05 / TAY­LOR DIS­COV­ERS A HOME TRUTH

PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

Empire (UK) - - CINEMAS -

The fifth-great­est sci-fi mo­ment is also cin­ema’s great­est twist end­ing. Hav­ing es­caped his op­pres­sors on this crazy, ape-run planet, misan­thropic as­tro­naut Tay­lor (Charl­ton He­ston) has set off on a beach ride of dis­cov­ery, which con­cludes with a rev­e­la­tion that re­sets the con­text of ev­ery­thing that’s gone be­fore.

Upon the dis­cov­ery of a half-buried Statue Of Lib­erty, Tay­lor’s struck by the true re­al­ity of his sit­u­a­tion: he’s not on some dis­tant world, but back on a terra firma his descen­dants man­aged to de­stroy. He­ston’s an­guished, sand-punch­ing break­down says it all: “We fi­nally re­ally did it! You ma­ni­acs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!” Even a cynic like Tay­lor can’t han­dle this truth.

Time, and par­ody (none bet­ter than The Simp­sons’ Stop The Planet Of The Apes, I Want To Get Off!), have done lit­tle to lessen this mo­ment’s im­pact, but imag­ine how it must have felt watch­ing it in Amer­ica in 1968, in the midst of the Cold War, with Viet­nam rag­ing and civil un­rest rife, as the screen faded to black, and the cred­its rolled to only the sound of crash­ing waves.

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