Ape Movies I Have Known and Loved

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
Ape Movies I Have Known and Loved

My love affair with cinematic apes began at an early age, when I first watched King Kong (1933) on my grandmother's television.

The screen size may have been small, no more than 13 inches, but I was transfixed by the images as they unfolded. I saw things I had never seen before: a giant ape, a lumbering brontosaurus, a battle with a T-Rex, soaring pterodactyls, and much more, as well as a woman with a blood-curdling scream (Fay Wray) and men who screamed as they fell to their deaths. And the final scenes, the near-silent moments as the giant ape, atop the Empire State Building, heroically fought against fighter-biplanes that eventually shot him down, tumbling down the skyscraper to the street below.

Ever since then, I've been endlessly fascinated by apes in movies and television shows -- dinosaurs too, but that's a separate story -- and that cinematic love was rekindled by Planet of the Apes (1968), which I first saw on television (watching on the same 13-inch model that belonged to my grandmother), when it enjoyed its world television premiere on CBS Friday night, September 14, 1973. I remember talking about it excitedly with my classmates the following Monday morning and none of us knew about the ending in advance. It was all we could talk about for days!

(Full disclosure: as an old person, I miss those days of 'absolutely no spoilers.')

The subsequent broadcast of the remaining four films in the original quintet of Apes movies, all of which I watched and discussed extensively with my friends, led up to the television series, Planet of the Apes, which debuted in September 1974 and ran for 14 episodes before it was canceled. I have no memory of the animated series that followed in 1975, Return to the Planet of the Apes, though it seems like I would have been naturally attracted to it.

My ape fixation returned with John Guillerman's King Kong (1976), starring Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, and Charles Grodin, which I enjoyed for what it was: an opportunity to see a giant ape terrorize New York City atop the World Trade Center. (*Sigh*)

Regular-sized apes returned in Tim Burton's misbegotten Planet of the Apes (2001), which I really should revisit one day (but not today). My friend and I made sure to see that movie on opening weekend -- before any friends might spoil the ending, which we were sure would be shocking! (I remember turning to my friend as the movie ended. I shrugged and shook my head.)

Ten years later, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), directed by Rupert Wyatt, surprised me completely; it was much better than I anticipated. Matt Reeves came on board to direct the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and the concluding chapter in the trilogy, War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), which continued the upward trajectory of the series.

We're reposting our reviews of the three most recent films today and tomorrow, to be followed by our review of the newest film, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Wes Ball. Will it be good? Will it suck? Will it be 'meh'? Time will tell.

Every generation gets the apes movie it deserves. I'm hoping for the best.

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Charlton HestonMatt ReevesPlanet of the ApesTim BurtonWes BallFranklin J. SchaffnerMichael WilsonRod SerlingPierre BoulleRoddy McDowallKim HunterAdventureSci-FiTed PostPaul DehnMort AbrahamsJames FranciscusMaurice EvansActionDon TaylorBradford DillmanJ. Lee ThompsonDon MurrayRicardo MontalbanJohn William CorringtonClaude AkinsNatalie Trundy

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