In 1952, a French World War II veteran and resistance hero, wrote a historical novel that brought him to international fame, The Bridge Over the River Kwai. Pierre Boulle became a prolific author who’s career extended into many genres which included science fiction and social fantasies. By 1963 his latest novel, Monkey Planet also translated into Planet of the Apes, grabbed the attention of Hollywood. With Rod Serling co-screenwriting, Charlton Heston starring, Franklin Schaffner directing, and Jerry Goldsmith scoring, the film adaption of what one would have considered but a B-film only ten years prior became an international sensation and preceded the summer blockbuster film by seven years.
The film took the novel’s story to a new level of imagery and connotation for the times. In a world that had the fears of the Cold War and the Prague Spring, the importance of race relations, the end of Arab nationalism and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, a war in Vietnam, the death of colonialism, issues such as women’s rights, and social upheavals that followed the Summer of Love, The Planet of the Apes brought all this in a symbolic way to the big screen. With Rod Serling’s new ending that included an iconic image of the Statue of Liberty, the shock that resulted made the movie not only entertainment but also one of the most important films in movie history.
Philip and Mike discuss the history of the story and the importance of it to genre fans. A franchise was born including four sequels, a television show, a cartoon, comic books, and toys and memorabilia. Part One of our retrospective focuses on the novel, the first film and the first follow up within the franchise, Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Get ready and join us in a conversation that will bring this story full circle. One wonders whether Pierre Boulle was more a prophet than just a mere novelist.