Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Planet of the Apes

As a kid, "Planet of the Apes" was my introduction to fanaticism (a few years before Lincoln, even).  I don't remember when I first saw the films, as I was only 2 when the original movie aired in 1968, with the 4 sequels to follow annually beginning in 1970.  But somewhere in my youth, before the TV series began in 1974, POTA appeared before my eyes.  And I was a changed boy because of it.

Let me first admit here that I am not really into science fiction; I'm a history buff.  I like knowing that the people who interest me really did walk the earth, that events really happened, and that places really existed.  I like "Star Wars" as much as the next guy, but my dorkdom is firmly rooted in non-fiction.  So looking back and knowing what I know about myself, I have to wonder what it was about POTA that flicked a little switch for me.

In any event, I was hooked.  I had the POTA Hallowe'en costume, lunchbox, trading cards, several posters, action figures, treehouse set, records, board game, coloring book, and probably much more stuff that I've forgotten about.  I. Couldn't. Get. Enough.

There were some things about POTA that I knew I did not like, even as a kid of, say, 8 years old: 
  1. I didn't like Charlton Heston at all.  I liked his character, Taylor, okay but I didn't like the actor (I've always been a critic).  To me, he always looked thirsty.  I dunno, it was a just a feeling I had as a kid; a feeling validated when Heston became an outspoken proponent of the NRA.  ("..from my cold dead hands," indeed.)
  2. I initially didn't like "Beneath the Planet of the Apes", the franchise's second movie.  As a kid, I guess I didn't really understand it, what with mutated humans, the bomb and all.  But as an adult, I've come to understand it.
  3. It took me several years to realize that the chimp babies were switched in "Escape from the Planet of the Apes".  Like, maybe, 30 years.  It wasn't shown; the viewer had to draw a conclusion.  (I never said I was quick.)
  4. Most recently, I have not been a fan of the new POTA movies.  I was very eager to see the Tim Burton remake in 2001, but was left disappointed.  As a result, I've not seen the other two which followed.
When the POTA series aired for one season in 1974, I watched it every Friday night from my favorite place on earth, my grandmother's house.  This was a big deal because the show was on CBS and she almost never turned the channel from NBC.  It helps to be the favorite.

And today, my devotion remains intact if not more sedate.  I now own the box set of the original 5 movies, and Kevin created a piece of art using Cornelius (a main protagonist) as the centerpiece.  And while POTA has not been as consuming as Mr. Lincoln, it has gone where no other SciFi has gone before in my life.  So much so, that even today, I can remember Cornelius's recitation of the 23rd Scroll at the end of the original film:

"Beware the beast man, for he is the devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport, or lust or greed. Yes, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him. Drive him back into his jungle lair: For he is the harbinger of death."