naked.
They have to drink that water. This is disgusting once you think about it.
Adding insult to injury with them tainting their water supply with their own dingleberries, a bunch of hippies are looking on and they steal their clothes and supplies. This is why I will never trust Grateful Dead fans.
Brown: I’m glad you refrained from calling them people. Hippies aren’t people.
And yes, you are right about this movie’s first half-hour being three astronauts wandering the desert. It was minute 24 of this movie where I wrote down “This is the most boring episode of ‘Man vs. Wild’ I’ve ever watched.”
After running through the brush naked (which seems like a bad idea considering thorns and all), our trio come up on a tribe of what I can only describe as feral humans.
Froemming: Hippies, Brown. They are dirty hippies.
Brown: My mistake.
Anyways, these hippies are gathered around and eating fruit from a tree because god forbid they can’t go to a farmer’s market and barter for a pear like Mac and Charlie in “Always Sunny.”
It’s here we hear a screech in the distance. Some shit is about to go down and Wavy Gravy and his merry band of unkempt hippies need to get into hiding from people with, you know, jobs.
Froemming: Yup, and panic ensues and honestly, I like it takes a half-hour before we actually see any of the apes of this planet. I enjoyed the slowburn to that moment.
And here we go! We see apes with guns, riding horses and netting people like they are the Trump boys on a safari hunt. Landon runs off and makes it out.
Dodge, though, he suffers the fate of one of the more annoying Hollywood tropes: Black guys gets killed first. We see him get shot in the head.
Brown: Dodge gets dragged behind a horse at one point which, considering American history, is uncomfortable.
Froemming: This stuff was by design. Like later when Taylor is getting hosed, they took a lot of imagery from American history and the treatment of Black people in our country.
Brown: Oh, I got that.
Froemming: Folks, I went on a deep dive of articles and special features after watching this movie, so I got a lot of random information I will never use again floating in my head now.
Taylor, well he puts up a good fight but is shot in the neck with what looks like raspberry jelly, because there is no wound. And he is dragged off to Ape City, or whatever it is called, where his neck jelly wound is treated and we meet Zira, some lib doctor who wants to research humans.
Brown: You know what would have prevented Taylor from being shot in the neck? Common-sense gun control and demilitarization of the ape police!
Don’t worry… years later, Taylor will say they can try and take his gun from his cold, dead hands.
Froemming: Did Taylor say that a few days after Ape Columbine happened?
So Taylor gets a blood transfusion from a hippie woman he later calls Nova. That is probably a huge mistake. And we learn Zira is taken by Taylor, he can’t talk due to his neck wound, but she sees he is trying to communicate.
Which is laughable, because in this world humans are dumb beasts who just mimick what the apes do.
Brown: It got to the point where I thought Zira was gonna try and make Taylor (whom she nicknames Bright Eyes because, well, he’s the only human on the planet with blonde hair and blue eyes) talk with sign language like Amy in “Congo.”
He Taylor. He good human.
Froemming: While captive, we see that there is a caste system on this planet: Gorrillas are the cops/meatheads, chimpanzees are a level up as researchers and the ones who control the government are the orangutans. A not-so-subtle reference is that the darker the complexion of the apes, the lower on the ape hierarchy they are, while the lighter they are, the higher up they are.
Now, Taylor is determined to get through to Zira, and she wants an ape known as Dr. Zaius to take a look at this joker.
And, since we are introducing the good doctor, I will post this now!
Brown: So Dr. Zaius’ role in this society is both the Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith which are… rather contradictory roles considering how much science and religion clash on a daily basis.
Froemming: He would fit right in with the Trump administration.
Brown: Oh, you have him drop a line about charter schools and Dr. Zaius is more qualified than Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education. Then again, by going to public schools, Froemming and I are more qualified than Betsy DeVos.
Anyways, Dr. Zaius is unimpressed with Zira’s new pet project. He views humans as a pest and thinks Taylor’s attempts at talking as nothing more than mimicry. Dr. Zaius is just fine with either offing Taylor or using him for experiments. Apparently lobotomies are popular with this culture.
There’s one point where one of the guards dismisses Taylor’s talking attempts as “Human see, human do,” which was eye-rolling. And yeah, this movie isn’t subtle but when you see a human treated the same way we treat caged animals, it’s still jarring visually.
