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20th Century Fox presents
Planet of the Apes: The Legacy Collection (1968-1998)

Taylor: A planet where apes evolved from men? There's got to be an answer.
Dr. Zaius: Don't look for it Taylor. You may not like what you find.

- Charlton Heston, Maurice Evans

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: March 27, 2006

Stars: Roddy McDowall, Charlton Heston, Maurice Evans, Kim Hunter, James Franciscus, Bradford Dillman, Don Murray, Severn Darden, Paul Williams
Other Stars: James Daly, James Whitmore, Linda Harrison, Paul Richards, Victor Buono, James Gregory, Jeff Corey, Natalie Trundy, Thomas Gomez, Eric Braeden, William Windom, Sal Mineo, Ricardo Montalban, Lew Ayres, John Huston
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner, Ted Post, Don Taylor, J. Lee Thompson, David Comtois

Manufacturer: Deluxe Digital Studios, DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 10h:12m:00s
Release Date: March 28, 2006
UPC: 024543231332
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ A-B+B+ C+

DVD Review

I'm not here to sell you on the Planet of the Apes. You either know the film by now, or you don't. If you don't know it, aside from recommending that you start by watching more movies, just take my advice and run out to buy this set. It's fairly inexpensive, you get six discs, it's an iconic set of films, and the original is a brilliant piece of sci-fi fun.

The original Planet of the Apes—with a scenery-chewing Charlton Heston gritting his teeth in a "madhouse" world—was one of those seminal movie moments for me as a youngster. Few films have ever matched the excitement I felt sitting in the Normal Theater as a popcorn-munching 8 year old, stunned into silence during the now famous final scene on the beach as Chuck Heston does his whole "damn you all to hell" speech.

The subsequent sequels—all pitting Man vs. Ape as our evolutionary paths cross and the future gets darn ugly (at least for us humans)—thrilled me to no end as a kid, and I wasn't even looking at the parallels to what was going on in the real world. I dug the gentle charm of Roddy McDowall as Cornelius—and later as his slightly scarier son Caesar—and even as the series went politically dark during the fourth installment (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes), I was strapped in and loving it. Bomb worshippers. Gorilla warriors. Face-peeling mutants. Chimp revolutionaries, Kindly circus owners. John Huston as an orangutan. These films had it all.

The runaway success of the 1968 original led to four theatrical sequels (Beneath the.., Escape from..., Conquest of... and Battle for... and this new "Legacy Collection" presents all five films in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The thing to remember is that all of these have been released in the past, in varying versions, so a set like this only really has value if you want that longer cut of Battle for..., with its additional 10 minutes of footage, though as the weakest film of the lot it's almost a mixed blessing. Again, good news for purists, not so critical for most everyone else, or those with the Evolution set. But if you've been lazy, then this modestly priced set can fill an simian void in your collection.

There's a lot of Planet of the Apes material out there, and with the arrival of The Ultimate DVD Collection with Ape Head Packaging release, it sort of makes this comparatively simple six-disc of the five original films plus the two-hour documentary seem a little staid. Unlike that obscenely cool ape head set, here there's no Burton remake, no television series to be found. Instead, it's the stuff that spawned all of that, the five loosely connected stories, each made with ever decreasing budgets, struggling to daisychain apocalyptic plot points together between films as the studio demand for a followup came down the pipe. Some of the script meandering is dreadful, and I don't believe anyone can explain properly how the end of Beneath the... and the beginning of Escape from... remotely make sense. I mean, I know they try to explain it, but man, o man, it's sloppy.

