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Those Damn Dirty Apes: Our Guide to 40 Years of “Planet of the Apes,” Part 1

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By Matt Singer

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of one of the most well-remembered, metaphorically rich, penny-pinching, bare-chested, temporally impossible movie series of all time, IFC News looks back at “Planet of the Apes” and all its ape brethren. Stay tuned for installments two and three in the upcoming weeks.

Please note: Most “Planet of the Apes” films have a “shocking” twist that everyone at this point already knows. However, if you have somehow extricated yourself from forty years of pop culture references, by all means be wary of SPOILERS ahead.

02112008_planetoftheapes2.jpg“Planet of the Apes” (1968)
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner


Three Earth astronauts from the 1970s crash land on a mysterious planet

in the year 3978 after thousands of years in suspended animation. After

days roaming a desert wasteland they stumble on a primitive, non-verbal

human civilization and then a society of intelligent apes. Captain

Taylor (Charlton Heston) is captured by the apes; within their Ape

City, he encounters the kind scientists Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and

Zira (Kim Hunter) and the powerful and paranoid Dr. Zaius (Maurice

Evans). Cornelius and Zira befriend Taylor and help him escape his

captivity. Taylor and his chosen mate, Nova (Linda Harrison), ride off

into the sunset of the Ape Planet’s “Forbidden Zone”…

Until! …they chance upon one of the most iconic final shots in

all of cinema, the ruins of the Statue of Liberty. A crestfallen Taylor

realizes he is, in fact, on Earth, one that has apparently been

destroyed by an unrevealed cataclysm. Drag.

Metaphors of the Apes: The elaborate ape makeup, by John

Chambers — who was rewarded with an Honorary Academy Award for his

impressive efforts — is all there to quite literally mask a story

about racial prejudice in 1960s America. Obviously the apes enslave the

humans (who, in an ironic role reversal, are all white-skinned) but

even within the simian society there is friction and persecution; Zira,

for instance, notes how Dr. Zaius, an orangutan, looks down his nose at

the chimpanzees, who are disallowed from taking part in the ape


People Forget: that Charlton Heston’s Taylor is a total dick.

Granted, he’s treated poorly by Dr. Zaius and the rest of the apes, but

that’s no excuse for the poor manners he frequently displays throughout

the film. He flies off the handle with alarming speed; any bit of bad

news is liable to send Heston into a sweaty, profane frenzy (“You cut

up his brain, you BLOODY BABOON!”). The fact that the embittered Taylor

is an astronaut, that great symbol of 1960s optimism and heroism, only

enhances his status as a surprisingly dislikable protagonist, one we

often side with on the basis of species loyalty alone. That said…

Charlton Heston’s a Friggin’ Badass:

You have to love a movie star who isn’t afraid to look like a douche.

Taylor isn’t just brutal to his enemies; he’s not even civil to his

friends! When his fellow astronaut plants a symbolic flag in the

Forbidden Zone, the cynical Taylor — who took this doomed mission to

try to find something in the universe “better than man” after becoming

disillusioned with society — mockingly laughs at the gesture. I’m

talking cackling-like-a-madman laughter. Later, when Cornelius tells

him to stop holding Dr. Zaius at gunpoint, the grumpy human shoves him

aside and yells “Shut up!” (despite the fact that Cornelius has risked

his own freedom to give Taylor his). Cornelius, someone should have

told you: nobody messes with Chuck Heston when he’s got a rifle.

After 40 Years, It’s Easy To Seem Dated:

Cornelius and Zira’s nephew Lucius (Lou Wagner) gets to spout all sorts

of hilarious youth movement slogans, as if Ape City had its very own

Haight-Ashbury. “How are you feeling?” Taylor asks him after the final

battle. “Disillusioned!” he replies, “You can’t trust the older

generation!” The racial component of the film still works; the hippie

ape, not so much.

Continuity Boo-Boos: As

author Eric Greene observes in his text commentary track on the “Apes”

DVD, Taylor should have been clued in to the fact that he’s on Earth

well before he spots what’s left of Lady Liberty. Why else would the

apes speak English?


