The year is 2011 and the world is going bananas for apes once again. As RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES continues to top the box office, what better time to revisit the film that started it all…
The year is 3978 A.D. and a spaceship with a crew of four crashes down on a distant planet, one in which man is pre-lingual, uncivilized and used for scientific experiments, while apes have learned speech and technology and rule the planet. The classic PLANET OF THE APES (1968) spawned a multi-generational franchise, a television show, a failed 2001 remake, and now a successful prequel. Endlessly quoted and referenced throughout pop culture, nowhere is POTA more groundbreaking than in the atonal score by Jerry Goldsmith.
Punctuated bass notes on the piano, ram’s horn, an insistent flute “melody,” and the use of the echoplex to create the echoing effects of the pizzicato strings, percussion, etc., combine to create another sonic world right from the beginning. Other effects such as col legno violins (using the wooden part of the bow) and the now-famous metal mixing bowls all add to a score that brilliantly creates an other-wordly atmosphere for a world turned upside down.
One of the most iconic scenes takes place as the humans attempt to escape the nets of as-yet-unidentified figures on horseback. The ram’s horn cuts through the orchestra, invades our senses and shrillingly announces our first sight of the apes on horseback along with a flashy bit of camera zoom and editing. Prominent among the percussive effects are the xylophone, vibra slap and the Brazilian cuika, a drum head device with a rod inserted in the middle of it used to simulate the grunting of the apes. A brilliant scene that ends humorously with the bass slide whistle and the ram’s horn as the apes pose for photographs with their strung up human catches.
POTA works brilliantly in the film to establish an aural landscape that is at once foreign yet strangely familiar. As a separate listening experience, Goldsmith’s score may be tough listening for film music fans whose ears may not be accustomed to atonality. But Goldsmith’s legendary score deserves an essential spot in every fan’s collection.