Sunday, December 13, 2009

Don't Make a Scene: Planet of the Apes (1968)

The Story: There's one section of this script by Michael Wilson that cracks me up every time—the descriptive line for Dr. Zaius: "His face is a mask..."

No kidding?

Wilson's re-write of Rod Serling's initial story drafts is a deft melding of the two men's ideas. They were both fire-brand liberals, Wilson being black-listed during the 50's. He has one of the more interesting marks of the black-list, one that ties in with this movie.

Wilson wrote the screenplay of "The Bridge on the River Kwai," which, like "Planet of the Apes" is also based on a novel by French novelist Pierre Boulle. But because Wilson's participation would not be acknowledged by the producers—a practice broken in 1960 with Dalton Trumbo's credits for "Exodus" and "Spartacus"—the credit for the screenplay went to Boulle himself. And when the film won an Academy award for Best Screenplay the same year it won Best Picture, it was Boulle who collected the statuette for the project he did not adapt. In 1984, to redress the incident Columbia Pictures issued a new release of the film with Wilson's name (and co-scenarist's Carl Foreman) and AMPAS awarded posthumous statues to the writers.

Again, I have a chance to use the final script as the basis for this scene, and its interesting to see what was left out: a lot of small changes have been made, tiny little ones mostly in Heston's lines, making them simpler in language and more declarative in intent. But the major changes are more interesting. For example, there's an exchange between Taylor and Zira after their good-bye kiss where the two races are united by a common recognition of God (that acknowledgement makes Taylor's final outburst more literal); the send-off to Lucius about dissent came at a time of student unrest across college campuses during the Viet-Nam war. Wilson's promotion of dissent as the way to change is muted by substituting the youth joke-line "never trust anybody over thirty" which got a laugh at the time the film was released, but gets mystified looks nowadays.

And then there's the Taylor concession speech, of sorts, saying that he was "an intelligent being who harm"*

The reading from the Lawgiver's Scroll, however, is...word for word.

The Set-Up: Astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) is marooned on a desolate planet where apes are the dominant life-form, subjugating human beings like himself as animals. Now he's running for his life, with the help of three chimpanzee scientists (Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, and Lou Wagner), escaping from the orangutan overlords who want to kill him (or worse!) led by Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans). An ambush has been thwarted. And now in that section of the planet called "The Forbidden Zone" by the apes, all the parties have found an archaeological dig unearthing evidence of a technologically advanced human civilization preceding apes. To avoid a gorilla ambush, Taylor has taken Zaius hostage for a chance to escape and for provisions. But the conversation and the animosity continues...


To properly chart the significant differences between script and film, sections have been color-coded:
Deletions are in RED; Additions are in Yellow

Zira and Cornelius look down at the captive mandarin. Their rebellious spirit has evaporated, and they are clearly afraid.

ZIRA: Taylor, please -- don't treat him that way.
TAYLOR: Why not?
ZIRA: It's humiliating.

TAYLOR: Wasn't I humiliated? By all of you? Didn't you lead me around on a leash?
CORNELIUS: That was different. We thought you were .... inferior.
TAYLOR (wintry smile): And now you know the truth.
(to Zaius)
TAYLOR: Cornelius has beaten you, Doctor. He proved it. Man preceded you here. You owe him your science, your language your culture...

TAYLOR: ...whatever knowledge civilization you have.
ZAIUS (quietly): Then answer this: If man was superior, why didn't he survive?

TAYLOR (shrugging): He might have been wiped out by a plague. Natural catastrophe. Like a fiery storm of meteors. From the looks of this part of your planet, I'd say that was a fair bet.
ZIRA (weakly): But we can't be sure.
TAYLOR (indicating Zaius): He is. He knew all the time. Long before your discovery, he knew.
(to Zaius)
Defender of the Faith. Guardian of the terrible secret.

TAYLOR: Isn't that right, doctor?