“Beneath the Planet of the Apes” (1970)

Directed by Ted Post


After Taylor disappears into a bad special effect in the Forbidden

Zone, another astronaut from his time conveniently crash lands on the

Planet of the Apes looking for him. Our new hero, Brent (James

Franciscus) hooks up with Nova, then completes a checklist of Taylor’s

activities from the first movie: he rides horseback with Nova, gets

captured and brought to Ape City, receives help from Zira and Cornelius

(now played by David Watson), loses his clothes, walks around in a

loincloth, receives a bullet wound that requires a bandage, realizes

that a)he’s on a world full of talking gorillas and b)the world is, in

fact, the Earth, and so on. Later, Brent and Nova find the remnants of

New York City in the Forbidden Zone, and along with them, a race of

telepathic mutants who worship a massive nuclear weapon called the

Doomsday Bomb. Our heroes reunite with Taylor and all three escape just

as the ape army, led by Dr. Zaius and General Ursus (James Gregory),

attack the mutants’ lair…

Until! the apes

kill Nova and Brent and mortally wound Taylor. After Dr. Zaius refuses

to help him, Taylor activates the Doomsday Bomb and destroys the entire

world out of spite. Good to see Taylor hasn’t mellowed since the last

“Apes!” After the screen fades to white, a somber narration informs us

that the earth “a green and insignificant planet, is now dead.” And you

thought “The Empire Strikes Back” was a depressing sequel.

Metaphors of the Apes:

“Beneath” largely discards the previous film’s racial component and

instead depicts a twisted version of religious fanaticism. Though the

apes’ religion was discussed in the first picture, here it is given

more screen time, and paired with the mutants and their intensely

creepy bomb-based religion. In a truly disturbing sequence, Brent and

Nova are forced to endure a mutant worship service (“May the blessing

of the bomb almighty, and the fellowship of the holy fallout descend on

us all!”). At the heights of the scene’s delirium, five mutants peel

off their faces, revealing the fact that they all look like Darth Vader

without his mask on, and begin to sing in harmony to their “almighty

and everlasting bomb.” In a movie that is, to that point, mostly a

harmless rehash of its predecessor, this chilling scene portends just

how dark the ending will get.

People Forget:

how much James Franciscus looks like Charlton Heston. The uncanny

resemblance is almost certainly the reason the mediocre actor — whose

convulsions during his mental interrogation by the mutants is downright

Shatnerian — landed the role.

After 40 Years, It’s Easy To Seem Dated:

“Beneath” marks the series’ slow backslide into low-budget hell, and it

already shows in the more elaborate sequences, where extras no longer

wear the full compliment of John Chambers’ makeup and instead try to

sneak by with cheap-looking ape masks. If you freeze-frame the scene

where Ursus delivers his speech to the ape council, you can have a lot

of fun spotting the bad applications. It’s sort of like trying to find

a guy in a crowd with a bad toupee.

Continuity Boo-Boos:

Ooh, boy, there are a lot of them. First, the entire notion that the

government would send a rescue mission to find a ship that’s been

tossed thousands of years into the future is totally preposterous. Even

if Brent found Taylor, what would he do with him? Plus, Brent’s ship

tells him he’s landed in the year 3955, 23 years before Taylor! Most

amusingly, Brent knows to follow Nova because she’s wearing Taylor’s

dog tags. The only problem is Taylor doesn’t wear dog tags in the first

movie and in the flashback scene conveniently added to explain their

existence he nonchalantly pulls them out of his loincloth. So, what,

his loincloth has pockets?

Charlton Heston’s a Friggin’ Badass:

Heston didn’t want to return for another “Apes” and he only agreed on

the condition that his part was limited to about fifteen minutes of

screen time and he got to die so he wouldn’t be asked to come back

again. But apparently that wasn’t assurance enough for Heston that Fox

wouldn’t drag him back if they developed another sequel. So what does

he do? He kills the entire planet along with his character. “It’s

DOOMSDAY! The END of the WORLD!” he sneers at Zaius in a bat-shit

crazed whisper. His final words as Taylor: “Bloody bastard!” You would

have thought there could be no further “Apes” movies, but, as we’ll see

soon, not even Heston could kill this series.

On to Part 2!

[Photos: “Planet of the Apes,” and “Beneath the Planet of the Apes,” Twentieth Century-Fox, 1968 and 1970]



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.