Planet of the Apes (1968)

1h 52m / G / Sci-Fi

In the year 3978, a group of three astronauts crash-land on a distant planet. They soon learn that the planet is much like their own. There they find a world ruled over by intelligent ape creatures, who kill one of the stranded travelers and take the others prisoner into a great ape city. His only remaining compatriot having been given experimental (and torturous) brain surgery, Taylor (Charlton Heston) befriends the apparently-chimpanzee-descended scientists Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) and convinces them to help him escape with Nova, a mute human woman native to this bizarre world. And in escaping, Taylor and Nova find themselves part one of the most famous film endings of all time.

The contemporary audience’s reaction to Planet of the Apes depends quite a bit on whether they can watch with modern eyes or ‘60s ones. The plot is consistently thrilling and thought-provoking, touching on evolution and humans’ place in the universe. John Chambers’s pioneering special effects and prosthetics makeup techniques might show their age, but they earned him a special Academy Award. And a notable cast including Shakespearean actor Maurice Evans, who was particularly impressive as the ape leader, Dr. Zaius (Edward G. Robinson was originally cast for this role, but he balked at the grueling daily makeup routine), make it a very watchable piece that remains provocative. Makes sense, then, that it has successfully launched two film franchises, TV shows, a merchandizing bonanza and a vein of referential humor that will outlive us all.

Guests are invited to stick around after the screening for a post-show Film Talk and audience Q&A with retired Tampa Bay Times film critic Steve Persall.

The Summer Classics Movie Series has been presented by Bank of America since 2015. Promotional support for the series is provided by WEDU-PBS.