Froemming: Well, Zaius knows more than he is letting on. At one point, Taylor writes a message in the dirt and Zaius sees it and wipes it away. That is when he decides to have Taylor castrated and lobotomized.
Before that, Zira has a present for Taylor: The hippie woman, who goes in his cage and begins smelling him, which I get what they are doing but it is disturbing anyway. Zira is pretty happy she found a (REDACTED) buddy for her Bright Eyes!
Brown: Between calling Heston’s character Bright Eyes and his love of cigars, do you get the feeling that this role was written for Clint Eastwood, just to put his Man With No Name character in space against a culture of monkeys?
Froemming: I’d watch that movie in a heartbeat.
Zira decides to sneak Taylor out of his cage and brings him home, where she is trying to communicate with the man. And poor Cornelius comes home to find his wife horsing around with some human.
He had a hard day at work, this is probably the last thing poor Cornelius wants to put up with.
Brown: Fine, I’ll put this out there… with the way Zira was making eyes at Taylor any time he did, well, anything, I was expecting Cornelius to come home one day and be viciously cucked. Then he and his fiancee could have their weird kissing.
Seriously, the monkey masks here had Homer Simpson-like muzzles that made it look like Homer kissing himself. You know, kind of like this.
Froemming: He’s like Jerry Falwell Jr., just smarter and not an evil prick!
Well, Cornelius is skeptical about Taylor’s communicating, but it does fit in with a theory he is working on. Some crackpot idea that animals evolve over time. Which makes zero sense since everyone know God created the apes, according to their religion. #FACTS
Brown: Do you think that monkey Jesus was written as though he was an orangutan, only for physical evidence to suggest he was a gorilla? I bet the writers of the monkey Bible would omit that fact.
What I just wrote may be the most glaring example of blasphemy committed in my life.
Froemming: I’ve written and said worse, so you are OK.
Then Zaius comes bursting in like the ape-equivalent of Kramer. He is not thrilled with all this “man can communicate” nonsense these libs are trying to push on him.
Plus, Taylor wrote that he is from Fort Wayne, Indiana and came there on a spaceship, which makes no sense because flying is just a liberal myth like outer space and polio vaccines.
Brown: Taylor is brought back to his cage, only to break out a short time later and basically terrorize the streets of Ape City. He does, at one point, break up a funeral, so the monkeys are right to be angry. That’s (REDACTED) up, Taylor.
Froemming: At least he isn’t destroying the city like the Toretto family would do with their cars.
Brown: That’s only because automobiles aren’t in this world yet. They’re still riding on horseback.
Eventually, the gorillas capture Taylor, only for our hero to utter words of tolerance and love.
Not… exactly helping your cause in the court of public opinion, you racist… err, speciesist?
Froemming: Given the politics of this movie, I imagine this was Heston’s personal hell.
Well, shocked by the fact he can talk, Dr. Zaius decides they need to do something about this instigator in their town. Breaking up funerals, fighting the cops, making a nuisance of himself, they need to get rid of this guy. And they need to get rid of Zira and Cornelius for their troubling theories and ideas.
So we go to The Monkey’s Court!
Brown: Before we get there, I want to bring up the weird scene before where Taylor, finally able to talk, is going on and on to our mute friend Nova.
I give a lot of credit to Linda Harrison for how she’s able to act without speaking in what was, what, her third-ever role? I’m a sucker for a woman with dark hair and doe eyes so yeah, big fan of Harrison/Nova.
Brown: Considering that Nova and the native humans are supposed to basically be feral animals, Nova having pristine teeth was distracting.
Anyways, now that he’s able to talk, Taylor goes on this spiel about how in his time he had a lot of lovemaking, but not a lot of love. And he’s telling Nova about how he slept with a lot of women.
I legit wanted Nova to, all of a sudden, speak and tell Taylor “Wow, you’re a toxic asshole” and never be around him again.
That, clearly, isn’t how it turned out. But a man can dream.
Froemming: I wrote in my notes once he can speak again, Taylor won’t shut the (REDACTED) up. It’s like someone put a quarter in him or something. Then the apes put Nova into a different cage, which I imagine was a relief for her from Mr. Chatterbox.
Brown: Yeah, Nova is pretty much supposed to be an animal. Animals don’t give a (REDACTED) about your musings, Taylor.
