Franklin Schaffner directed the original Planet of the Apes for release it would come to be the single most amazing year ever for science fiction movies. In 1968, the world was not only introduced to the idea of a future earth ruled by apes, but of a past and future earth where the next big step in evolution for mankind arrives with a beacon in the shape of a big black monolith (2001: A Space Odyssey) and a future where evolution was engaged five million years ago by a Martian invasion (Quatermass and the Pit). What a year!
And what a movie. Planet of the Apes is based on a novel by French writer Pierre Boulle and deeply Americanized by co-screenwriter Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame so that it could present its shocking reveal at its climax. Interestingly enough, however, the famous exhortation back toward a world gone mad that the astronaut Taylor makes when he discovers exactly where—and when—in the course of human evolution he has been since crash-landing did not produce the one quote from the chosen to be memorialized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 greatest from the first century of American film. That honor goes to the 66th most memorable quote which is uttered by Taylor earlier in the film—the first words spoken by a human that the apes around him have ever heard:
“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape.”
Considering that Planet of the Apes was released in the same year as 2001: A Space Odyssey, it may be surprising to some to realize that it is every bit as mature and sophisticated in its science fiction realm as Kubrick’s allegedly “first serious sci-fi flick.” Not to take anything away from Kubrick’s lovely tone poem, but in a way Planet of the Apes is actually a greater advancement for the genre than 2001 since it can unquestionably be proven to have influenced the science fiction films that came in its wake more than Kubrick’s film. For one thing, Planet of the Apes inspired four direct sequels, a Saturday morning cartoon show, a prime time TV series, a misbegotten remake from Tim Burton, one of the greatest parodies in the history of The Simpsons featuring the song "Dr. Zaius, Dr. Zaius" to the tune of "Rock Me Amadeus" and a brilliantly conceived re-imagined reboot still going strong that kicked off with one of the finest films of the 21st century: Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Planet of the Apes was nominated for Academy Awards for its costumes and music and was presented with a special honorary Oscar for its groundbreaking makeup which successfully transformed many familiar faces into unrecognizable chimps, gorillas and orangutans.