FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT has released the long awaited Special Collection of all the "PLANET OF THE APES" films in an impressive boxed set, titled: "PLANET OF THE APES: 40th Anniversary EVOLUTION BLU-RAY COLLECTION." While the original film, "PLANET OF THE APES" is available individually, this boxed set features a hardcopy coffee table book as well as all films of the series.
"PLANET OF THE APES" still holds up well, and if one can forget what an a-- Charlton Heston became in his later years, his performance in the first film, is in tone with the rest of the film, and he even shows some remarkable restraint in various scenes. It also helps that there are large settings wherein there's a limited amount of scenery for him to chew! From the opening sequence and all the way through, "PLANET OF THE APES" is a real joyride, offering great pacing, tight direction and enough stunts and "large-scale" imagery to make this one fun for the whole family. Sure, the ape makeup and limitations of facial movement when talking can wear thin very quickly, but there's enough else exciting in the film, to make it a fun film to revisit often.
"BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES" is a dark film in many ways, and the sci-fi "telepath" plot is filled with wholes, and campy. However, James Franciscus does a fine job and even though the special effects don't hold up well, there are some intriguing things going on within the script, and a decent enough ending to make this one still worthwhile, although it's unlikely viewers will want to revisit it as much as other films in the series.
"ESCAPE FROM THE PLANT OF THE APES" offers some of the best examples of how social issues were forming many films of the '70s. Sure, some of the film plays like a tv movie, but there are great moments of thought provoking dialogue, as in the scene wherein Cornelius attends a boxing match and comments about the surprising amount of violence humans seem to enjoy for entertainment's sake alone. Ricardo Montebalm is terrific and will likely leave audiences wishing he'd only been in the film more. There are even a few great comedic moments within the film, while never diminishing the emotional impact of the ape parents struggling to save their baby from the pending doom sought by one of the screen's most reviling villains in a long time!
"CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES" offers even stronger political allegory than any of the other "APE" films, and it holds up remarkably well today! The plot, involving Apes being abused and treated as slaves, may feel heavy-handed at times, but it's never-the-less compelling. The film's atmosphere adapts a gritty, tense pacing and never lets up, all the way through it's bloody, depressing conclusion. Arguably the "Best" of the "APE" films alongside the original.
"BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES" is probably the silliest of the films, although it's got plenty of fans on the internet. It feels more contrived than any of the other films and the conclusion is so syrupy and heavy-handed that it's sure to annoy many viewers, as it did this reviewer, preventing it from being revisited.
All of the "APE" films have been given 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoding. "PLANET OF THE APES" offers a major improvement over previous dvd versions, with notably better color levels (though never vibrant!) and contrast levels. Still, blacks are never inky, and darker scenes tend to fall flat. Grain is present throughout, but being a gritty film, it's never too intrusive. An impressive high-resolution transfer with some jump-off-the-screen detail, but not up there with the best blu-rays from FOX. FOX has also provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for all of the films. "PLANET OF THE APES" is disappointing in terms of surround involvement, as it's rarely utilized. There are some discrete effects, but they feel manufactured, rather than natural. The great score by Jerry Goldsmith is complimented with decent fidelity, although surrounds are still restrained!
"BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES" offers generally brighter colors. However, the quality of the image varies greatly from scene-to-scene, with many scenes suffering from softness. Detail is more lacking in comparison to the other films in the series.
Surrounds are better employed in this film, however, discrete effects still feel unnatural. There are some bass effects as well, but none that can compete with the better ones offered in more current films.
"ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES" offers the best overall transfer of the series. Colors are consistently vibrant, and contrast is even remarkable at times! There is amazing detail in many scenes. Still, there are more than a few scenes wherein the image falls completely flat. Uneven, but impressive, for the most part.
The mix is on par with "BENEATH." There are more surround effects and discrete effects are engaged with slightly more natural feel than in the previous films. However, dynamic range is hindered at times relating to dialogue pitch. Although never unintelligible, it's wanting in a few scenes.
"CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES" offers impressive colors, all the more important due to the film's elaborate production design. Unfortunately, due to the film being the darkest in tone of the series, the lack of detail due to inadequate blacks/grays, really hurts the overall potential of the blu-ray presentation. The image lacks an important level of detail in the darkest scenes, and softness pops up sporadically.
This mix is the most aggressive of all the films! Surrounds and discrete effects feel the most natural here. Bass effects really help the film's intense atmosphere continuously. Unfortunately, dialogue sounds muddled at times. Captioning was even necessary in a few instances!
"BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES" offers a much brighter image than "CONQUEST," however, softness is still an issue in many scenes. Detail varies in quality, sometimes looking terrific, and in other scenes, looking flat. It's possibly the most uneven transfer of the series.
Possibly the least impressive of the mixes, looping is horrible in spots. Surround involvement feels cheap and more manufactured than in any of the other films. Dialogue is always intelligible and free from distortion.
FOX has gone all the way to provide an impressive coffee-table keepsake for this release! The five discs making up the collection are carefully stored within a hardcover book, detailed with time-chronology and full color photos, practically everything a fan of the films could want. Supplements from previous dvd releases of the films have been carried over, with most focused on the original "PLANET OF THE APES" film. Still galleries, including Lobby cards and behind-the-scenes photos, are presented within video montage segments, offered in 1080i.
In addition to many commentaries(the first being the worst, even with Roddy McDowell on board! It's just dull and there are huge portions wherein nothing is said!!!), there are trailers for all films in full HD!
A great option offered, is the isolated score and commentary with Jerry Goldsmith. A great commentary, and a great mix(DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
There are numerous featurettes, raw footage and a lengthy documentary. All of which offer some great nostalgia and varying quality. All of the films offer a featurette in full HD.