Pierre Boulle was born today in 1912, so what better time to look back at his sociological science-fiction classic that paved the way for Star Wars and the MCU.

This is the story of Planet Of The Apes!

Pierre Boulle is probably best known for his 1952 novel Bridge On The River Kwai, based on his wartime experiences in Indochina. So it was possibly a surprise when 11 years later he authored a science fiction novel.
However Boulle had been a Free French secret agent during the war. He was captured in 1943 by Vichy forces in Vietnam and sentenced to hard labour. This experience of capture would shape his novel La Planète Des Singes.
Published in 1963 La Planète Des Singes recieved good reviews. An English translation - entitled Monkey Planet - was issued the following year. It was a story that seemed to strike a chord with readers.
In the novel two rich travellers find a manuscript written by journalist Ulysse Mérou. It tells a fantastical tale: how he travelled with two wealthy explorers to Betelgeuse. They land on the planet Soror, a world of primitive humans ruled by advanced civilised apes.
Zira, a chimpanzee scientist, discovers Mérou can speak; he is given his freedom and eventually has a child with Nova, another captured human. Zira's partner Cornelius also learns how humans once used tame apes as servants, before they overthrew their lazy masters.
Mérou and his family eventually escape back to Earth in a rocket ship, but time-dilation means several centuries have passed there, and now the Earth too is ruled by apes.

The travellers chuckle at this tale: as civilised chimps they know no brute human could become so advanced.
Arthur Jacobs optioned the movie rights and got 20th Century Fox to stump up the cash. Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling wrote the initial movie script, though it was deemed too costly to produce. Blake Edwards came up with the famous ending, though in the end he didn't direct.
Test screenings were needed to convince Fox to make the film. Charlton Heston appeared as Thomas (later renamed Taylor) and Edward G Robinson as Dr Zaius. Due to the long sessions needed in make-up Robinson eventually declined his role and Maurice Evans took his place.
Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall were cast as scientific chimps Zira and Cornelius, with Linda Harrison taking the role of Nova after Raquel Welch and Ursula Andress declined it. Shooting began in May 1967 and location work was done in the canyons of the Colorado river.
John Chambers did the Oscar-winning prosthetics for Planet Of The Apes, aided by almost 100 make-up artists. Chambers also made Mr Spock's ears and later fronted up the 'Argo' production company involved in the 1980 Tehran rescue operation.
Amazingly at lunch breaks the Planet Of The Apes actors segregated themselves by 'species' - humans, chimps, orangutans and gorillas - and sat only with their own group. It was an unintentional thing, but a strong signal that the movie was touching on some very important themes.
Jerry Goldsmith's score for Planet Of The Apes was ground-breaking, mixing a traditional orchestra with an electric harp and clarinet, Tibetan horn, conch shell and stainless steel mixing bowls. It made the movie sound - as well as look - like nothing audiences had seen before.
Planet Of The Apes was released on 8 February 1968 and 20th Century Fox used various PR tricks to promote it, including a spoof newspaper. Critical reaction was hugely positive. For a dystopian film it caught the mood of 1968: Vietnam, the Cold War and the counterculture.
Planet Of The Apes would have four sequels plus a TV spin-off series, as well as a reboot movie series beginning in 2001.

But for me it's legacy was something else...
The success of Planet Of The Apes opened the door for more challenging and gritty science fiction movies: the Omega Man and Soylent Green wouldn't have been made without its success.
It also wrote the rule book of the modern movie franchise: a catchy idea, a cinematic universe and a range of toys. Star Wars would capitalise on all of this in 1977.
In the end the star of the film is the idea: what is 'civilization' and why must it involve slavery and suffering for others? Pierre Boulle experienced both during his life, which is perhaps why his novel stands the test of time so well.

More stories another day...

More from Pulp Librarian

More from Culture

I'm going to do two history threads on Ethiopia, one on its ancient history, one on its modern story (1800 to today). 🇪🇹

I'll begin with the ancient history ... and it goes way back. Because modern humans - and before that, the ancestors of humans - almost certainly originated in Ethiopia. 🇪🇹 (sub-thread):


The first likely historical reference to Ethiopia is ancient Egyptian records of trade expeditions to the "Land of Punt" in search of gold, ebony, ivory, incense, and wild animals, starting in c 2500 BC 🇪🇹


Ethiopians themselves believe that the Queen of Sheba, who visited Israel's King Solomon in the Bible (c 950 BC), came from Ethiopia (not Yemen, as others believe). Here she is meeting Solomon in a stain-glassed window in Addis Ababa's Holy Trinity Church. 🇪🇹


References to the Queen of Sheba are everywhere in Ethiopia. The national airline's frequent flier miles are even called "ShebaMiles". 🇪🇹

You May Also Like

Assalam Alaiki dear Sister in Islam. I hope this meets you well. Hope you are keeping safe in this pandemic. May Allah preserve you and your beloved family. I would like to address the misconception and misinterpretation in your thread. Please peruse the THREAD below.


1. First off, a disclaimer. Should you feel hurt by my words in the course of the thread, then forgive me. It’s from me and not from Islam. And I probably have to improve on my delivery. And I may not quote you verbatim, but the intended meaning would be there. Thank You!

2. Standing on Imam Shafii’s quote: “And I never debated anyone but that I did not mind whether Allah clarified the truth on my tongue or his tongue” or “I never once debated anyone hoping to win the debate; rather I always wished that the truth would come from his side.”

3. Okay, into the meat (my love for meat is showing. Lol) of the thread. Even though you didn’t mention the verse that permitted polygamy, everyone knows the verse you were talking about (Q4:3).


4. Your reasons for the revelation of the verse are strange. The first time I came across such. I had to quickly consult the books on the exegeses or tafsir of the Quran written by renowned specialists!