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TV Week, September 29th, 1974
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A Future World
Transform people into moving, speaking, feeling apes…take a giant leap into the future and show how it could be…link a chimpanzee and two humans in an unlikely comradeship…Then put them in peril with chases and adventures and you have the unique new series, Planet of the Apes (based on the successful motion pictures), airing on CBS, Fridays at 8PM. The stars are Roddy McDowall as Galen, an inquisitive chimpanzee, a role somewhat similar to those he played in four of the five movies; Ron Harper as Alan Virdon and James Naughton as Pete Burke, two atronauts who land on the earth of the future.
Co-starring are Mark Lenard as Urko, a gorilla, and Booth Colman as Zaius, an orangutan. In the ape society, orangutans are the rulers and gorillas are the enforcers, who punish those considered as enemies of the state. Humans occupy menial roles. In the series, Galen befriends the two astronauts after their spaceship is hurled through the time barrier far into the year 3,000. Some unimaginable holocaust has turned society’s tables so that men are now ruled by apes—but in a civilization more primitive than the astronauts’ own time. The ape society considers the astronauts, with their advanced technical knowledge, as threats to their culture. So the orangutans order the enforcing gorillas to capture the men before they spread dangerous ideas to others. Curious about the astronauts’ era, Galen defies simian law to help them and becomes a fugitive too.
Roddy McDowall undergoes the gruelling transformation—it takes at least three hours—from Homo Sapiens to simian for his starring role as Galen, a chimpanzee.
The show has some unusual problems, not the least of which is the fantastic makeup which turns actors into startlingly realistic chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans—and still makes it possible for them to perform dramatically. It requires a three-hour ordeal to put on and another 30 to 45 minutes to remove the makeup. But it is a challenge the actors welcome, particularly McDowall. He explains: “There is a great sense of adventure in this kind of project. It’s exhausting, it’s very hard work and no one quite appreciates it! But it’s rewarding since the character is so interesting to play.”
And McDowall should know, since his impressive career dates back to his days as a child star, when at 12 he appeared in “How Green Was My Valley” and went on to such films as “My Friend Flicka” and “Lassie;” to Broadway stardom in “Compulsion,” “No Time for Sergeants,” “Camelot” and a Tony award for “The Fighting Cock.”
It takes a small army of makeup personnel on each episode of the series, since each actor playing an ape has his own makeup artist for keeping the ape face in good repair. Another constant challenge is translating the show’s concept into reality. The producers are kept scrambling to anticipate how things might be in the world thousands of years from now.
Ron Harper and James Naughton, like Roddy McDowall, enjoy being in such an offbeat show. Harper was on his honeymoon last June with daytime serial (Love of Life) star Sally Stark when he was notified he had won the role. It has meant a marriage by long distance, since he is working in Hollywood and his bride works in New York. This is Harper’s fifth television series. A native of Turtle Creek, Pa., Ron attended Princeton and turned down a fellowship to Harvard Law School to study drama.
James Naughton was born in Middletown, Conn., and attended Yale Drama School. His stage work includes “Long Day’s Journey into Night” and “The Wed and the Rock.” He did the television special, “Antigone” and “Look Homeward, Angel,” and won notice in his first feature film, “The Paper Chase.”
It is the second series for co-star Mark Lenard, who was a regular on Here Come the Brides, made two appearances as Mr. Spock’s father in Star Trek and has been a frequent guest on television dramatic shows. The role played by veteran Shakespearean actor Booth Colman as an elder statesman orangutan is similar to that played in the original “Planet of the Apes” movie by Maurice Evans, with whom Colman has toured extensively.
BELOW: The feature as it originally appeared.
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