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Planet of the Apes: 40th Evolution Collection (Blu-ray)

Planet of the Apes: 40th Evolution Collection Blu-ray review (click for larger image)Reviewed by Uncle Creepy

Starring (Planet of the Apes) Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans; (Beneath the Planet of the Apes ) James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison; (Escape from the Planet of the Apes) Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Bradford Dillman, Natalie Trundy; (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) Roddy McDowall, Don Murray, Natalie Trundy, Hari Rhodes; (Battle for the Planet of the Apes) Roddy McDowall, Claude Akins, Natalie Trundy, Severn Darden

Directed by (Planet of the Apes 1968) Franklin J. Schaffner, (Beneath the Planet of the Apes 1970) Ted Post, (Escape from the Planet of the Apes 1971) Don Taylor, (Conquest of the Planet of the Apes 1972) J. Lee Thompson, (Battle for the Planet of the Apes 1973) J. Lee Thompson

Distributed by Fox Home Entertainment


In 1968 the world of science fiction was turned upside down with the big screen version of Pierre Boulle’s startling and some would say horrifying book Planet of the Apes. Four sequels, a TV show, a cartoon, and (of course) an abysmal remake that was void of any logic or sense (why did Helena Bonham Carter’s ape have eyebrows?) followed. Over the years we’ve seen tons of home video incarnations of these movies in various box sets, collections, etc. Now Fox Home Entertainment has brought the apes into the high definition digital age with an amazing amount of supplemental features — some of which are appearing for the first time. Simply put, the results are stunning.

Planet of the Apes: 40th Evolution Collection Blu-ray review (click for larger image)Included here are the five films: Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. I’m not going to bother getting into reviews for each film because by now you should know and love them. If not, you may want to be reading some other website. Even the worst of the flicks have a certain degree of charm to them, and no matter how you slice it, none of these cinematic treats should be missed.

The movies themselves are available on Blu-ray in two ways: either in the 40th Evolution Collection box set or sold separately. There are links provided below so you can shop for whichever you want so let’s get cracking in terms of what’s included on each.

First and foremost, if you buy the box set, you’ll also be getting a packed to the gills 200-page hardcover book which acts as an encyclopedia of sorts that’s filled with hundreds of photos, anecdotes, stories, etc. The book alone is a must for Apes enthusiasts everywhere. Okay, onward to the Blu-rays.

The Blu-ray for the original Planet of the Apes — as you may have guessed — gets the best treatment here. That’s only fitting since this is the big daddy of the bunch. All of the supplemental features from the original DVD special edition are present and accounted for. They include several commentaries and a myriad of behind-the-scenes stuff (all noted below). Also included here on the original Apes Blu-ray is the stellar 1998 feature length documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes that appeared as part of the aforementioned earlier box sets. Since all of these materials have been around for a good long while, I won’t be getting into them either as I’m guessing if you’re a fan, you probably are already well acquainted with them.

Planet of the Apes: 40th Evolution Collection Blu-ray review (click for larger image)So the question beckons … What’s new for Apes fans? Plenty! First up is a track that will play along with the movie called Science of the Apes BONUSVIEW. Every so often while the movie is playing, the viewer will be alerted to click somewhere on the screen to access via pop-up a two- to three-minute clip that elaborates a bit on the onscreen action. Very cool. Next up is Impact of the Apes, an eleven-minute featurette that traces the franchise’s roots as a book all the way to its effect on current pop culture. From there we get the twenty-three-minute Evolution of the Apes featurette, which is more of a substantial look at the same kind of stuff Impact looked at. It’s a bit on the redundant side, but it remains a solid watch. Looking for some fun? The Java-based Beyond the Forbidden Zone game may have what you’re looking for as you navigate your character through a mini-maze via multiple choice options. Truth be told? I thought it was kind of lame, but then again Java games aren’t exactly my cup of tea. Capping things off is a little comedic ditty called A Public Service Announcement From ANSA, which is good for a quick laugh. And with that we’re done.

