Blu-ray Disc Review
Release Date: AVAILABLE NOW
Starring: Charlton Heston (George Taylor), Roddy McDowall (Cornelius), Kim Hunter (Zira), Maurice Evans (Dr. Zaius)
Screenplay by: Michael Wilson & Rod Serling
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
Somewhere in the Universe, there must be something better than man!
Film legend Charlton Heston takes on the apes in the film that took audiences by surprise. Based on a novel by Pierre Boulle, the film creates an alternate reality, a time when humans are treated as apes and apes represent the advanced intellectual race, the film was hailed as being both entertaining as well as influential on the science fiction genre. It’s heavily political and religious as it mirrors so many beliefs of the human race. Our ideas of human superiority, society and class, and the animal kingdom below us, are put into the hands and minds of the apes while man is considered to be the lowly animal. The conflict between religion/faith and science is thrust forward as the main theme; scientists try to defend and prove their hypothesis, and the all-knowing faithful do what they can keep society in line with the established belief claiming all other belief as heresy.
A team of U.S.A. astronauts are returning home after a 700-year journey through space where technology allowed time to not alter their lives. But the return home fails as they find themselves on a foreign planet where men are the lowly animals and apes are at the top of chain. Unable to speak because of a throat injury, Taylor (Heston) becomes the lone astronaut who is bound by the apes by collars and cages; he is the animal. But there are two scientists, Zira and Cornelius, who believe he is a special specimen and study him. Their findings are dismissed by the head of ape civilization, Dr. Zaius, and it is this challenge between science and religion that will determine Taylor’s fate in their society.
VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5
The HD image is fantastic as it reveals the various quality levels of quality in the image. Most shots deliver excellent detail; rocks in the distance, blades of grass, and the reflecting beads of water rolling off the bodies of the astronauts as they refresh in the waterfalls (that one is for the ladies). In fact, the beards on the men don’t even look real anymore as I could almost see the glue marks. Colours are not pumped up; I found them very natural. In HD, inconsistencies are noticed shot to shot, so don’t be surprised to see it blurry sometimes. There are minor artefacts such as little black specs and a bit of grittiness, but nothing that stands out. Grain is intact and doesn’t appear wiped out. I did not notice any compression artefacts.
AUDIO QUALITY: 4/5
The film has a 5.1 remix although it’s still heavily mono. Dialogue, music, sound effects, etc. are all kept intact. There is a bit of stereo spread among the front channels and the surrounds remained quiet most of the time. I’d still label this as a mono recording and that’s fine by me. The audio is clean, free of heavy distortion, and the enjoyment of the film wasn’t hindered. Those with good center channels will enjoy it more. If you have a small tinny one…well, then that will be the sound of this soundtrack. On my Dunlavy HRCC-I (a virtually full range center), the bass is deep, midrange is not muffled, and the highs are not sibilant. Overall, a nice experience.
TACTILE FUN!!: 0/5
TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: OFF
SPECIAL FEATURES: 4/5
You’ll go ape over the special features loaded on this disc. This could be in both a good and bad way, depending on your point of view. Two audio commentaries are included, one featuring actors Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter, and Natalie Trundy, and make-up artist John Chambers. The second is with composer Jerry Goldsmith. I found the first commentary too much of a patch-job. What is said is interesting (and it’s the three participants reflecting back on their participation with the film), but how it’s put together it just didn’t always work. My first complaint is that there are too many moments, and extended moments, of silence. This didn’t keep my interest in this track too long. Secondly, it’s clear that all three people are not in the same room at the same time so the result is a bit of a hack and patch, tying the commentaries together so they somewhat relate in topic. I didn’t catch any words that were related to what was happening on screen, so my assumption is that these participants were asked to say a few words without actually watching the film in front of them. It’s a bit of a disconnect when comparing it to other commentaries I’ve heard. But if that’s the best that could be done, (and considering the age of the participants), I’ll accept it. The Jerry Goldsmith commentary also seems to suffer the same. Even though he’s alone on the track, there are obvious edits where he should have taken a breath. Again, the commentary is filled with silences, although it appears Goldsmith is watching the film. Why so quiet? Why not talk more about his music? The bare minimum seems to have been given with this film.
IN THE END...
The Planet of the Apes is available as a 40th Year Evolution Blu-ray Collection featuring all five films with HD bonus materials. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes comes with eight additional minutes of footage. The box is packaged nicely and comes with a book, although I do not have one on hand to check it out. I’m sure Fox has put much effort into this set to make it the best Apes set available. I’m surprised to see such a collection being offered by Fox, but I’m very happy with Fox’s progress and look forward to seeing more high quality releases in the future.
November 09, 2008.