Classic Film Scene: Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes

Great films appear every year and with them are potentially classic scenes that may become more famous than the film itself. The shower scene in Psycho, the chariot race in Ben Hur, the chest bursting moment in Alien, and the opera music sounding across the prison yard in The Shawshank Redemption are just some of the examples of the classic celluloid moments that we may be familiar with even if we’ve never seen the film. I’ll be sharing my favourite film scenes, some you will know others may be unfamiliar, but hopefully they’ll be moments you enjoy as much as I do.

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Planet of the ApesFranklin J Schaffner’s adaptation of the 1963 novel, Planet of the Apes, by Pierre Boulle is one of the most enduring sci-fi films ever made and notable for some truly iconic moments. Over 40 years old Planet of the Apes has stood up well to the test of time. It spawned four sequels, one I’d rather not mention for health reasons (the second one if you really must know), a TV series, and a later revisiting by Tim Burton in 2001, which was quite good but not worthy of holding a candle to the masterpiece that is the original.

The film begins with four astronauts who are eighteen months into a mission in space when their ship crashes in a lake on an unknown planet. Having left the Earth in the 1970s the crew find the year is now 3978 AD. The astronauts, Taylor (Charlton Heston), Landon (Robert Gunner) and Dodge (Jeff Burton) find their companion Stewart (Dianne Stanley) dead but have to quickly abandon their sinking ship. Exploring the mysterious world the trio find a race resembling humans that are mute while the dominant species are apes divided into the military gorillas, the governmental orang-utans and the hard working chimpanzees. While Dodge is killed early in the film, Landon is knocked unconscious while Taylor is shot in the throat and left unable to speak while his wound heals. The film remains with Taylor as he’s held captive by scientist, Zira (Kim Hunter), who takes an interest in his advanced ways, mimicking others and trying to speak, unlike the other humans. Zira’s archaeologist fiancé, Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) becomes another supporter of Taylor’s. After finally getting his voice back with the unforgettable line, “Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape,” Taylor faces a biased trial, spearheaded by the authoritative Dr Zaius (Maurice Evans) which leads to Taylor facing a lobotomy, a fate his friend Landon suffers to silence him. Zira who champions Taylor as unique faces a ruined career while Cornelius puts forward arguments from his own archaeological discoveries of a species that preceded the apes as dominant, leaving Dr Zaius ready to disgrace the couple. Cornelius and Zira help Taylor escape but he insists on bringing Nova (Linda Harrison), a native woman on the planet that Zira intended Taylor to mate with. The group makes for the Forbidden Zone where Cornelius takes them to an excavation site he worked on before the authorities stopped him in his progress.

The film concludes with Dr Zaius arriving at the coast with a force of gorillas. Taylor takes him hostage and through examination of the excavation site there is considerable proof of a home amidst the ruins, that of a human. The discovery of a talking human doll leaves Dr Zaius’ emphasis on ancient ape teachings as gospel in tatters and he is left to admit of his knowledge of man preceding the apes and how they ruined the earth before ruining themselves. Taylor and Nova take their leave of the group but Dr Zaius warns Taylor he won’t like what truth awaits him. The end scene sees Taylor and Nova on horseback working along the coastline, the music chillingly building up to one of cinema’s greatest ever moments. The camera rests above something that stops Taylor in his tracks, forcing him to dismount and sink into despair. Taylor falls to his knees and shouts, “You maniacs! You blew it up! God damn you all to hell.” Nova looks up at the cause of Taylor’s sorrow and soon the camera angle changes so we see the back of Taylor, hunched over on the beach while before him is the Statue of Liberty, submerged in the sand. The mysterious planet we’ve enjoyed visiting in this landmark film has been Earth all along. It is a truly stunning and unforgettable ending.

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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