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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Planet of the Apes - 40-Year Evolution

Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

    Executive Producer



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  • Real Name:Cameron Yee
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Posted November 30 2008 - 04:10 PM

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Planet of the Apes: 40-Year Evolution
Release Date: Available now (original release date November 4, 2008)
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
MSRP: $139.99

Note: This review includes major portions of Michael Osadciw's write-up of the "Planet of the Apeshere.

"Planet of the Apes: 40-Year Evolution" contains the Blu-Ray releases of the five "Apes" films, produced between 1968 and 1973, along with a 200-page hardcover book on the history of the franchise. Though well constructed and nicely printed, the package's use of silicon hubs to hold the discs is problematic. Though they feel more secure than the foam hubs found on releases like the James Bond and "The Omen" collections, attaching and removing the discs is not straightforward, requiring the user to twist, not push, the discs on to the hubs. The other down side to the packaging is the size. Though its height doesn't restrict it from being stored on standard DVD shelves, it is quite wide (11 inches) and will take up precious storage space, making it more at home on a deep bookshelf or coffee table than with one's movie collection. Ultimately I see owners moving the discs to more traditional optical media cases and storing the rest elsewhere.

As far as the quality of the discs themselves, video and audio transfers for the films are uniformly very good. Special features thin out after the inaugural film, but each film gets a decent, short documentary, an isolated score and various image galleries. Taken as a whole I think most fans will be pleased by the depth and breadth of the disc-based offerings as well as the fine hardcover book that is included.

Overall Score (not averaged): 4/5
The Feature Films: 4/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 4.5/5

Continue reading for details on each title in the collection.



Planet of the Apes
Year: 1968
Rating: G
Running Time: 1h52m

MAIN FEATURE
Video1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1
AudioDTS HD Master Audio: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: English Mono, Spanish Mono, French 5.1
SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean


Reviewed by Michael Osadciw.

The Feature: 4/5
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 (Charlton 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 (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy Macdowell), who believe he is a special specimen and study him. Their findings are dismissed by the head of ape civilization, Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans), 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 artifacts.


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.


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 McDowall, 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.

A text commentary by Eric Greene, author of Planet of the Apes as An American Myth gives consistent in-depth information about the "Apes" films and is much better than the audio commentaries.

Science of the Apes BonusView (38m53s, SD): When activated, video pops up on screen giving information not relating to the "Apes" film, but to the science of space exploration and evolution. There are a variety of guests who speak of this, mostly professors and scientists. This can also be viewed as its own or as a “play all” function.

Beyond the Forbidden Zone adventure game tests you with trivia as you watch the film. Get the answer correct and you move around the board game.

Public Service Announcement from ANSA (6m06s, HD): A nice piece of ANSA’s plan of sending men to the nearest star 4 light years again. This piece is a springboard for the astronauts’ trip into deep space…

Evolution of the Apes (23m37s, HD): Boulle’s pessimistic novel, The Planet of the Apes, is explored.

Impact of the Apes (11m39s, HD): How the film impacted so many people’s lives.

Behind the Planet of the Apes documentary with interactive mode is over two hours long. You can watch the documentary on its own or you can play along with the prompts on the screen to learn more information about what the documentary is talking about. Very cool.

Behind the Planet of the Apes Promo

The Archive of the Apes features loads of information: Original Makeup Test with Edward G. Robinson; Roddy McDowall’s on-set footage; dailies and outtakes; N.A.T.O. presentation; vintage, Planet of the Apes featurette; teaser, trailer, and original theatrical trailer. Phew!

The Galleries of the Apes features an interactive pressbook, notes on advertising, lobby cards, makeup, costume and design, props, and behind-the-scenes stills.



Title Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5



Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Year: 1970
Rating: G
Running Time: 1h35m

MAIN FEATURE
Video1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1
AudioDTS HD Master Audio: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: English Mono, Spanish Mono, French 2.1
SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean


The Feature: 2.5/5
Another ANSA space craft has crash landed on the Planet of the Apes with an astronaut named Brent (James Franciscus) its sole survivor. The ship was on a rescue mission for the previous vessel captained by Taylor (Charlton Heston) and, having followed the same trajectory, it has met with the same temporal fate. Though lost and alone, it's not long before Brent meets Nova (Linda Harrison), who is returning from an inexplicable experience that has lead to Taylor's disappearance. When the two return to the City of Apes to find Cornelius (David Watson, subbing for Roddy McDowall) and Zira (Kim Hunter), they discover the military fomenting a war on the assumed-human inhabitants in the Forbidden Zone. Strange occurences in that area and the existence of a thinking and speaking human having threatened the apes' way of life and all they believe in. Though it's true there are people living in the Forbidden Zone, what they are and the weapons at their disposal will be more than the apes could have imagined. Despite being the scourge of the dominant species, Brent and Taylor may ultimately be the planet's only hope.

