By Chris Campo
We are very close to the third film in the Planet of the Apes reboot series. I speak on behalf of all moviegoers when I say that both Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are some of the finest blockbusters we have, so it's safe to get very, very hyped for War for the Planet of the Apes (JACK NOTE: Review up on the 20th). To celebrate its release, I thought it would be fun to go back and review some of the older instalments in the franchise. You guys know this, I've done this before, so let's get started with the 1968 classic that I have never seen until now, Planet of the Apes.
Thousands of years after they first left Earth on a long-lasting space voyage, three astronauts find themselves crashed on a distant planet with no immediate signs of life. Marooned on this strange new planet with no way back home, the three men, led by Taylor (Charlton Heston), must search for suitable living conditions. Shortly after running into what seems to be humans, the astronauts are captured and imprisoned by a race of walking and talking apes. Taylor soon makes enemies with the apes, as he proves he can talk and is far more evolved than the other humans on this planet. Tensions rise as the apes decide what to do with Taylor.
I had a lot of fun with this movie. I didn't know what to expect, really. All I knew about this film prior to watching it were the ape masks and, unfortunately, the now iconic ending. It kind of plays out like a Star Trek episode with bit of 2001 and a dash of Alien. I found myself intrigued with the bulk of the film. The surprisingly bleak film has a lot of hidden meanings under it's goofy rubber mask. It looks great and features beautiful, practical sets and convincing performances. I now see why this film is so beloved, and I think I love it too. Part of me presumed it would be one of those films that becomes huge based on the concept alone but no, this is just a great film.
As I watched this in 2017, nearly 50 years after release, I did notice how some aspects don't hold up, most notably the weird and often awkward zooms the camera does every so often, but for the most part, I was blown away by how convincing the film's effects were. The masks do look goofy, only because apes don't really look like that, but the way they emote is astonishing and way ahead of its time. The mouths aren't perfectly in sync, but that can be excused for the real star of the film is the set design. Wow. It's so tangible and real, never making the world feel like it's on some studio lot. It feels real and lived in.
Nowadays, the depiction of poor treatment towards captive animals is nothing new, but it's so damn cool in this film. Using humans as the animals puts a fresh spin on it, and it's deeper than anything I expected. My favorite scenes were when Taylor was captive and trying to explain himself, only to have the apes disregard him. And when he escapes near the halfway point, it was riveting. I think it works so well because of Charlton Heston's incredible and believable performance. He sells every line and I would be lying if I said I didn't get goosebumps at "get your stinkin' paws off me you damn dirty ape!"
Although, my least favorite parts of the film are towards the latter half, when it focuses on the politics and how the apes decide on what to do with Taylor. It wasn't bad, per se, just not as interesting as the other aspects of the film. I'm also a little bummed that I knew the ending of the film before seeing it, because I was waiting for it the whole time and all the suspense and shock of that scene was lost. It's still a hell of an ending and I appreciate it, but having it spoiled is no fun at all. On the contrary, it was fun noticing all the scenes and scenarios that the later films pay homage to. It was like retroactive fan service and I loved it.
The amount of sequels this thing has is ridiculous, and with my schedule (of mostly nothing) I won't be able to get around to all of them. Jack will be covering the 2001 Tim Burton remake, and I'll be concluding with a review of Rise. Watching the original was a great time, and even if it's 50 years old, it barely feels like it. It's a piece of cinematic history and rightfully so. I am certainly a fan.
4 1/2 Stars
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Night of the Living Dead is the zombie film that started zombie films. Before this film, zombies as we know them were not a thing. The concept was there, but they were really just reanimated corpses and nothing more. Night of the Living Dead took this idea, remade it and created the flesh-eating, slow walking and slightly mindless creatures we know today. Without this film, many zombie classics wouldn't even exist. For that reason alone, it's hard not to have respect for this movie.
The film begins with a woman named Barbara (Judith O'Dea) visiting her father's tombstone with her brother, Johnny (Russell Streiner). Returning back to their car, the two stumble across a mysterious man. This man, who at first they try to ignore, starts to attack them, eating away at Johnny's flesh. Barbara makes a run for it, unsure of what to think of the situation. She escapes to a nearby house. It's here she meets a man named Ben (Duane Jones), who was in search of gas. The two of them lock themselves in the house, and it's here that we spend most of the runtime. They're trapped inside the house, along with a group of other survivors, attempting to defend off the wave of zombies trying to claw their way in. It's a game of survival and claustrophobia and it works.
It's the opening sequence of this movie that's truly phenomenal, and it's something the rest of the film never lives up to. The opening sequence is great, really nailing the suspense. Director George A. Romero knew exactly what he was doing and the result is priceless. It's full of paranoia, tension and a looming sense of dread. The mysterious figure constantly approaches, and each step he makes just builds upon the tension. His appearance on screen is subtle, but effective.
