In what still holds up as one of the greatest twists in movie history, Charlton Heston’s George Taylor discovering the statue of liberty in “Planet of the Apes” is iconic, but it’s the 1968 prosthetics that make this film even more iconic. Legendary make-up artist John Chambers was in charge of the process. As a result, he won an honorary Oscar. The Oscars didn’t even have a make-up category yet!
Check out this image to see how Roddy McDowell transformed into Cornelius, the lead ape. In a process that likely took hours, Chambers was able to preserve expressiveness and emotion in the face. But these prosthetics were key in making “Planet of the Apes” a success. Humanizing Cornelius is what separated this film from any other post-apocalyptic flick.
But after the success of the original, it’s not surprise “Planet of the Apes” has had no shortage of sequels. This franchise has been revived and revived until it seemed to be completely dead in the water. Then, in 2011, when everybody least expected it, the franchise made a triumphant return with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” But it wasn’t until Matt Reeves helmed “Dawn” and “War,” the following two films, that this trilogy became one of the greatest in the modern era of cinema.
And I really mean that. It may be bold. Some may disagree, I’m sure. But after seeing “War for the Planet of the Apes,” and seeing how cohesive Caesar’s story was (and emotionally powerful!), I was shocked. I would have never wanted to admit that a “Planet of the Apes” trilogy was good. But it wasn’t good. It was amazing.
It gives me hope that Matt Reeves’ Batman trilogy is going to be really good. He proved it already. For now, check out one of the most famous scenes from the original “Planet of the Apes”: