Advertisement

13 Planet Of The Apes Facts That Will Blow Your Mind

13. It All Came From The French Book Monkey Planet

It wasn't always about our own planet, and there wasn't always a half-buried Statue of Liberty waiting to reveal the fate of the human race. But the original novel was still inspired by man's inhumanity to man. In Pierre Boulle's La Planete Des Singes (1963), often inelegantly translated as Monkey Planet, the action takes place on Soror: a sister planet to our earth, it is, nonetheless, an alien planet distantly related to that in Burton's Planet of the Apes (2001). But the topsy-turvy evolution offers Boulle the opportunity to comment on man's inhumanity to man; for example, when the sophisticated apes that subjugate the brutal humans ensure a child is fed, whereas her own kind would let her starve. And Boulle knew about inhumanity: held in a forced labour camp by the Japanese in WWII, his experiences inspired the novel that became classic war film The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957). His novel, rather than pulp sci-fi, is a literary satire on humanity and its arbitrary place in the scheme of things. Cornelius, the amiable chimp archaeologist of the early films, was originally a skilled neurosurgeon in the novel, and commented on how fortunate he was to have human 'animals' as vivisection subjects: "Man's brain, like the rest of his anatomy, is the one that bears the closest resemblance to ours." It echoes Charles Darwin's observation, in The Descent Or Origin Of Man, that, "every chief fissure or fold in the brain of man has its analogy in that of the orang". By the end of Boulle's story, the evolutionary tilt of Soror has been exported to our earth. The human hero Ulysse - after Ulysses in The Odyssey - returns 700 years after his departure (due to travelling "at the speed of light minus epsilon") to find a gorilla in military uniform waiting to greet him at Paris's Orly Airport. It finds its echo in Burton's similarly extraterrestrial film, when Mark Wahlberg's astronaut finds the Lincoln Memorial replaced by a simian statue, and is leapt on by gorilla police - a nightmarish pulp climax to an otherwise staid movie.
Contributor
Contributor

Writer/editor/ghost-writer transfixed by crime, cinema and the serrated edges of popular culture. Those similarly afflicted are invited to make contact.