Escape from the Planet of the Apes

image: Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

We spent Christmas quality family time with the 5 original Planet of the Apes movies. (Seven months later, I found this post in my drafts folder).

You’d think we’d have these movies memorized by now, but when you’re dealing with such a sprawling franchise things get a bit hazy, even for Highly Trained Professionals such as ourselves.

After all, we’re not dealing with a mere trilogy. The first film, Planet of the Apes (1968), was adapted from a French novel, Pierre Boulle’s La Planete des Singes (1963) and was followed by 4 sequels in 4 years: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973).

Plus, there were 2 TV series (1 live-action and 1 animated), 1 execrable reboot (2001), 2 prequels – (Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – and a whole bunch of comic books.

Plus, there’s time travel. Time travel that contradicts the time line established in the narrative – a narrative that’s already a bit nonsensical to begin with, to boot.

The 3rd film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, may be a terrible movie, but it’s also terribly entertaining. And it’s got Ricardo Montalban and Eric Braeden giving the scenery a pretty thorough chew, so there’s that.

There’s a delightfully nutty scene in which Presidential Science Advisor Dr. Otto Hasslein (Braeden) goes on the nightly news and explains time travel. I couldn’t find the full scene on youtube, but I did find a remix called “A Lesson in Regression” that does it justice:

You really should watch Escape from the Planet of the Apes, if only to be thankful that the new prequels forego time travel in favor of something slightly more science-y and slightly less what-the-fuck-y.

Still the old films have something the new ones never will: 70s fashion. And, of course, Ricardo Montalban.

On Saturday night, things were wild here. Husband had a gig and I read about Godzilla until my brain was full.

Then, it was time for the television.

At MAPACA, one of the my co-panelists presented an interesting paper on the Paranormal Activity movies, so they were on my mind.

I really enjoyed the first 2 movies. (I didn’t hate the 3rd and 4th, I just didn’t like them as much as the first ones). Still, I like the way each film in the franchise plays with narrative tropes and comments on the social and technical aspects of image production. manipulation of the gaze, spaces of resistance, power, and other popular culture studies stuff.

Movies 3 & 4 are available on Netflix and thus were easily and immediately available to me.

Most importantly, movies 3 and 4 are spooky but not super-scary.

Unless you’re home alone.

And by “you,” I mean “me.”

One time I scared myself witless after watching an episode of Supernatural that I’d seen at least half a dozen times.

To be fair, I also scared myself witless once watching the Dick Van Dyke Show.

True story.

But back to Saturday…

I chose Paranormal Activity 4, which was more entertaining than I remembered but, as I also remembered, not particularly scary.

Later that night, just as we were falling asleep, there was a loud, strange sound that seemed to emanate from the living room.

It only happened once, so we’ve decided to believe it was some air in the pipes.

(We aren’t concerned about the sounds on the roof. They aren’t in the attic, and even if they were, we know those are just squirrels. Or demons. Or demon squirrels).

We’d never set up video surveillance a la Paranormal Activity. Not because of the potential for disappearing and leaving behind mysterious footage, but because of the potential for disappearing and leaving behind evidence of early morning conversations like the one that happened this morning when my alarm went off.

Instead of hitting snooze, I yelled at it like a petulant teenager. “Shut UP, Godzilla!”

Disdain dripping from his voice, Husband replied, “It’s NOT Godzilla. It’s CHEWBACCA!”

Then I hit the snooze and we both went back to sleep.

He’s right, of course. It’s Chewbacca. It’s always Chewbacca.

I don’t even have a Godzilla alarm. That would be ridiculous.

While I was finishing this post, Husband and I watched that Dick Van Dyke Show episode, “A Ghost of A. Chantz,” on Netflix.

It’s still creepy and fun.

You know, it’s probably technically the first found-footage type horror movie/tv show. Huh.

Here, I found it for you on YouTube!

The Dick Van Dyke Show: “A Ghost of A. Chantz”

There aren’t any spoilers because we’re about 3 seasons behind on our Breaking Bad viewing.

Nevertheless, I’m posting my show-concluding thoughts and feelings because it’s the law.

