Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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My apes obsession is well documented on this blog and I make no apologies for the adulation in this post. When I first saw Planet of the Apes on TV in the seventies I was actually coming to the simian party pretty late. Little did I know at that time that there were five movies that had already preceded the television series.

Boy was I in for a treat.

The TV series was cancelled in the first season due to poor audience figures in the US although it was a smash hit in the UK. Apes mania hit the UK in the mid to late seventies. I know. That sounds like a ridiculous statement but it was true. Apes were everywhere: TV, live performances, games, models, games, clothing. It was a real teenybopper phenomenon. Or at least that the way this 12 year old remembers it.

Then came the re-runs of the movies in the cinemas. Imagine these days multiplexes running movies that were five years old?/ Of course this was just before the age of VHS and an age before streaming and on demand. It actually seems weird just writing about how antiquated and in control the film and TV studios were in those days. But the films were mind-blowing to me at once adult and violent but at the same time familiar and vivid thanks to Galen, Burke and Virdon in the TV series.

 

 

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The movies are patchy of course ranging from the taut sixties sci fi of the original with Charlton Heston to increasingly low budgets leading to diminishing returns. I read recently that each ape movie played to society’s fears in each ear and it’s true, they tackle nuclear war, racism, slavery, liberalism, vivisection and all out trepidation for our future.

Tim Burton rebooted the franchise badly a few years ago (how did one of my favourite directors get that so badly wrong) but the recent back to basics approach with the movies is golden. Rise of The Planet of the Apes just appeared with no fanfare, almost like the studio was embarrassed by it but it was a huge success, paving the way for this years’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Technology in movie making has meant that we now have Andy Serkis motion capture apes as opposed to John Chamber’s outstanding make up for actors. I love both and at the time we marvelled at the make up and now we don’t even notice that the apes are all CGI, which is testament to the creativity and skills at play. Incidentally, John Chambers also created disguise kits for the CIA as well as Cornelius’s muzzle, I’d like to see CGI do that…but maybe there’s an entire movie franchise in that idea.

I always think a director has you in the palm of his hand when you are rooting for the apes and not the humans and this is what happens in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. There are lots of nods and winks to the old movies (the main orang-utan is called Maurice, a loving nod to Maurice Colman who played Dr Zaius…apologies, I could go on) but the main thrust of the movie is decidedly modern and of its time. Fast, visceral, epic and engaging — this is a summer blockbuster for the masses but doesn’t flinch from delivering hefty moralistic messaging for both apes and men.

Of course the sequel is set up perfectly and I’m sure they are storyboarding as we speak and Andy Serkis is suiting up and you know what?

I can’t wait.

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Horror Brush Script

Back in the eighties, there was a real trend for hand drawn film identities, particularly in the horror genre. Looking back at that era, everyone was at it: unless you had a hand drawn affair, then your film wasn’t a) credible or b) nowhere near scary enough.

This collection is an edited version of a seemingly vast collection of logos I came across last week and there’s definitely something nice about seeing them together.  It’s striking how similar they are too – designers or their commissioners didn’t seem to be too worried about plagiarism, in fact I suspect they probably encouraged it.

My favourites have to be American Werewolf and The Fog, although I have to admit being swayed by them being favourite films from that era. Special mention has to go the ‘Chopping Mall’ as the worst/best movie title pun of all time.

I’d like to see a re-emergence of this type of type…it would certainly be a huge improvement on the cookie cutter Trajan typography we see so often these days.

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Maverick creative thinking shreds marketing nerves

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I’m a huge fan of movie posters and have wittered on endlessly on this blog to anyone who has enough patience to read about my love for them. There are some great and some not so great examples around at the moment and one of the best examples of brilliant creativity in this space  had nothing to do with the actual marketing team, but a street artist.

The dude who goes by the name Poster Boy NYC is known for ‘putting his spin’ on NYC  signage with anti-consumerism, anti-everything satire. What he’s done for a poster of  Hugh Jackman’s latest movie, The Wolverine, however, is a genius work of marketing that should embarrass the studio team assigned to this film for not thinking of it first. The actual poster for the film features the simple image of Wolverine with claws bared. In the his version, however, the posters on either side are made to look as though they have been clawed by Marvel’s hirsute superhero.

It’s a piece of sharp thinking, sure to get the official creative team looking at their shoes and coughing. Sign him up, boys.

X Men First Class 2

These teaser posters for the upcoming film X men First Class 2 caught my eye. An interesting riff on past and present showing present day and back in the day Magneto and Xavier.

I really like how teaser posters have the freedom to be more interesting, with less of a promotional job to do – surpassing their main film poster counterparts on countless occasions.

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An obsession with Apes

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The original Planet of the Apes movie franchise ran from 1968 to 1973. The movie franchise was based on the original novel La Planete des Singes or Monkey Planet by Pierre Boulle (who also wrote the original Bridge on the River Kwai book). The first movie in the series starred Charlton Heston and set the bar for drama and originality in the sci-fi genre that was gradually diminished as each movie sequel was released. Only the diehard Planet of the Apes fan would disagree with that statement and I guess that person would be me.