Prior to "Star Wars," making a sequel to a top level film was unheard of; sequels were the product of "B unit" crews churning out installments for series like Charlie Chan. Though "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" is remarkable for venturing into uncharted territory, uncertainty and trepidation tend to show through in almost every aspect of the production. Well over half of the movie feels like either a retread or a knock off of the first film, down to the new lead's unmistakable resemblance to Taylor. It's as if the creators feared any deviation from the first film would jeopardize the second's chances of success. It's not until we venture underground and meet the inhabitants of the Forbidden Zone that there's any sense of something fresh, but the premise is so goofy that it's a perfect example of "too little, too late." And though we're not expecting much of an ending by that point, nothing prepares us for the shockingly abrupt conclusion - it would be hilarious if it weren't so damned grim. Yet surprisingly, "Beneath..." was a box office success, restoring money into Fox's ailing coffers and paving the way for three additional films in the "Apes" franchise.


Video Quality: 4/5
Encoded in AVC, the film is correctly framed at 2.35:1 and free of edge halos and blemishes. Grain structure is nicely preserved with no obvious signs of noise reduction. Fine object detail and texture are very good - more so than with the first film - though there is still an occasional soft or fuzzy shot. Black levels are very good, though shadow detail can suffer a bit in the darker settings with some noticeable black crush.


Audio Quality: 3/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is mostly front focused with some nominal panning and directionality between the left and right speakers. Surrounds get some action early on but largely go unused until entry into the underground lair of the Forbidden Zone inhabitants. Dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible, but at times can seem a bit low compared to the score. LFE is effectively non-existent.

The 224 kbps mono option lacks some of the expansiveness and detail of the lossless track, but some may find it preferable.


Special Features: 3/5

Lawgiver Introduction: A computer animated bust of the Lawgiver provides a brief synopsis of the film.

Isolated Score Track 5.1: In DTS HD Master Audio format.

"From Alpha to Omega: Building A Sequel" (22m10s, HD): The candid documentary, narrated by James Brolin, covers the troubled inception and production of the film, featuring interviews with director Ted Post, actress Linda Harrison, and other members of the cast and crew.

Theatrical Trailer (3m10s, SD)

Galleries: The first gallery, "The Ape News," is a reproduction of a promotional item, designed like a newspaper, that has articles about the events depicted in the film, written from the apes' point-of-view. In a sign of fair treatment, the Forbidden Zone dwellers have a few articles of their own on the back. Most of the writings can be selected for reading.

The "Interactive Pressbook" gallery takes a similar, user-selectable approach to the multi-page press release created for media coverage of the production.

The other galleries cover advertising materials, lobby cards and behind-the-scenes photos from production.

D-Box: For those with the D-Box motion simulation device.


Title Recap

The Feature: 2.5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3/5

A problematic sequel gets a very good video transfer, decent audio and a basic, but informative, set of special features.



Escape from the Planet of the Apes
Year: 1971
Rating: G
Running Time: 1h37m

MAIN FEATURE
Video1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1
AudioDTS HD Master Audio: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: English Mono, Spanish Mono, French Mono
SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean


The Feature: 3.5/5
When a battered space craft turns up off the coast of 1973 Los Angeles, it appears that three of the long lost astronauts have found a way home. But to everyone's surprise the ship's occupants are not men but apes! Specifically the doctors Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), Zira (Kim Hunter), and Milo (Sal Mineo), who somehow managed to get Taylor's ship running in time to escape the Earth's destruction. But it's out of the frying pan and into the fire as the trio now have to explain their existence to a society that can barely conceive of its demise, much less its eventual domination by another species. Though the apes are initially welcomed with open arms, it's not long before human fear and suspicion take hold, forcing them to fight not just for their personal survival but for the survival of their kind.

Contrasting sharply to the grim and pessimistic conclusion of the previous film, the first half of "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" takes a comedic, family-friendly tone, playing up Cornelius and Zira's fish-out-of-water (ape-out-of-jungle?) experience. They crack wise, get clothed in suits and dresses, and take bubble baths at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. But as the humans' more base instincts come out, the film gets darker and more allegorical, touching upon everything from civil rights issues to notions of messianic destiny. By this third film, viewers should be used to the franchises's penchant for surprising, almost brutal, endings; even so there's little that prepares a person for the heartbreaking ending and thought-provoking epilogue. Though the second film was pretty much a misfire (despite its financial success), this third installment gets things right by offering something fresh while staying true to the original's spirit.


