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DID YOU READ

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

Synopsis:

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

government.

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?

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“Beneath the Planet of the Apes” (1970)

Directed by Ted Post

Synopsis:

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]

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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