385-388 OUT


As Zira and Cornelius look at him expectantly.

ZAIUS: What I know of man was written long ago -- set down by the wisest ape of all -- our Lawgiver.
(to Cornelius)

ZAIUS: Cornelius. Open my breast pocket.

Cornelius crosses to Zaius, and takes a small book bound in black
leather from the breast pocket of his tunic.

ZAIUS: Read it to him: the twenty ninth Scroll, sixth Verse.

Cornelius thumbs through the book, finds the citation and reads aloud:

CORNELIUS: 'Beware the beast man, for he is the devil's pawn.'

CORNELIUS: 'Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport...

CORNELIUS: ...or lust or greed.'

CORNELIUS: 'Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land.'

CORNELIUS: 'Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours.'

CORNELIUS: 'Shun him. Drive him back into his jungle lair:'

CORNELIUS: 'For he is the harbinger of death'.

Cornelius falls silent and looks down at Zaius.

ZAIUS (quietly): I found nothing in the cave to alter that conception of man. And I still live by its injunction.


Lucius hurries out of the rocks leading a saddled horse. Zaius' five mounted gorillas appear behind him. Taylor calls out to them:

TAYLOR: Stay where you are! That's far enough!

Lucius comes up with the horse. Taylor checks the provisions in the saddlebags. Lucius is frowning.

LUCIUS: They think you're behaving foolishly. I must say I agree. Where will you go?
TAYLOR (nodding o.s.): I'll start by following the shoreline. (a smile) And my nose.
ZIRA: But suppose you find nothing but a wasteland. How will you survive?

ZAIUS (firmly): He won't survive.
(all look at him)
ZAIUS: Do you know what sort of life awaits you out there, Taylor? That of an animal. If you aren't eventually hunted down and killed by apes, some jungle beast will devour you.

TAYLOR: Then there is another jungle?

ZAIUS (shrugs; then, sardonically): Of course, you could return with us. Our society might find a place for you and your mate.

TAYLOR: Sure. In a cage.

ZAIUS: Where else, but in a cage, does man belong?

TAYLOR: No, thanks. I'll take freedom.


Taylor mounts the horse, extends a helping hand to Nova, who vaults nimbly onto the horse's rump. Taylor looks at Zira and Cornelius.

TAYLOR: Would you like to come along?
ZIRA: We can't.
TAYLOR: It's better than going to prison for heresy.

CORNELIUS: They can't convict us of that. You proved our innocence. Besides, his culture...

CORNELIUS:(indicating Zaius) ... is our culture.

TAYLOR: Good luck then.

He reaches down, grasps Cornelius' hand, then grins crookedly.

He extends his hand to Lucius, who takes it.

TAYLOR: Lucius.
LUCIUS: I think you're making a mistake.
TAYLOR: That's the boy. Keep 'em flying.
TAYLOR: The flags of discontent. It's the only way anything ever gets changed.

TAYLOR: Remember, never trust anybody over 30.

TAYLOR: Dr. Zira, I'd like to kiss you good-bye.

ZIRA: All right, but....

ZIRA (tears in her eyes):'re so damned ugly!

Taylor smiles, leans down, kisses her.

ZIRA (softly): Go with God, Taylor. (half smile) That's an old expression. it comes from both ape and man.
TAYLOR: God bless you.

TAYLOR: (to Zaius) Don't try to follow us.
(pats stock of his rifle)
I'm pretty handy with things like this.

ZAIUS: Of that I'm sure. All my life I've awaited your coming and dreaded it. Like death itself.

Taylor looks piercingly at Zaius, more troubled than offended.

TAYLOR: From the first, I've terrified you, Doctor. And in spite of every sign that I'm an intelligent being who means no harm, you continue to hate and fear me. Why?

ZAIUS (calmly, without rancor): Because you are a man. And you were right -- I have always known about man. From the evidence, I believe his wisdom must walk hand in hand with his idiocy. His emotions must rule his brain. He must be a warlike animal who gives battle to everything around him -- even himself.

