Tag Archive for SciFiClassics

One of the Great Twists in Filmic History…


“Take your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!” …The year, 3978 AD.

When I think of brilliant surprise endings, 1968’s Franklin J. Schaffner directed PLANET OF THE APES is usually at the top of the list. Why you ask? Because the film’s iconic, bone-chilling surprise payoff comes out of nowhere, knocking the audience on their asses. Ingeniously executed, deservedly securing itself as one of the most unique threads in Cinema’s extensive tapestry. Seminal simian Science Fiction at its best!

The scene plays out as follows: Taylor & Nova, having escaped enslavement by brutal, talking apes, ride on horseback down a stretch of shoreline in the ‘Forbidden Zone.’ Our hero suddenly halts as his eyes meet something terrifying in the distance, dismounts to blankly stare upwards; as the camera pans forward, toward Taylor, through a spiked object, the stranded spaceman exclaims: “Oh, my God! I’m back, I’m home. All the time, it was…” dropping to his knees: “We finally really did it.” He pounds his fist into the sand & rails against Earth’s generations nearly two-thousand years earlier that had decimated his home planet’s civilization with a devastating atomic war: “You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! Goddamn you all to hell!” The monumental object now comes into view as the camera pans backward, fully revealing the spiked crown of a battered & chard Statue of Liberty submerged waist-deep in a colossal sand-dune; thus disseminating that this distant, exotic world, that once harbored a rag-tag Human band, is actually post-apocalyptic EARTH herself…BOOM…now THAT’s an ending for the ages! Satisfying to the very end. This closing, highly-acclaimed scene was filmed on a long stretch of beach between Malibu & Oxnard in Southern California. Not far from where I call home.

A taste of backstory: In 1963 French novelist Pierre Boulle published a science fiction novel entitled La Planète des Singes. Boulle’s novel revealed a dystopic future environment governed by highly-evolved, talking apes. Humans were considered second class citizens. By 1968, 20th Century Fox & producer Arthur P. Jacobs adapted Boulle’s captivating tale for the big screen. Screenwriters Michael Wilson & Rod Serling (Mr. TWILIGHT ZONE himself) altered several key elements of the original story; greatly benefitting celluloid tastes & trends of the time. Serling’s stylized twist-ending (a celebrated trademark from his ‘Twilight Zone’ days) was retained, elevating production-value, permitting it to be reclassified as grand spectacle over simple, mindless entertainment. The exact location & state-of-decay of the Statue of Liberty evolved over several storyboards, however. One version depicted ‘Liberty’ buried up to her nose at the heart of a thick, savage jungle patch while another showcased the Statue smashed to bits by atomic decay.

With a budget of $5.8 million, the film was released to American audiences on April 6th & eventual went on to gross $32,589,624 in its initial run; a healthy, if not seismic profit. This prototype was followed by four 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 & 1973’s Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Then tailed by two short-lived television series: Planet of the Apes (1974) & Return to the Planet of the Apes (animated, 1975). Years later, the remakes & reboots began to unfurl: The re-imagined, lackluster Tim Burton executed Planet of the Apes (2001) & Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011); a franchise reboot, directed by Rupert Wyatt, which was released to staggering critical & commercial success. ‘Dawn’ surpassed all expectations; a massive hit commercially & critically. One of my top 5 films of 2014. An incredible moviegoing experience!

Before the original ‘Planet of the Apes,’ Science-fiction features had a poor reputation established by a string of droll B-movies such as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians & the Ed Wood ‘passion’ projects. It was a genre aimed at rowdy, popcorn-throwing, cat-calling audiences rather than those who wanted to be emotionally wrung, intellectually challenged OR scared witless. The overall success of ‘Planet of the Apes,’ & 2001: A Space Odyssey, however, prompted the major Studios to consider other generous-budget fare. It’s no coincidence that it was 20th Century Fox, the Studio behind ‘Apes,’ who later backed STAR WARS Episode IV: A New Hope & Ridley Scott’s horror classic ALIEN. ‘Planet’ also laid the foundations for ‘modern’ Cinema merchandising. It’s blitzkrieg of toys, T-shirts & posters only really took off at the end of the movie series, BUT it whetted the appetite for George Lucas’s Galactic Opus a number of years later. It’s debatable to suggest that without ‘Apes,’ the STAR WARS stampede & Cinema’s Fantasy BOOM might never of occurred.

With its finely balanced blend of social commentary & thrilling adventure, Planet of the Apes was well received by critics and is widely regarded as a classic & one of the best films of 1968. The film holds an 89% ‘Certified Fresh’ rating on the review aggregate website ROTTEN TOMATOES. In 2008, the film was selected by EMPIRE magazine as one of ‘The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.’ ‘Apes’ has my vote!