But wait … there are four more discs in this set to go through! The rest of the Blu-rays here pale in comparison to the original. Each has director profiles, image galleries, featurettes, and more, all of which has been noted below, but there are a couple of new things worth shouting about. For instance appearing on the Blu-rays for Conquest and Battle are additional cuts, one unrated and one extended. Don’t expect anything too shocking here, but it’s still nice to have the most complete editions of these possible. The Conquest and Battle Blu-rays are also home to a new featurette on each.

Planet of the Apes: 40th Evolution Collection Blu-ray review (click for larger image)Conquest‘s Riots and Revolutions: Confronting the Times featurette is a fascinating examination of how the later films in the franchise dealt with racism and how that applies to our now modern times. Also on this Blu-ray is an isolated score for the unrated version of the film.

Battle‘s new gem is the End of an Epic: The Final Battle featurette, which serves as both an overview of the series and an in-depth look at the controversy surrounding the conclusion of the franchise. The filmmakers wanted a darker finale while the studio wanted a lighthearted ending. Can you guess who won?

In a nutshell, albeit a rather lengthy nutshell, that’s everything new and included here. In typical Blu-ray fashion the movies both look and sound astounding, and this whole box set is top shelf except for one thing … the packaging. Why, Fox, why? What is your fascination with sticking the Blu-ray discs in your box sets on foam nipples instead of a proper plastic piece to hold them in place? Sure, they come off easily enough, but getting them back on? I felt as if I was going to damage the discs just trying to get them stable in their holders. Give us a break, guys!

Other than that, this is a must own for Apes fans. We’ll probably never see a more concise and informative video package of these wonderful films. The price is a little high, but wow, is it worth it! Here’s to the best damned trip to the Forbidden Zone and beyond I’ve ever had. Bravo!

Special Features

  • 200-page hardcover collector’s book

    Planet of the Apes

  • Commentary by Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Natalie Trundy, and Makeup Artist John Chambers
  • Commentary with Composer Jerry Goldsmith
  • Text Commentary by Eric Greene, author of Planet of the Apes as American Myth
  • Science of the Apes BONUSVIEW track (New to Blu-ray)
  • Beyond the Forbidden Zone HD adventure game (New to Blu-ray)
  • A Public Service Announcement From ANSA in HD (New to Blu-ray)
  • Evolution of the Apes HD featurette (New to Blu-ray)
  • Impact of the Apes HD featurette (New to Blu-ray)
  • Behind the Planet of the Apes feature length documentary
  • Behind the Planet of the Apes promo
  • Planet of the Apes Make-up Test with Edward G. Robinson
  • Roddy McDowall On-set Footage
  • Planet of the Apes dailies and outtakes (No Audio)
  • Planet of the Apes NATO Presentation
  • Planet of the Apes vintage featurette
  • Trailer
  • Image Galleries

    Beneath the Planet of the Apes

  • From Alpha to Omega: Building a Sequel featurette
  • Isolated Soundtrack
  • Trailer
  • Image Galleries

    Escape from the Planet of the Apes

  • The Secret Behind Escape featurette
  • Don Taylor Directs Escape from the Planet of the Apes featurette
  • Isolated Score
  • Trailer
  • Image Galleries

    Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

  • Unrated and Theatrical Versions
  • Riots and Revolutions: Confronting the Times featurette (New to Blu-ray)
  • A Look Behind the Planet of the Apes featurette
  • J. Lee Thompson Directs Conquest of the Planet of the Apes featurette
  • Isolated Score (Unrated Version Only)
  • Interactive Pressbook
  • Trailer
  • Image Galleries

    Battle for the Planet of the Apes

  • Extended and Theatrical Versions
  • End of an Epic: The Final Battle featurette (New to Blu-ray)
  • Isolated Score
  • Interactive Pressbook
  • Trailer
  • Image Galleries

    Films combined:

    5 out of 5

    Special Features:

    5 out of 5

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  • Steve Barton

    You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.