Froemming: Then our hero is brought before the council, where he is not allowed to speak, because humans can’t talk. Zira and her cuck husband are there too, for their crimes of “thinking about things,” which violates the ancient scrolls of Shut The (REDACTED) Up.
Frankly, this felt like a Kangaroo Court!
They even have a moment where Zaius has to back peddle and not call it a trial, since man is below ape and can’t be tried for anything. They also gag Taylor so he can’t speak, which reminded me that pretty much happened to Bobby Seale:
Taylor’s defense is he is a spaceman from another planet, which while true does sound ridiculous. His evidence is they can find Landon, he can back up his crackpot claims.
They have Landon all right. The man was lobotomized by Dr. Zaius!
Brown: Did you groan like I did when, at that trial, the orangutans do the see-hear-speak no evil gestures? Again, this movie is not subtle.
Froemming: Yeah, I mean I get why they did it, but it is not something I enjoyed.
Now with Landon no longer able to corroborate his tale, it seems like Taylor is in a sticky situation.
He does have a slim chance though: Dr. Zaius wants to know where he came from, if he is from the Forbidden Zone and if there are more of him out there. He seems pretty upset by this, the last thing he needs is more talking humans to contradict their religion.
Brown: I think Dr. Zaius may be the only living entity in history that was interested in learning more about Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Thrown back into a cell, Taylor ONCE AGAIN breaks out when he and Zira’s nephew, Lucius, team up to incapacitate the guard.
You would think after MULTIPLE breakouts, Ape City would increase security tenfold. NOPE. This may as well be the city’s anthem.
Taylor, Nova and Lucius meet up with Zira and Cornelius to go to the Forbidden Zone in hopes of clearing Zira and Cornelius of heresy charges. Hasn’t this government already proven to be pretty corrupt, what makes you think that disobeying religious doctrine will be disregarded in hopes of clearing your name? Do the beings in this movie not realize how much deeper they dig the holes for themselves?
Are we sure this wasn’t the screenwriting process?
Froemming: Plus all Zaius needs to do to get public opinion against them is show society Taylor says things like this in public!
They head to a cave where Cornelius had previously found some interesting items proving man may have been in charge of the world at one point. Then Zaius and his hired goons show up to stop them.
They talk him into seeing some evidence that may contradict his views in the cave, where Zaius holds steady that nothing there can prove anything to him. Even some toy doll, there’s probably a reason that thing exists. Probably from the time humans were pets to the apes.
Until the doll is dropped and says “Momma.”
Which I imagine this is what Zaius’ internal reaction was:
Brown: While this discovery is made, gunshots go off outside. Lucius was supposed to stay on guard and because, well, he’s a dumb teenager, that blew up in his face. So now the apes have the cave surrounded and are shooting at Taylor and company. Taylor is able to fight back, but only hits one ape out of, what, 10 shots? You’d think being Charlton Heston and all, he’d ask that his character not be a bad shot but here we are.
Once again, Taylor takes Dr. Zaius hostage and demands a horse with a week’s worth of supplies so he can go make a life for he and Nova elsewhere. The apes begrudgingly get Taylor his things so he says goodbye to his allies. A handshake for Cornelius, a handshake and a funny comment of “Don’t trust anyone over 30” to Lucius. Then, Taylor KISSES ZIRA ON THE MOUTH like the asshole he is.
Dude, her fiance is RIGHT THERE! I don’t care if I think Cornelius is a cuck, that shit isn’t cool, man!
Froemming: That’s what makes it thrilling to them, Brown!
Brown: Keep your kinks in the bedroom!
Froemming: Anyway, Taylor and Nova ride off beyond the Forbidden Zone, and Zaius warns him he may find things he may not want to know.
I love how, given how this ends, the movie lets me — to an extent — understand why Zaius does not want the truth uncovered.
See, Taylor is riding along and he sees something. Something he probably did not want to see. The Statue of Liberty is jutting out of the sand.
Oh my God, he was wrong. It was Earth, all along. I guess they finally made a monkey ….
Brown: Yes, they finally made a monkey…
TOGETHER: YES THEY FINALLY. MADE. A. MONKEY. OUT OF HIM!
WE LOVE YOU, DR. ZAIUS!
Froemming: And with that, let’s head to recommendations!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Oh yeah, this was a great movie.
Brown: This is a sci-fi classic for a reason. Give it a watch and try your best not to hear Phil Hartman sing the entire time.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: