Thursday, August 4, 2011
Planet of the Apes and its novel beginnings
There were Hollywood changes made for the film. The novel's protagonist is an astronaut named Ulysse, a nod to the Greek myth. His story is told via a message in a bottle that is discovered by a futuristic space-traveling couple. Other than a more cinematic twist ending, everything else remained the same.
The ending of the original film, Charlton Heston on the beach, staring at a shattered Statue of Liberty, "You maniacs! You blew it up!" is ingrained in our cultural psyche. The novel has its own twist ending that I will not reveal, in hopes that you read the book and discover it for yourself.
The novel was almost designed to be adapted by "Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling. It mixes science fiction with social commentary just as Serling often did for TV audiences in the late 1950s and '60s. Themes of racial and class conflict drive the novel. It's almost cliche to say that the book is a reflection on how humans treat the rest of the world.
Fro creating something that eventually became campy beyond reason, Boulle the author wasn't a hack. After serving as a spy in Southeast Asia during World War II, Boulle eventually wrote "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" and even won and Oscar for the screenplay. (The true writers of the screenplay were blacklisted as communist sympathizers but finally received credit in 1984.) His other novels were successful in France and occasionally crossed the pond to the U.S. But La planète des singes (Monkey Planet) brought a new level of attention to Boulle.
After 30 more years as a novelist, Boulle passed away in 1994. He was 81.