Video Quality: 4.5/5
Encoded in AVC, the film is correctly framed at 2.35:1 and free of edge halos and blemishes. The generally bright and evenly lit cinematography gives the picture a decidedly "TV movie" quality but as such offers few challenges for the transfer. Grain structure is nicely preserved with no obvious signs of noise reduction. Fine object detail and texture are very good, though there is still an occasional soft or fuzzy shot. Black levels and shadow detail are also very good, holding up well in the handful of night scenes.


Audio Quality: 3.5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is again front focused, though surround channel activity is a bit more pronounced with some helicopter flyovers in the first scene and general support for the quintessential '70s score. Dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible and sounds well balanced with the other channels. LFE is effectively non-existent, though the low end has nice depth and fullness.

The 224 kbps mono option lacks some of the expansiveness and detail of the lossless track, but some may find it preferable.


Special Features: 3/5

Lawgiver Introduction: A computer animated bust of the Lawgiver provides a brief synopsis of the film.

Isolated Score Track 5.1: In DTS HD Master Audio format. The track is somewhat unusual in that it includes the engineer's track announcements.

"The Secret Behind the Escape" (16m04s, HD): The documentary, narrated by James Brolin, provides some analysis of the film's story and themes, along with providing nice profiles of the film's two lead actors.

"Don Taylor Directs..." (7m46s, SD): Archival, behind-the-scenes footage from the filming of the final scene.

Theatrical Trailer (3m02s, SD)

Advertising Gallery: Images of print ads and the variety of domestic and international posters.

Behind-the-Scenes Gallery: Images from production and promotional shoots.

D-Box: For those with the D-Box motion simulation device.


Title Recap

The Feature: 3.5/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

A much improved third installment gets similar treatment as its predecessor, getting very good video, decent audio and a basic, but thorough, set of special features.



Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Year: 1972
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1h27m

MAIN FEATURE
Video1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1
AudioDTS HD Master Audio: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: English Mono, Spanish Mono, French Mono
SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean


The Feature: 3.5/5
Twenty years have passed since the birth of Cornelius and Zira's child, Caesar (Roddy McDowall). During this time history has unfolded as Cornelius described. A plague has killed off all the cats and dogs, which has lead to humans domesticating apes as pets and, within eight years time, turning those pets into slaves. Circus owner Armando (Ricardo Montalban) has kept Caesar safe from both the world and the knowledge of his species' plight, but a trip to the city finally opens Caesar's eyes to humanity's cruelty. With such oppression, revolution is required if not assured. Though Caesar is the only ape with the power of speech, the message from all of apekind is clear - they want their freedom and they won't take "no" for an answer.

With its obvious parallels to the story of Moses, "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" seems rather familiar and, knowing what we know, almost perfunctory. But one could argue that was the case the moment we went back in time with the third film, making all the successive "Apes" movies more about the journey than the destination. Helping make that journey compelling is another exemplary performance by McDowall, though the progression from naif to revolutionary feels a bit too swift. Still, there's nothing unconvincing about Caesar's final, passionate diatribe. It's on the power of those words alone that the fate of humanity is sealed.

The release contains the original, unrated cut of the film, which restores the aggressive tone of Caesar's final words and includes more brutal moments of violence.


Video Quality: 4/5
Encoded in AVC, the film is correctly framed at 2.35:1 and free of edge halos and blemishes. Grain structure is nicely preserved with no obvious signs of noise reduction. Fine object detail and texture are very good, though there are some obvious source related issues with softness and focus. Black levels are deep and inky, but there is considerable black crush through most of the film. The image also shows occasional halos along high contrast edges.


Audio Quality: 3/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is mostly front focused with some nominal panning and directionality between the left and right speakers. Surrounds provide some support for the score and some ambient effects. Dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible. LFE is effectively non-existent.

The 224 kbps mono option lacks some of the expansiveness and detail of the lossless track, but some may find it preferable.


Special Features: 3/5

Lawgiver Introduction: A computer animated bust of the Lawgiver provides a brief synopsis of the film.

Isolated Score Track 5.1: In DTS HD Master Audio format.

