The (Marxian)Planet of the Apes

Julio Pino jpino at
Thu Aug 3 09:52:40 MDT 2000

   The recent discussion on leftist sci-fi held on this list reminded me of
an important ommission: Michael Wilson's screenplay for the 1968 film
classic "The Planet of the Apes." Wilson, a victim of the Hollywood
Blacklist, wrote an adaptation of Pierre Boulle's 1962 novel, "Monkey
Planet", that bears little similarity to either the source material or to
Rod Serling's first-draft screenplay. (Serling got co-writing credit,
according to producer Richard Zanuck, solely due to legal reasons; only
Wilson's scenario reached the screen.)Specificaly, Wilson re-wrote the
story to suit his own left-wing politics and comment on American
civilization in that Annus Mirabilis.
   It was Wilson's idea that the ape society should be organized along
caste lines, with the light-skinned orangutans  theologians ruling the
planet, chimpanzes and monkeys making up the intellectual class, and
gorillas being the proles and soldiers.Wilson made Zera, the female
chimpanze, the dominant partner in her marriage to Cornelius, and it is she
who first comes to suspect that the austronaut Taylor is not a mutant but a
throwback to an earlier and more advanced human civilization.The screenplay
also blasts organized religion. The orangutans stupidly believe that they
are the height of creation because "The Creator made the ape in his own
image". Cornelius, an archeologist, is the Darwin of his time, but fears
that telling the truth about evolution will cost him his job.
  But the real shocker in the screenplay is the ending, which is totally
different from the conclusion of Boulle's novel. (There, Taylor makes it
back across the time-warp.)Wilson invented the final sequence where Taylor
discovers that he's been on Earth all along, when he sees the Statue of
Liberty buried waist deep on the beach.What else could this symbolize in
1968 except the decline and fall of the American empire in the jungles of
Viet Nam? It was a stroke of genius for Zanuck to hire then-liberal and now
right-wing wacko gun-nut Heston to play the part of Taylor. The only more
appropriate choice would have been John Wayne.
   "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes", the third sequel, is equally
imflammatory, but I'll save comment on that one for another time.
Julio Cesar

More information about the Marxism mailing list