One last thing, the ‘ape village’ sets used throughout the majority of the picture were built on the Fox Ranch in Malibu Creek State Park (Las Virgenes Road off Mulholland Highway, south from Route 101, northwest of Los Angeles). I’ve been visiting the State Park for years; hiking, mountain biking & rock climbing at its best. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend you start EXPLORING…luscious, gorgeous green rolling hills & pastures. Your own little slice of heaven.

JPabes X

Opinion: ‘City on the Edge of Forever’ is the Ultimate TREK…Period!

The Enterprise command-crew encounters the Guardian of Forever


As a boy, it took ‘The Next Generation’s’ high-standard of quality to peak my interest enough to start exploring its forefather’s three Seasons. Minutes in to The Original Series, I was hooked! And as I soon discovered, ‘Classic Trek’ has some of the best writing ever produced for television with The City on the Edge of Forever the crowning-achievement of the entire run. First broadcast on April 6, 1967 (episode #28, production #28) this penultimate episode of the first Season is considered one of the most critically acclaimed shows aired; it was awarded the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The only other episode with such an honor is the two-parter The Menagerie. The teleplay is credited to Harlan Ellison, yet was also rewritten by several others, including Gene L. Coons & D. C. Fontana, before filming began. Directed by film & television veteran Joseph Pevney, with pacifist & Kirk love-interest Edith Keeler, played by Joan Collins. This installment involves the crew of the Federation Starship Enterprise discovering a portal through time & space, which leads to Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy accidentally altering history.

This classic episode has it all, meteoric social commentary with all the best elements of ‘smart’ Science Fiction blended together & tethered with a tender love-story for our hero, concluding with terrible loss & regret. A high-water mark for the series. A grief-stricken Kirk’s final words, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” before beam-up, gets me every time. Truly heart-breaking…

‘City’s’ Synopsis reads as follows:

The Enterprise investigates temporal disturbances centered on a nearby planet. Helmsman Sulu is caught in a console explosion during the investigation & suffers a heart flutter. ‘Bones’ is summoned to the Bridge & decides on a risky ‘cordrazine’ shot to revive him. Moments after, a further temporal-disturbance-wave shakes the ship violently; as a result, McCoy accidentally injects himself with an overdose of serum; insanity-boardering paranoia quickly sets in. Delusional, ‘Bones’ flees the ship by beaming to the surface. Kirk forms a landing search party comprised of two ‘red shirts,’ Spock, Scotty, Uhura & himself. Once on the planet below, Spock discovers the time distortions’ source, an ancient gateway, with pulsing, stone-like properties. When a question is directed at this ‘portal,’ a booming voice identify’s itself as the ‘Guardian of Forever,’ a temporal doorway to ANY time & place; soon displaying fragmented periods of Earth’s history in its portal opening.

The search-party soon locates the demented Doctor, but he sprints, then leaps through the portal-mouth before he can be stopped. Suddenly the away-team loses contact with the Enterprise. ‘The Guardian’ informs them that history has just been altered & that, as a result, their once-orbitting vessel no longer exists. It’s clear to Kirk & Co. that after leaping through the portal, McCoy has somehow reshaped the past & erased THe United Federation of Planets from existence! Kirk asks the Guardian to loop the history images again and he & Spock prepare to jump through to a time just before ‘Bones’ penetrated, in the hope that they can correct the timeline. At the correct moment, Captain & First-Officer leap through in hot pursuit; materializing in New York City during the 1930’s Great Depression era. With both their uniforms & Spock’s ears a shock to pedestrians, Kirk steals clothes hanging over a fire escape & the two hide in an adjacent building basement. There they meet Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), who identifies herself as a social worker of the 21st Street Mission. They apologize for trespassing & offer to work for her; she allows them to stay. In the meantime, Mr. Spock begins to construct a crude, barely-functional processor in order to interface with his tricorder in order to find out what part of history McCoy has altered. The Captain soon begins to fall in love with Edith as he finds her to be a remarkable visionary with a positive outlook about what the future of mankind holds.

McCoy materializes, & after an encounter with a homeless man, stumbles into the 21st Street Mission where Edith notices him & takes him in. Kirk & Spock are not aware of his arrival. Meanwhile, Spock finally finishes the interface & he and Kirk analyze the data. It reveals that Edith was supposed to have died shortly after in a traffic accident but that, having been spared this fate on account of McCoy’s actions, she instead went on to form a pacifist movement whose influence delayed the entry of the United States into World War II; this delay in turn gave Nazi Germany time to develop an atomic bomb and ultimately conquer Earth. Kirk must face the fact that if Edith does not die as she is supposed to, history will be altered forever. Meanwhile, Edith nurses McCoy, who tells her who he is & where he’s from. Edith does not believe his fantastic-sounding story, but tells him that he would fit in nicely with her eccentric new boyfriend who will later be taking her to a movie starring Clark Gable, an actor with whom (to Edith’s great surprise) McCoy is not familiar.