"Riots and Revolutions: Confronting the Times" (20m42s, HD): The documentary, narrated by James Brolin, provides some analysis of the film's story and themes, paying particular attention to the parallels between the film and American race relations. The piece also goes into greater detail about McDowall's life and career and Director J. Lee Thompson's methods.

"A Look Behind the Planet of the Apes" (13m42s, SD): Archival, retrospective documentary about the "Apes" franchise.

"J. Lee Thompson Directs..." (1m11s, SD): Archival, behind-the-scenes footage from the hairdresser scene.

Theatrical Trailer (2m07s, SD)

Galleries: The first gallery, "Future News," is a reproduction of a promotional item, designed like a newspaper, that has articles about the events depicted in the film. Most of the writings can be selected for reading.

The "Interactive Pressbook" gallery takes a similar, user-selectable approach to the multi-page press release created for media coverage of the production.

The other galleries cover advertising materials, lobby cards and behind-the-scenes photos from production.

D-Box: For those with the D-Box motion simulation device.


Title Recap

The Feature: 3.5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

The fourth installment depicting the uprising of the apes gets decent audio and video treatment and another basic, but thorough, set of special features.



Battle for the Planet of the Apes
Year: 1973
Rating: G
Running Time: 1h36m

MAIN FEATURE
Video1080p high definition 16x9 2.35:1
AudioDTS HD Master Audio: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: English Mono, Spanish Mono, French Mono
SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean


The Feature: 2.5/5
The atomic bomb has dropped. The survivors - both apes and humans - are living side by side in the country. Though the apes are not the humans' masters, humans are not apes' equals either, making for a tenuous peace. Caesar (Roddy McDowall) rules over both species, though a faction of gorillas, lead by General Aldo (Claude Akins), would prefer it be a kingdom solely of apes. Though the two temporarily put aside their differences to fight a common enemy, the simian society's long-term existence will ultimately depend on which ape's philosophy wins out. Will it be peaceful co-existence with humanity or its absolute extermination?

"Battle for the Planet of the Apes" caps the film franchise with a bullet and explosion-filled conclusion, though it also gives viewers a glimpse of a future when apes and humans can live together as equals. While the moment of hope is interesting, it's kind of a chore getting there, the battle scenes feeling slapped together and repetitive and the enemy ultimately anemic. For some, the lack of the typically dark ending probably feels like a disservice to a franchise that has never pulled punches about humanity's fate. But after five years of doom and gloom, it's kind of understandable that the creators would want to end things with a bit more (family friendly) optimism. Regardless, the original "Apes" films had an impressive run and the franchise's overall premise is as compelling today as it was 40 years ago (failed modern remake notwithstanding).

The release contains the extended cut of the film, which adds about 10 minutes to the total run time.


Video Quality: 3.5/5
Encoded in AVC, the film is correctly framed at 2.35:1. Image quality is a mixed bag, though some of the issues appear to be inherent to the source material. In particular, the low light cinematography is unimpressive - too dim and lacking in depth and dimension, though black levels appear deep and stable in the dark environments. Fine object detail and sharpness is variable, close-ups faring better than wide shots, though in general there's a softness to the image that wasn't the case with the other films. Finally, there's noticeable edge halos throughout most of the film.


Audio Quality: 3/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is mostly front focused with some nominal panning and directionality between the left and right speakers. Surrounds provide some support for the score and some ambient effects. Dialogue is consistently clear and intelligible. LFE is effectively non-existent.

The 224 kbps mono option lacks some of the expansiveness and detail of the lossless track, but some may find it preferable.


Special Features: 3/5

Lawgiver Introduction: A computer animated bust of the Lawgiver provides a brief synopsis of the film.

Isolated Score Track 5.1: In DTS HD Master Audio format.

"End of an Epic: The Final Battle" (16m34s, HD): The documentary, narrated by James Brolin, pays particular attention to the evolution of the script and the ways the production dealt with budget constraints.

Theatrical Trailer (2m33s, SD)

Galleries: The first gallery, "San Simian Sentinel," is a reproduction of a promotional item, designed like a newspaper, that has articles about the events depicted in the film. Most of the writings can be selected for reading.

The "Interactive Pressbook" gallery takes a similar, user-selectable approach to the multi-page press release created for media coverage of the production.

The other galleries cover advertising materials and behind-the-scenes photos from production.

D-Box: For those with the D-Box motion simulation device.


Title Recap

The Feature: 2.5/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 2.5/5

The fifth installment, showing the early struggles of a simian-human society, gets decent audio and video treatment and another basic, but thorough, set of special features.
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