Going Bananas Over AMCs Apes Salute

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The most interesting recollections in American Movie
Classics' Behind thePlanet of the Apes special reveal how creative
types devised sequel after sequel, forced upon them by studio executives' hunger for
box-office success.

The writers and producers wrapped each movie without
considering sequel potential, only to hear later from 20th Century Fox brass that they
wanted yet another follow-up, which explains the increasingly outlandish story lines. The
creatives were then hamstrung by increasingly stringent budget constraints.

Even the first film's peak $6 million production
budget forced art director William Creber to design a primitive apes' city, rather
than the futuristic one envisioned in Pierre Boulle's novel, Monkey Planet.

How the Apes franchise began is a fascinating story
in itself. In 1963, producer Arthur J. Jacobs acquired the rights to Boulle's novel,
but he couldn't sell a Rod (Twilight Zone) Serling script. After signing
Charlton Heston, he got the attention of Fox's Richard Zanuck. But the man who truly
made the concept come alive was John Chambers, who got a much-deserved special Oscar for
his unique prosthetic Apes makeup.

A well-paced blend of film clips, interviews and home
movies makes this an enjoyable behind-the-scenes journey, with Apes veteran Roddy
McDowall as its guide. In interviews, for instance, Heston and Zanuck reveal that the only
way that Heston would do a cameo in the sequel was if his character was killed off.

It's clear from the interviews that the cast and
producers are equally enthused about each flick's quality, despite the obvious fact
that none came anywhere near the first one. Instead of stopping there, Fox turned Apes
into a money machine that churned out five movies, two network-television series and scads
of spinoff toys and merchandise.

Most of all, this show rates as a gold mine for trivia
buffs. We learn that most of the first film's outdoor scenes were shot at the
"Fox Ranch" (now Malibu Creek State Park), and that its final scene was shot at
Malibu's Zuma Beach, and the Statue of Liberty ruin is actually a painting.

AMC's two-hour Behind the Planet of the Apes --
linked to its 30th-anniversary Apes festival -- will bow at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Sept. 6, with a rerun Sept. 7 at 11 p.m.

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