Later, as Kirk & Edith are walking to the movie house, Edith is startled that Kirk does not recognize Clark Gable. It prompts her to mention that “Doctor McCoy” does not either. Alarmed, Kirk emphatically tells Edith to “Stay right here” before dashing across the street to notify Spock. As he reaches Spock, McCoy emerges from the mission right in front of them. A surprised Edith crosses the street to join them, but fails to notice a fast-moving truck which is approaching. Instinctively, Kirk moves to pull Edith out of the way but freezes when Spock cries, “No, Jim!”. McCoy then tries to save Edith but is held back by Kirk; the truck crushes & kills her. A shocked McCoy exclaims to Kirk, “I could have saved her…do you know what you just did?”. Kirk pushes him away, speechless, and Spock says quietly, “He knows, Doctor. He knows.”

With Edith’s death, history reverts to its original timeline & Kirk, Spock, & McCoy return to the ‘Guardian’s’ planet to find the rest of the landing party where they had left them. Scotty remarks that the trio had only been gone for a few moments. The Guardian says, “Time has resumed its shape. All is as it was before,” and adds, “Many such journeys are possible. Let me be your gateway.” However, Uhura indicates that the Enterprise is ready to beam them back up & a traumatized Kirk responds with the instruction, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” The landing party is beamed away & the Guardian is companionless once again.

Brilliant story arc…highly emotional & well-structured. Classic television at the height of creative integrity.

JPabes X

The New Classics…

…..’The Search For Our Beginning Could Lead To Our End’…..

Every now and again, a Studio advertising one-sheet comes along that successfully knocks ones socks off…well, suffice it to say, my piggly-wiglys are now a tad chilly! The new PROMETHEUS one-sheet, released yesterday, successfully delivers the goods with all the veiled, brooding undertones that this ‘Alien’ prequel-of-sorts promises to be. With its dark & looming monolithic head imagery, ‘man’ looks like a mere insect by comparison. But, maybe that’s the suggestive point. This highly-anticipated Summer feature is directed by Ridley Scott & written by Jon Spaihts & Damon Lindelof. ‘Prometheus’ stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green & Charlize Theron.

Conceived as a prequel to Scott’s 1979 science fiction horror classic ‘ALIEN,’ script rewrites developed the film into a separate story unconnected to the films of the ‘Alien franchise.’ According to Scott, though the film shares “strands of Alien’s DNA, so to speak”, ‘Prometheus’ will explore its own mythology & universe and is not directly linked to ‘Alien.’ Filming began in March 2011, with ‘Prometheus’ scheduled for release in the States on June 8, 2012 through 20th Century Fox.

The Studio’s original, official synopsis reads as follows: Visionary filmmaker Ridley Scott returns to the genre he helped define, creating an original science fiction epic set in the most dangerous corners of the universe. The film takes a team of scientists and explorers on a thrilling journey that will test their physical and mental limits and strand them on a distant world, where they will discover the answers to our most profound questions and to life’s ultimate mystery.

While the upgraded, fine-tuned Synopsis from last month explicates: “Ridley Scott, director of ‘Alien’ and Blade Runner, returns to the genre he helped define. With ‘Prometheus,’ he creates a groundbreaking mythology, in which a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.”

Notice mention of a terrifying ‘battle’ in this second rundown. And even with all this, ‘Prometheus’ seems more cloak-and-dagger than ever. Now, that’s effective with regard to Box Office, for coercing fanboy anticipation to the brink near-guarantees a staggering Opening Weekend indeed.


JPabes X

Vintage One-Sheet…

I’ve always loved this particular poster, for its clean, elegant design & color-scheme. There’s something modern, yet exemplar about the visual.

As for the film itself, Kubrick’s 1968 epic masterpiece was a stunning blend of grand adventure & rich optical effects. It’s sprawling framework was partially inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s short-story ‘The Sentinel’; dealing with a series of encounters between man & mysterious black monoliths that are evidently impacting human destiny, in addition to a space voyage to Jupiter tracing a signal emitted by one such monolith found on the moon. Keir Dullea & Gary Lockwood star as the two astronauts manning the expedition, with Douglas Rain as the voice of the sentient super-computer HAL who emulates Human behavior & has seized total control over their vessel.

A little trivia for you, ever-apparent in the ‘dinner’ conversation scene with HAL, the very first representation of an ‘iPad’ on celluloid is witnessed. And that, my friends, was more than 40 years ago. Forward thinking in abundance.

Hope to soon track-down a large, mounted print in mint condition, properly frame it, then stage it in my den. A small gem of Cinematic pop-art for sure.

JPabes X

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