It's a fantastic way to set up the movie, but the rest of the film isn't quite up its standards. After Barbara escapes into the local house, where she's supposedly safe from the terrors that await her on the other side of the door, the film slows its pace way down. It starts to drag, a solid 45 minutes dedicated to arguing about what exactly everyone needs to do. It's uneventful and dull, none of the characters overly investing and the performances all mediocre. It goes from exciting to dull within the blink of an eye, and it came as quite the disappointment.
Thankfully, however, once the final act kicks in, the film picks back up again. Without delving into spoiler territory, the third act see's some actual zombie action, instead of just the sound of zombies banging against walls or discussions of zombies over the news broadcast. Things actually start to happen again, the characters get a chance to do more than just recite dialogue and the film becomes rather exciting. It once again fails to live up to the brilliance of that opening scene, but it goes to places you don't expect, and the ending is completely shocking.
To sum up, if this review needs any actual summary. Night of the Living Dead starts strong, but soon slows its pace right down and starts to drag, full of mediocre performances. Thankfully, the film picks itself back up with an exciting and shocking third act.
Since I recently went through and deleted all of my original, rather embarrassing reviews (more on that here), this is technically the first review to be published on the 1960s page, and what a film to start with. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly follows the story of three men, Blondie (Clint Eastwood), Tuco (Eli Wallach) and Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef). After Blondie betrays Tuco, Tuco insists on taking revenge, and he does this by forcing Blondie to trek through the desert without any access to water. It's here that they find a destroyed carriage with a dying man inside. This man, who can barely speak, lets Tuco know the location of buried gold; a cemetery. While Tuco is not looking, the dying man also lets Blondie know of which grave the gold is under. The two, who both despise each other, refuse to let the other one know the information they learnt, and because of this, they're forced to work together to locate the gold.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is the western that defeats them all. It's the western that stands up above the rest, and it's also one of my all time favourite movies. It's the third and final film in the Man With No Name trilogy and while I have seen A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, this is the film that I truly, desperately, completely want to talk about. This film is just the ultimate western, right up there alongside The Searchers, which is another film I love to pieces.
So where does Angel Eyes, AKA the bad, come into it, you ask? Well, the plot I gave isn't necessarily the greatest description of this movie, but it'll have to do. While the above poster and below trailer may do a poor job at conveying who's who, Clint Eastwood does in fact play the good, Eli Wallach the ugly and Lee Van Cleef the bad. It's a film about all three characters, but it's really just the good and the ugly who take centre stage. The bad is there too, sure, and he plays a pivotal role, definitely, but his presence is scarce in the film's first half, hence the reason he's only mentioned in my plot description in brief.
However, the film's three leads all give such immaculate performances. Honest to god, I've seen a lot of great performances in westerns, but I've never seen performances as flawless as the ones in this movie. Clint Eastwood is just in his prime, giving the performance of a lifetime. His character always feels confident and relaxed, but with a dark sense of humour to him as well. And that's the thing about this film too, it's rather funny. The leads play off of each other, providing the audience with some much needed humour in this bland and desolate world.
Chiming in just a few minutes shy of three hours, there's never once an unneeded or tedious moment. There are multiple cuts of this film to be found, some exceeding three hours, some clocking in just over two. The first time I watched this movie, I saw the two hours and forty minute cut. The second time, however, I watched the full three hour cut and it is rather masterful. The more the merrier, so the saying goes. The longer this film is, the better is somehow becomes. There's not a moment of boredom in this film's entire runtime, which is something quite rare in three hour long movies.
Sergio Leone returns to the director's chair to successfully conclude his timeless trilogy. The first two films in this trilogy are excellent, but it's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly that slots in as the best. It takes what makes the first two films so amazing and then injects it with adrenaline, resulting in a film with practically no flaws. Leone's directing is spot on, getting both terrific performances out of his cast and amazing camera shots as we venture through the wild wild west.
There are many films that come to mind when I think of "the greatest score of all time." Films like Jurassic Park, Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey etc. I'm not saying that The Good, The Bad and The Ugly has the single greatest score ever made, but it undeniably comes close. The score is just so wild and haunting, providing a gritty, yet exciting feel to every scenario. The score for this film helps to make it what it is, and thanks to this, I truly cannot give enough praise to this movie. It's not just a classic. This film is much more than just a classic.
To sum up, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is the ultimate western. It takes everything that was amazing about the first two films in the trilogy and adds a little adrenaline, resulting in one of the greatest and most influential movies of all time.