Here’s what I thought was the funniest thing about Breaking Bad: we couldn’t get any of our friends to watch it during the first season.

The people we know who are most obsessed with the show now were the ones who were most horrified by it back in 2008.

Wait, that’s not really funny, is it? It just means that we’re terrible failures as influencers.

Great. Now I’m depressed.

Thanks a lot, Vince Gilligan.

We didn’t quit watching because we lost interest, we just didn’t have time. I’m sure there’s a binge in our future.

I can’t recall what we were watching last week when Husband and I decided that someone needs to place a moratorium on the use of flashbacks in TV shows. If you write Lost you get a pass on this one. That’s a given since it’s a) a show with lots of wacky time travel and b) it’s almost over.

The rest of the writers out in TV land need to pay attention. I’m not kidding, Smartypants. Knock it the fuck off. Right now.

TV Tropes concisely calls this annoying device, “how we got here” and provides a handy and concise definition:

A type of In Medias Res / Whole Episode Flashback, where the story opens at a point at (or near) the end of the story, and the bulk of the story is spent showing how the character got to this point.

I swear 99% of the time that “3 hours earlier” caption is really saying to the viewer, “We’re phoning this shit in because we spent the weekend drinking progressively harsher varieties of hard alcohol and watching Emergency on Netflix and then we got back into the writer’s room on Monday and we had to pull something out of our ass fast for the sweeps week episode or the show runner was going to kick us to the curb.”

A few shows have made brilliantly effective use of the technique. Breaking Bad immediately springs to mind. About eleventy-million cop shows and procedurals can not make the same claim. TVTropes agrees:

Breaking Bad opens on a man driving an RV recklessly through badlands dressed only in a gasmask and underpants. He glances behind him: a flash of what looks like two dead bodies sliding around on the floor. Beside him is an unconscious man, also in a gasmask. Three weeks ago … now how are we going to get from this quiet suburban scene to there?

Speaking of Lost, how great is Miles? I don’t think it counts as a spoiler to take a moment to quote one of my all-time favorite Miles lines: “Well I lived in these houses 30 years before you did, otherwise known as last week, and I have no idea where the hell we are”. Otherwise known as last week. Fantastic.

Speaking of Emergency, which you must never do out loud or you run the risk of an ancient Incan curse elevating the temperature in your cranial cavity until your brains boil and gush out of your skull through your eyesockets, which will conveniently be empty because your eyeballs were liquified and then evaporated, Husband and I watched an episode a few nights ago. Unbelievable Badness.

If you inoculate yourself with a couple episodes of Emergency, I bet you could watch Galactica 1980 or Love Boat or any number of painful things without batting an eye. The thing we liked best about Emergency were the extended sequences of them driving to an emergency with the sirens running. These scenes go on for a long long time. How long? Mystery Science Theater territory.

You can watch the episode we watched on hulu: go to season 1, episode 2 (“Botulism”) and see if you can make it all the way to the end.

Go on, I dare you.

I doubledog dare you.

Husband and I really like Vince Gilligan’s new show, Breaking Bad. It’s really hard to explain why it’s so entertaining. I don’t even know how you’d sell it to someone.

It stars Bryan Cranston (the dad from Malcolm in the Middle) as Walt, a middle-aged Chemistry teacher in Albuquerque. He’s got terminal cancer, a teenage son with a disability, and his wife is pregnant. He’s terrified he’s going to leave his family destitute, so he teams up with Jesse, a meth-dealing former student to make some quick cash. They get an RV and cook meth in the desert while trying not to raise the suspicion of Walt’s DEA-agent brother-in-law, blow themselves up, or get killed by the local competition. And it’s a comedy.

Yeah, that’s pretty hard to sell without sounding deranged. It was smart of them to open the pilot episode with Walt driving the RV like he’s being chased by the hounds of hell while wearing only a rubber lab apron and a gas mask. How could you not want to stay to find out what’s going on?

Well, apparently we’re the only ones we know who wanted to stay to find out what’s going on, but we thought it was intriguing…

In one episode Walt and Jesse try to dispose of a corpse by putting it in an acid bath and end up with intestines all over the house. It’s vile. Yet, it’s really funny.

We can’t pay our friends to watch it with us.