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Updated: November 28, 2020

The original Planet of the Apes (1968) was a modern classic, mixing science-fiction concepts with a powerful allegory to create an epic that touched a generation. Beyond that and it's important to remember this was in the days before Star Wars it gave birth to four theatrical sequels (1970's Beneath the Planet of the Apes, 1971's Escape from the Planet of the Apes, 1972's Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and 1973's Battle for the Planet of the Apes), two television series and original Marvel Comics continuations of the mythos.

At the time that Planet of the Apes was released, science-fiction was a four-letter word no studio executive in his right mind willingly embraced. When producer Arthur P. Jacobs first became captivated by Pierre Boulle's original novel in 1963, there was no Star Trek, no 2001: A Space Odyssey and no Star Wars. With the exception of Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still, there had barely been any intelligent science-fiction films that attempted to deal with issues affecting humanity. Creatively, the Hollywood community thought science-fiction was a dead-end fit only for teenagers and drive-ins.

But Jacobs believed, and that belief turned Hollywood and its limited vision on its ear. Planet of the Apes was deemed an instant classic. It proved that audiences wanted to be challenged, that they were willing to journey to an upside-down civilization provided they were given characters to identify with and a story that could somehow provide a reflection and an illumination of their own lives.

Planet of the Apes serves as a motion-picture classic that has more than withstood the passage of time. It has touched the imagination of two generations and will move on to a third in the years to come.

Apes rule, indeed!

This classic adaptation of Pierre Boulle's allegorical novel stars Charlton Heston as an astronaut stranded on a planet where intelligent simians rule, and humans are the animals. Franklin J. Schaffner (Patton) directed this acclaimed blockbuster written by Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone) and Michael Wilson (blacklisted Oscar-winner for The Bridge on the River Kwai). Roddy McDowall (Fright Night), Kim Hunter (the Academy Award-winning Stella of A Streetcar Named Desire) and Shakespearean great Maurice Evans also star, working under groundbreaking makeup effects that defied categories to win a special Oscar. If you're wondering about the stunning Linda Harrison, who played Nova, she went on to marry 20th Century Fox head Richard D. Zanuck.

The leader of a rescue mission sent to recover the first film's missing astronauts becomes entangled with a subterranean race of mutated, telepathic humans on the verge of all-out war with the simian species. Original stars Kim Hunter and Maurice Evans return, with Charlton Heston and Linda Harrison in cameos, opposite human lead James Franciscus (Marooned). Also appearing are the character-actor greats Victor Buono (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), Gregory Sierra (John Carpenter's Vampires, TV's Sanford and Son) and James Gregory (TV's The Wild Wild West and Barney Miller), who, as the gorilla general Ursus, memorably declares, "The only good human is a dead human!"

Cornelius and Zira (the returning Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter) manage to escape their decimated planet and travel back through time to 20th-century Los Angeles. Initially treated as honored guests, they find themselves increasingly persecuted by the human race and ultimately forced to flee from an insidious plot against them. Starring as sympathetic human scientists are cult-favorites Bradford Dillman (The Mephisto Waltz, Piranha) and Natalie Trundy (in the most prominent of the three different roles she would play in the four sequels). Sal Mineo (Rebel Without a Cause), M. Emmet Walsh (Blade Runner, Blood Simple) and veteran actor William Windom (the Night Gallery classic "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar") provide able support.

Caesar (Roddy McDowall), the grown son of Cornelius and Zira, finds himself trapped in a world where domesticated apes are treated as pets and as servants by human rulers. Faced with a life of subservience, he abandons his more peaceful inclinations and sets out to ignite an ape uprising and a violent revolution against humankind. Ricardo Montalban (Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan) also stars. Look quick for Gordon Jump (TV's WKRP in Cincinnati) as an auctioneer. Directed by J. Lee Thompson (the classic 1962 Cape Fear).

Following the ape revolt of Conquest, Caesar (Roddy McDowall) takes on the role of peacekeeper between the humans and the apes but finds himself forced into a battle of wits with a militarist gorilla (the prolific Claude Akins, immortalized in the Twilight Zone classic "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street"). Meanwhile, human survivors try to seize control of the planet, setting the stage for a potentially apocalyptic battle. Watch for cameos by Lew Ayres (the 1970s Battlestar Galactica) as Mandemus and legendary filmmaker and actor John Huston as The Lawgiver. And, yes, that's future director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) playing "Jake's Friend."

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