Planet of the Apes appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Since the original DVD presented a non-anamorphic transfer, fans delighted at the prospect of a new version. Happily, this image worked very well and largely lived up to expectations.
Across the board, the movie offered a detailed and well-defined picture. Only a few modest instances of softness appeared, and these showed up infrequently. The vast majority of the flick looked sharp and concise. A smattering of examples of jagged edges and light shimmering occurred but also stayed exceedingly small. I noticed minor edge enhancement at times during the movie, though not enough to create a substantial impact. Despite the film’s age, print flaws were almost totally non-existent. The occasional speck cropped up, and I detected one brief streak, but otherwise, Apes came without any form of defect.
Given its setting, Apes didn’t present a very wide palette, but it demonstrated solid colors nonetheless. The tones were consistently detailed and distinctive. Greens and tans dominated and looked very positive. Black levels were nicely deep and dark but not overly thick, and shadow detail seemed adequately heavy without overwhelming the image. The latter was true even in the few "day for night" scenes we saw, though those often create very dim and bland imagery. The edge enhancement gave me a little concern and almost knocked down my grade to a “B+”, but so much of Apes looked terrific that I felt it merited the superior “A-“ mark.
Compared to the old DVD, the new one looked better in almost every way. Sharpness seemed tighter and more detailed, while jags and shimmering decreased. The 2004 version also demonstrated less edge enhancement and fewer source flaws. The other elements looked similar for both. As an unenhanced transfer, the original seemed pretty good, but it doesn’t match up to this terrific new transfer.
For this edition of Planet of the Apes, we find both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Both seemed essentially identical. The DTS one offered slightly greater depth and range, but not enough to warrant a higher grade.
Overall, the mix seemed pretty positive for a movie of this vintage. The soundfield presented a decent sense of atmosphere. Jerry Goldsmith’s score benefited the most from this mix, as it demonstrated excellent stereo delineation. Most of the effects stayed rooted in the center, but when necessary, the track broadened out to the sides quite well. Elements popped up in appropriate spots and blended together with relative smoothness. The surrounds added only minor reinforcement, however, and played almost no role in the proceedings.
Audio quality showed its age but seemed more than acceptable. Speech occasionally appeared somewhat muffled and usually appeared slightly flat. Nonetheless, the lines consistently remained clear and intelligible; I discerned no problems understanding what participants said, and I heard no edginess or roughness. Effects also came across as somewhat dull, but they represented the information acceptably well and suffered from only a smidgen of distortion on a few occasions.
The music fared the best. The score lacked tremendous clarity in the reproduction of both highs and lows, but the music seemed adequately strong, with better-than-average crispness. The bass occasionally appeared pretty deep; it didn't rattle my walls but it was fairly impressive for an aging movie. A few effects – like explosions – woke up my subwoofer as well. Ultimately, Apes presented a flawed but generally satisfying piece of audio.
Although I expected this Apes DVD to feature the same 5.1 audio from the 2000 release, to my surprise I found the mixes to sound quite different. The new tracks were better developed and cleaner. The old one sounded harsher and lacked the same level of localization. It also was less vibrant and lively. As with the picture, the new DVD’s audio offered a noticeable improvement over the prior one.
Both the picture and sound of this single-disc Apes duplicated those found on the 2004 special edition. The extras were the same here as on that release’s first disc. Essentially it’s the same package but without the second platter.
We find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from actors Roddy McDowall, Natalie Trundy and Kim Hunter plus make-up artist John Chambers. All four were recorded separately for this edited affair.
All ye who anticipate much information, despair! The participants pop up infrequently; all told, I estimate we only get about 38 minutes of commentary during this 112-minute film. For the most part, we get information about the make-up. The subjects go into detail about the way the ape make-up worked, how they used it and how it affected them. We also find some notes about the movie’s producers and director, but the make-up areas dominate. Some of the information seems useful, but the presentation becomes frustrating; we have to sit through many long gaps to get to the material, as the disc offers no option to quickly and conveniently skip through the piece.
The next commentary seems even more disappointing. We hear from composer Jerry Goldsmith, who provides a running, screen-specific track. Surprisingly, this doesn’t come with an isolated score. Goldsmith’s remarks pop up alongside the standard soundtrack, with all the usual effects and dialogue.
The composer speaks exceedingly infrequently in this very frustrating piece. When he talks, he offers some good information. Among other subjects, we learn of his approach to the film, his relationship – both working and personal – with director Franklin Schaffner, how he thinks he’d go at the material today, and his thoughts about remaking the flick.
All of this seems informative, but Goldsmith’s remarks appear with maddening infrequency. Exceedingly long stretches pass without information; I can’t imagine that he talks for more than 10 minutes total. The DVD offers no simple way to skip from statement to statement, so you’re forced to suffer through all the empty spots to hear what he has to say. Had the disc included an isolated score, that would be fine with me, but since it doesn’t, this very short commentary becomes a major annoyance and frustration.
In addition, DVD One presents a text commentary. Written by Planet of the Apes as American Myth author Eric Greene, this one goes over many subjects. Among other areas, we get information about the flick’s origins, differences between the script and the finished film, deleted scenes, locations and sets, and the story’s social and racial subtext. The text commentary easily offers the best one of the three on this disc, but it still comes with flaws. Long passages go without any material. These don’t seem as extended as those for the two audio tracks, but they nonetheless appear a lot more frequently than I’d like. The text piece is informative but still somewhat frustrating.
Ultimately I found Planet of the Apes to offer a compelling and satisfying little science fiction experience. The film's not perfect, but it seems clever and well executed. This disc presents great picture, good sound plus a modest set of extras.
As I noted earlier, this release features the same picture and sound as the 2004 2-DVD edition. It also includes the supplements found on that set’s first disc. This means any fans who already own that release don’t need the single-disc version.
However, if you want to own Apes and don’t care about extras, this new release is worth your while. It sells for $12 less than the two-DVD set, so it’s a good purchase.
Another purse-strings note: you can buy this single-disc Planet of the Apes on its own or as part of a six-DVD Planet of the Apes Legacy boxed set. That package includes Apes along with sequels Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, and the documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes.
Fox presents Behind solely in Legacy and the super-duper $180 Planet of the Apes Ultimate Collection, though Image Entertainment produces a two-disc version on its own. For fans who want all the movies but who are not eager to shell out the big bucks for Ultimate, the Legacy set is a nice bargain. Separately, the five movies list for about $75, while the Legacy retails for $50. Toss in Behind as well and it’s a nice set for Apes fans.
To rate this film, visit the original review of PLANET OF THE APES