Apes fans, this is it: aside from an early '70s article that appeared in Cinefantastique, nobody but nobody's paid much attention to the making of the groundbreaking Planet of the Apes saga. The wait is over, though--and how. Unapologetic fanboys Joe Russo and Larry Landsman (and, later, Edward Gross) have been laboring over this exhaustive, fact-packed, behind-the scenes record of all five movies, the TV show, and the cartoon for the better part of 17 years. The effort shows, with countless on-set pictures, unprecedented access to the estates of Rod Serling, Roddy McDowall, and producer Arthur P. Jacobs, and extensive quotes from virtually everyone associated with the project, from screenwriters to actors to makeup artists to the special effects crew. (To give you an idea of the devotion we're talking about, Russo actually wrote his first "making of" Apes book back in the fifth grade. It was hand stitched with a plastic cover.)
Deserving of special note is Charlton Heston, who contributed not only the foreword for this book but scores of entries from his swaggering personal journals. ("A helluva long day, in the course of which I was finally brought to earth as Taylor. Having evaded clubs, whips, horsemen, crowds, they tripped me ass over teakettle into a thrown net and hoisted me high.... Upside down in a net, a man isn't worth much.") But even more interesting are the minutiae that inevitably emerge in any close examination of a production this complicated: that Marlon Brando had been considered first for the lead, that there were racial casting concerns in the wake of the Watts riots, even the fact that Planet of the Apes hit the small screen in an attempt to knock off Sanford and Son. This account may sprawl a bit in spots, with some quotes that overlap overmuch and minutiae that's awfully minute, but any fan who has even an ounce of Russo and Landsman's enthusiasm will be hard-pressed to complain. --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
Fans of the 1968 sci-fi film classic Planet of the Apes and its four sequels (plus two short-lived TV shows) will be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive, authoritative and entertaining guide to late producer Arthur P. Jacobs's ape empire. With access to Jacobs's files, the authors detail the several drafts of each screenplay, chronicle day-by-day shooting schedules and create an exhaustive behind-the-scenes history of the epic series. During the book's 15-year gestation, the authors were able to interview virtually every actor, director, producer, writer, production designer, makeup artist and composer on each film. (Some of the quotes could have been tightened to avoid repetition.) Even those who are familiar with the series (or saw the 1998 AMC documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes) will glean new knowledge from amusing firsthand recollections of Roddy McDowall (who starred in four of the films, as well as the live-action TV show) and Natalie Trundy (Jacobs's widow, who acted in four of the films). Apes star Charlton Heston, who wrote the book's introduction, proves a sharp interviewee and allowed the authors to quote liberally from his daily journals. Likewise, memos from Rod Sterling (who scripted the original film and helped with the TV show) are illuminating. Made on ever-decreasing budgets, each film in the series turned a profit and remains enjoyable, both as pop entertainment and for its political, social commentary and allegorical treatment of race relations (particularly the violent Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and its Watts riots reenactments). Rare b&w photos throughout, with a 16-page color insert. Agent, Christopher Schelling. (Aug. 6)Forecast: Tim Burton's big-budget Planet of the Apes remake invades theaters July 27; its release will provide great publicity for this book.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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