All I cared about was that talking monkeys had guns, on Earth, in the future, and even if Linda Harrison was running around in a tiny outfit, things looked a little dicey. And I liked it. At its roots, this is classic sci-fi material with more than a hint of relevant social commentary, and certainly a film series that has carved out a permanent spot in pop culture. I'll assume for a moment you know the gist of Planet of the Apes (again, the original, not the Burton retooling), but don't worry, I'll forgive if you can't immediately recall the plot points of every film in the series. You're not alone there. I'll bypass on pontificating at any great length about the plot and its not very subtle similarity to the turbulent social and political climate of the late 1960s. I think we all get that, to some degree, but it's reassuring to know that one can still watch these films as simple, pure entertainment. I know as a kid I wasn't looking for deep meaning, because it was talking monkeys with guns (and ok, there was Linda Harrison), and that was enough for me.

The sixth disc in this set is the terrific 1998 American Movie Classics documentary, Behind the Planet of the Apes, and I'd wager that most POTA buffs already own this, but it is really the highlight of the collection (next to the original film). Hosted by the late man-who-will-always-be-a-chimp Roddy McDowall, this more than two-hour look at the history, makeup, and studio pressure (as well as ever-decreasing budgets), is fascinating, full of great stories and rare footage, such as early makeup tests, etc.

To buy, or not to buy, that is the question. I think this set is for lazy Apes fans who let the other releases pass them by, so you know if that's you or not. The prints are all anamorphic widescreen, the audio mixes are 5.1 (though hardly necessary), and the price is nice. No ape head packaging, but that's the breaks.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes
Anamorphicyesyes


Image Transfer Review: All five films get the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen treatment, with the additional huzzah of being THX certified. That's all well and good, and for the original the print looks to be the same one ported over from the anniversary release, itself a dramatic improvement over the previous release. Grain is a recurring bugaboo on all five, but print damage is minimal. Even the darkest film of the lot (Conquest of...), with its heavy, sometimes muddy black levels, looks good.

The documentary disc is presented in 1.33:1, as it was originally broadcast. Colors look pleasant, the various archival clips look presentable, and overall the presentation looks better than it did when it was broadcast on AMC, at least to these eyes.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoSpanish, French, Englishyes
DS 2.0French, Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: It's THX, so it must be better than my waxy ears can ascertain. Right? The original film gets the glory treatment here—though it's the same choices ported over from the 35th Anniversary Edition—with English DTS and 5.1 surround tracks, in addition to French 2.0 surround and Spanish mono. The remaining four films in the series get English 5.1 mixes, as well as English and French mono, and the 1998 documentary is presented in 2.0 English surround.

And while I applaud the 5.1 Dolby Digital surround options (available here for all five films), the mixes still are a little flat, lacking any type of natural, deep bass. Voice quality, similarly, lacks a deeper resonance, but this isn't uncommon of late 1960s/early 1970s features.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 150 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
25 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Planet Of The Apes (2001)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Natalie Trundy, John Chambers, Jerry Goldsmith
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
6 Discs
6-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
  2. Text Commentary
Extras Review: The six discs come housed in a thin cardboard slipcase.

Only the Planet of the Apes disc has any extras to speak of, and those were already found on the anniversary release. It's a pair of audio commentaries, one decent (composer Jerry Goldsmith), the other dreadful (Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Natalie Trundy, John Chambers). Composer tracks are kind of rare, and perhaps that's why I liked this one (on principle), because even though Goldsmith isn't the most riveting speaker, his discussion of the creation of the innovative score is nothing if not interesting. But the other track is a horrible mess, cobbled together from interviews, and there are so many silent gaps I thought for while I had a faulty disc. A third commentary, a text-based one from author Eric Greene, is the salvation here, and despite the celebrity weight of the participants on the standard commentary tracks, this read-it-yourself version is the most informative.

Beneath the... has a brief photo gallery, and all of the rest of the discs feature trailers for all of the POTA films, including the Burton version.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

This isn't quite as nerdy cool as the Planet of the Apes: The Ultimate DVD Collection with Ape Head Packaging, but at $100 cheaper it's more of a manageable buy for most folks. Less than $40 snags you all five Apes films in 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen, plus the excellent 1998 documentary, all inside a somewhat flimsy cardboard case decked out with some nice artwork.

Recommended.

 


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