A killer movie or boxed set
can make the decision to plunge into Blu-ray much easier. With a beloved
classic or eagerly anticipated cult film beckoning you from the web-pages
of Amazon, that extra investment may suddenly seem like something you
can't live without.
And certainly the enhanced capabilities of Blu-ray can
make a technically impressive movie positively glow. On the other hand,
Hollywood has become quite adept at repackaging old DVDs in order to
hustle extra copies onto viewers who were perfectly happy with the
versions they had. In some cases, Blu-ray is just another excuse to play
that shell game again: adding modestly improved sound and picture quality
to what is essentially the same collection of bells and whistles.
So it is with the Blu-ray of
Planet of the Apes, a gorgeous package which nonetheless bears a
suspicious resemblance to the 35th Anniversary DVD from a few years ago.
To be sure, this is one of those movies on the short list that justifies
an upgrade all by itself. It has lost none of its power despite the
mediocre sequels, ill-conceived remakes, and long-forgotten TV spin-offs
that sprang up in its wake. Its storyline - about an American astronaut
(Charlton Heston) who crash lands on a world populated by intelligent
simians - expertly blends adventure, social satire and chilling
philosophical meditation to deliver one of the best science fiction movies
The production values alone make an upgrade worth
consideration. Director Franklin J. Schaffner invests his primate universe
with an intoxicating blend of savagery and plausibility. The apes' culture
is fascinating in its complexity, while the make-up effects from John
Chambers have become the stuff of legend. As if that weren't enough, we
also get a 23-year-old Linda Harrison decked out in Raquel Welch's cave
girl bikini… and if she can't entice you to invest in 1080p resolution,
you need to find another hobby.
THE DISC: The difference in quality between a Blu-ray
and a regular DVD is marginal, but certainly noticeable. The images and
sounds are pristine, and the addition of new technical features - such as
the ability to browse the menu while the film itself keeps playing - make
maneuvering through the disc's features much easier. Beyond the basic
improvements of the format itself, however, the Blu-ray has little to
distinguish it from the 35th anniversary DVD.
That's not necessarily a bad
thing, for the DVD itself is terrific and all of its goodies are
duplicated here. A lengthy list of special features covers all parts of
the production: documentaries, concept drawings, still photos, outtake
trailers, and a rare and wonderful make-up test with Heston and Edward G.
Robinson (who was originally cast as Doctor Zaius). Multiple audio tracks
are included with the film itself, including commentary from stars Roddy
McDowell and Kim Hunter, a discussion of the make-up from Chambers, and
composer Jerry Goldsmith talking about the film's unique score.
Their collective comments are fairly sparse - wide
swaths of the audio tracks hold nothing but empty space - but they're
still quite illuminating, and all of them convey the sense of pride the
participants share in their association with this film.
WORTH IT? It's outstanding stuff… and yet it
still makes a conundrum for those looking at the Blu-ray as a possible
option. If you already own the 35th anniversary DVD, this version is
notable only because of the improved picture and sound (a bare minimum of
additional extras are included as well, but not enough to merit a purchase
Planet of the Apes fans
may consider the improved look worth the extra investment, but taken on
its own, it's probably not enough to justify the leap to Blu-ray. For
those who don't own the 35th anniversary edition, however, then this
version is an absolute must-own. As is typical of our brave new home
entertainment world, the question is how much you are willing to pay for
essentially the same product… and whether you already have it in some