Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Get Your Ape On

Friday (February 8) is the 40th anniversary of the first public screening of Planet of the Apes, in New York City. (The rest of the U.S. saw it on April 3rd.) What better way to celebrate than to get some beer and pretzels and settle in with Charelton Heston and his furry friends? This movie is fantastic. Sure, there are some cheesy 60’s moments, but it really holds up, overall. The music alone is just amazing. Gerry Goldsmith’s percussive, atonal score, replete with monkey barks, was cutting edge at the time, and it’s still dramatic and stirring.
So stick it in your queue, my friends.

For more simian fun, read the original novel by Pierre Boulle. He published Planet of the Apes (La Planète des Singes) in 1963, but he’s better known for writing Bridge on the River Kwai (1966), which was, of course, made into one of the best movies ever.

The book’s ending has a surprising twist or two, but it’s not the same as the famous goddamn-you-all-to-hell-beach-pounding scene of the movie. I won’t say any more about that, because I don’t want to give it away. I will say that this is a quick and interesting read. It’s only about 200 pages, and is told in first person, as the found diary of Ulysse Mérou (George Taylor in the movie). The book is more involved and more cerebral than the movie – it’s an adventure, but it’s also a thought experiment about what it might be like to be in Mérou's position. For instance, in the book, the apes don’t speak English (or French), so the protagonist has to learn their language before he can communicate. To reveal his intelligence, he snatches away Zira’s notebook, but instead of writing “My name is Taylor,” he draws a diagram representing the Pythagorean Theorem.

This book has been reprinted lots. I have the 2000 Cinema Classics edition printed by Gramercy Press – it’s a nice hardcover that can be found for cheap in used book stores and online.

Note: Be sure you don’t pick up the more recent novelization of the 2001 movie. That is not the original story.

1 comment:

Dave said...

The Pythagorean Theorem: nice! Alternatively, he could have drawn a picture proof of the Spectral Theorem for Compact Self-Adjoint Operators. That would have impressed the apes even more.