My personal favourites (after the original of course) are ‘Beneath…’ and ‘Battle…’ for lots of obscure fanboy reasons all centred around the gorilla-centric plot lines and the expansion of the original premise that apes now rule our devastated planet. I was keen on the idea being fleshed out and seeing the everyday simian/human existence for some reason fascinated me.

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In 1974 a TV series was created – quite some time after the original movie had been made – I was all over it. Or as much as an 11 year old in the analogue world of Britain in the early seventies could be all over anything. Only fourteen episodes were actually made (why is it that when you discover a fact like this it’s always a surprise) and the show was cancelled midway through its run due to low ratings.

The show is based loosely around the apes ruling the world routine but with the subjugated humans having the ability to talk, helping to create more plot options, clearly. Two astronauts, Burke and Virdon, hook up with chimpanzee Galen and end up having what to modern eyes fairly run of the mill episodes. At the time of course these were monumental clashes between man and ape with the ingenuity of humankind, the wisdom of orangutans, the intelligence of chimpanzees and the barbarity of gorillas all providing plenty of plot options.

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Of course these days if we like a movie or TV show we can record it, buy it, download it, see it umpteen times on catch up or see it endlessly on a lesser channel. But in 1974 it was on once and that was it. Not to be short-changed I recorded each episode on an analogue audio tape deck, sat in front of the television set with a circular dial operated tape cassette .

No, really, I did.

I even stopped and started to cut out the TV ads.I would listen to the deteriorating TDK recordings over and over, trying make out the dialogue amidst the tape hiss and pots and pans being rattled in the background. I can still recall the thrill of the opening credits theme tune and it still to this day sends a chill down my spine.

Although the series was canned in the US, it was much popular in the UK for some reason and it spawned all manner or merchandise and paraphernalia around it. I was already a comic devotee by this time and it’s fair to say that Planet of the Apes caught my imagination in so many ways. The original movie franchise was also released back in to the cinemas which is when I actually saw them all for the first time – all out of the correct order as it happens – and the bug was well and truly caught for me.

CARDS

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There were the ubiquitous bubble gum cards of course and what self-respecting 11-year-old wasn’t into that? Then came the Marvel comic adaptation which wasn’t bad at all with an alternative take on the ape versus man universe. Toy merchadise was next up and compared to the relentless commercialism around franchises these days, the POTA toys were tame by comparison but very collectable. My favourite was Urko, so I had to get him first, followed by Galen and for bizarrely I wasn’t that fussed for the humans, it was all about the apes for me.

There were also live shows at showgrounds across the country with Apes on horseback chasing down humans, whips, guns and all manner of excitement. We went to see one of the live extravaganzas in Harrogate and my dad managed to get Urko’s autograph for me. I still have it somewhere. There was even what I thought at the time sub standard animated TV series called Rise of the Planet of the Apes, it was no substitute for the main deal, but it slaked our simian thirst.

I look back on my obsession with all things ape with faint embarrassment but with complete understanding of myself now and at that time. I often see things in the geek treasure trove that I think my 11 year old self would be beside himself to even touch, never mind own. My obsessional behavioural pattern was established early in life with boxes of Apes stuff stashed in the loft after the next big thing to come along overtook it (Star Wars I think).

These boxes of well used merchhadise and lovingly curated scrapbooks wait patiently to be discovered in the dusty darkness. In fact, I might go have a look right now…

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What’s your weapon of choice?

I’m loving this fabulous array of film, television and comic book character weapons. How many can you identify?

Halloween…He came home

In my opinion, the best Halloween film ever made is John Carpenter‘s original Halloween. It heralded a  genre of slasher horror films that gradually deteriorated over the years but Carpenter’s original made-on-a-shoestring film still is the benchmark for this genre.
Subsequent Halloween sequels never really hit the mark, although Rob Zombie’s 2007 ‘re-imagining’ was pretty brutal and visceral it doesn’t come close to matching the sheer atmosphere and tension built up in the original 1979 version. This was the first ‘x rated’ film I ever saw at the Odeon in Leeds and I’ll never forget the screams and tension in the theatre as a teenager. We’d not seen anything like it – perhaps that’s why it still works for me.
After countless viewings, Halloween has never lost its power to draw you in and it’s arguably Carpenter’s finest hour. It’s aged pretty well too and the surprisingly contemporary score (written by Carpenter) never fails to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Carpenter employs all manner of movie tricks that have since become standard practice. The opening shot is masterful using a handheld camera – a technique that was groundbreaking at the time.
Jamie Lee Curtis created the template for the geeky small town teenage babysitter who is relentlessly stalked by the killer – who in this instance is ‘the shape’ aka Michael Myers, who happens to be her brother.  Myers is unforgettably portrayed as a chilling, rubber masked automaton hell bent on death and seemingly unkillable.
The brilliant Donald Pleasance plays the killer’s doctor, Loomis – full of portents of doom. He is predictably not taken seriously by the local police until it’s too late. He gets all the best lines of course:
I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil.
I’ll give Halloween a spin on the Blue Ray tonight and see if it can still generate the chills…