TAYLOR: What evidence? No weapons were found in the cave.

ZAIUS: The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise. Your breed made a desert of it, ages ago.

TAYLOR (he waits, then wearily): We're back at the beginning. I still don't know the why. A planet where apes evolved from men. A world turned wrong side up. A puzzle with one piece missing. There's got to be an answer.

ZAIUS (softly): Don't look for it, Taylor.

ZAIUS: You may not like what you find.


Taylor shakes his head, still baffled, digs his heels into the horse's flank. It canters off along the sandy shore. Zira, Cornelius and Lucius sadly watch the departure.

ZAIUS: Untie me!

Cornelius moves quickly to remove the rope from Zaius' neck. Behind them, the five mounted gorillas gallop forward. Zaius gets up, waves them to a halt.

ZAIUS: No, no! Wait! Let him go!


Taylor looks back, sees that Zaius has stopped the mounted apes, slows his horse to a trot, smiles at Nova.

390- OUT


Zaius watches as Taylor's horse moves farther away along the beach.
Then he turns to an ape called MARCUS.

ZAIUS (quietly): Fetch your explosives. We're going to seal the cave.
MARCUS: Yes, sir.

He remounts his horse and rides o.s.

CORNELIUS (aghast): Seal the cave?
ZAIUS: That's correct. And you will both stand trial for heresy.
ZIRA: But the proof? The doll?
ZAIUS: In a few minutes there will be no doll.

ZAIUS: There can't be. (honest regret) I'm sorry.

Cornelius throws himself at Zaius.

CORNELIUS: You mustn't! You gave your word!

Zaius looks emptily at one of his apes.

ZAIUS: What I do, I do with no pleasure. Silence him.

A hairy hand is clapped over Cornelius' mouth. He is dragged off,
struggling, kicking. Lucius, unafraid, glares at Zaius.

LUCIUS: Dr. Zaius, this is inexcusable! Why must knowledge stand still? What about the future?

Zaius looks benevolently at Lucius.

ZAIUS:I may just have saved it for you.

Lucius and Zira look at each other, befuddled. Once more their eyes follow the retreating figures of Taylor and Nova. The beach separating the water from the canyon becomes narrower as they move downstream.

LUCIUS ZIRA: What will he find out there, doctor?


His face is a mask, his tone enigmatic.

ZAIUS: His destiny.

"Planet of the Apes"

Words by Rod Serling and Michael Wilson

Pictures by Leon Shamroy and Franklin J. Schaffner

"Planet of the Apes" is available on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

* No one was going to quibble with Heston over line-changes on this one: he filmed a great deal of "Planet of the Apes" with a lingering flu—in a role played half naked on location most of the time!


Rory said...

These lines:
"Because you are a man. And you were right -- I have always known about man. From the evidence, I believe his wisdom must walk hand in hand with his idiocy. His emotions must rule his brain. He must be a warlike animal who gives battle to everything around him -- even himself."
were originally written by Rod Serling, and are the only thing that survives from his early drafts in 1964-65

Yojimbo_5 said...

And just to be clear (lest anyone get the wrong impression)--from this scene.

Serling's adaptation from Boulle's novel is quite different from the source, and as the guy who made that leap, he deserves some credit.

Movie scripts evolve and POTA was being worked on up to shooting—as the changes indicated made clear— (and, no doubt, after). Here are a couple links: Gordon Webb's distillation of his lecture on Serling and his "Apes" contributions.

And, submitted for your investigation: a page of PDF links to "Apes" scripts.

Matthew K. said...

hey- first time commenter here. the analysis is out of my league so i can't add much to the discussion. i was just blown away by the amount of info. i click on anything POTA-related so this was a nice suprise. every time i watch POTA on AMC i'm amazed at how well it holds up. will check in again.