Friday, April 1, 2011

You Never Forget Your First... PLANET OF THE APES

As regular readers of this blog may recall from a few posts back, I recently acquired an HD television set and all of the Planet of the Apes feature films on Blu-Ray disc. Re-watching the original movie in high-def reminded me of the first time I saw it; not in the theater (I was only about three years old when Planet of the Apes had its theatrical run), but on television... around 1973 (I think). 

Obviously, I was already familiar with the franchise, but I'd never actually seen an Apes movie. I'm pretty sure this was before the television series, so I'm thinking it was December of 1973. I haven't been able to track down any network TV schedules going that far back to confirm the dates, but I know it was in December, because my parents were going to a Christmas party. For some reason, they had been unable to secure the services of a babysitter for the evening, so I was informed that I was going to accompany them. It was a "grown-up" party (cocktails), so I was to spend the duration in an upstairs bedroom at their host's home, sleeping, until they were ready to go home.

I balked. For at least a week (since the latest TV Guide had arrived - even at eight years-old, I made a weekly habit of scouring each issue with a fine-tooth comb for cool stuff to watch) I had been plotting to watch The Planet of the Apes on TV - but it was airing the same night as their stupid party. 

After much bargaining, my mom finally called her friends to see if they had a TV in that room. They did, so it was agreed that I could stay up and watch the movie while my parents enjoyed their party downstairs. I'm sure I had to make some sort of concessions and/or promises of my own, though I no longer recall what they might have been. To seal the deal, my mom bought me a Planet of the Apes coloring book ( the one pictured with this post).

That coloring book was the first piece of Apes memorabilia I owned - and I recently discovered, while prowling through my parents' basement,  that I still own it. Once the TV series - and then the animated Return To The Planet of the Apes - debuted, I remember picking up other bits and pieces of Apes merchandise: trading cards from the TV show, a Mego gorilla and Cornelius (or was it Galen?), the Power Records comic book adaptation of Escape from The Planet of the Apes, one of those little Galen figures with a parachute, etc.

You know, I just had another memory: if I recall correctly, the night before the cartoon show premiered, I slept over at my friend Mark Usher's house. He had a bunch of Mego POTA figures, and after we watched the first episode of the cartoon series, I'm pretty sure we spent the rest of the afternoon in his backyard working out our own continuation of the story with his Megos. Did I mention that Mark had that awesome POTA Ape Fortress playset?

It was great being a kid back then, before the Internet, movies-on-demand, and videogames, when you had to actually put some planning and effort into watching a movie like Planet of the Apes on television, or arrange your activities around the TV schedule. When cartoons were pretty much only on TV on Saturday mornings (no 24-hour cartoon channels, back then!), and playtime involved using your imagination instead of sitting in front of a monitor with a controller in your hand....

Don't get me wrong - I love my vast video collection, Netflix Instant and video game consoles, but then, I got all that stuff as an adult. If I'd had those things as a kid, would I still have memories like these? Would I even remember the first time I saw Planet of the Apes (or Star Wars, or Star Trek- TMP)? I kinda doubt it....


  1. I'm a POTA fan the way some folks are "Trekies" or STAR WARS fans. I have the coloring book you show, and three others also. The best were the POTA activity books where you could make dioramas, puppets, masks, and stuff. I have the cartoon series on bootleg DVD, and of course all the original movies and the TV show as well on boxed sets. I only have four MEGO figures, but they are original, ( not the repos kicking around ) My favorite is the Marvel mags... they were great. I just remembered I scored on two of those when I met you last fall at BANG POP. Many of my favorite childhood memories surround POTA including the first time I went to a drive in to see BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES... I was 8yrs old then. My geek chip was forever secure the moment I saw General Urko riding his horse thru the scrub, at daybreak, with that triumphant Romanesque battle music blaring. Thanks for the terrific post Mr. Mills!

  2. What a great post!! Keep 'em coming!


  3. I was an Ape-head, too. Still am.

    I lost my trading cards - some of the figures I still have.

    I had that coloring book.

    I believe I saw 'Battle for the Planet of the Apes' first. So, the twist ending of 'Planet of the Apes' was kind of spoiled for me!

  4. I often think about this exact thing - my daughter is growing up in an era where she can choose to watch Elmo, Princess Ariel, or the "Charlie Brown Christmas" any time she wants.

    I can't quite put it into words, but it really does feel like something gets lost when you don't have to try to "schedule" these kinds of things. I remember as a young boy rushing home after school every day because the old 1960s "Batman" reruns were on, and if I dawdled while walking home, I'd miss the first few minutes. That sense of urgency and excitement doesn't seem to exist any more.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you comment on how kids growing up now probably won't remember the first time that they saw something, because it was spoon-fed to them versus them having to seek it out and prepare.

    Great post - thanks!

  5. Chris brilliant post you captured exactly what it was like to be a boy in the '70s bringing back so many memories of my childhood then as a Planet Of The Apes fan and examining every new TV Guide so as to never miss anything. You are right "it was great being a kid back then".


  6. You guys are like my long lost brothers. ;) Yeah, I think we all grew up in a Golden Age that won't come again. Martin, I remember rushing home too, just so I could catch my favorite programs (especially a lot of the TBS shows like The Space Giants and the other Japanese programs). The kids today are spoiled and have no idea of what it was like to "wait" for shows -- or Saturday morning cartoons. Heck, before VCRs were around, I'd tape-record the audio from movies and play them back while I imagined the visuals in my head.

    I for one, remember the first airings of Planet of the Apes on network television in 1973. My mom made me go take a bath and I missed the first twenty minutes. So, I never saw George Taylor and his crew splashdown until the movies re-aired in the 80's (oddly enough, on TBS). I also remember seeing the other movies show up on the CBS late night movie timeslot (always watched them with my dad). We even watched the premier of the TV series and the cartoon (until both were canned).

    As a kid, I didn't have any of the toys, but as an adult, I have several MEGO figures and the incredible Medicom figures from a few years ago. My wife doesn't get my obsession, but she tolerates it greatly and I have a bunch of my stuff on display in my home office. They make great conversation pieces, because a lot of people don't realize how many movies there were or how they all link together to tell a great story. That was almost unheard of back in the 60's and 70's!

    I certainly count myself as a huge POTA fan! Thanks for the great memories guys!

  7. I was a kid in the seventies and your post captured the feeling I had back then. I also saw POTA for the first time on TV (not the movies) and was a fan of the TV series as well. I recall having only one POTA toy, that being a Mego action figure, possibly of a Gorilla general. I now own all the movies (and the remake) on DVD and plan on getting the TV and cartoon series as well.

  8. Just stumbled across this as I was working on a writing project and wanted to see if I could find the original broadcast date of POTA on network TV. I was roughly your age when they came out and remember the same sense of urgency, as well as the same hungry anticipation every week when the new TV Guide came in the mail (I, too, scoured it for cool stuff). I also have a fond memory of Friday nights in ... 1974, was it? Planet of the Apes (the TV Series), then The Six Million Dollar Man, then Kolchak: The Night Stalker. That was a magical time that ended all too soon.

  9. Thank you. Stumbled across this trying to find the TV air date for Planet of the Apes. Seeing this movie was by far one of the most amazing experiences of my then young life that lasted for many years after. It was simply awesome. Mind expanding. Mind blowing.

  10. Planet of the Apes coloring book.... my mother bought this for me on a long car trip to Ohio. I remember being in the way way back of the station wagon, working on each page with care. And my fingers smelling like crayon.

  11. Hi guys. As a self proclaimed PLANET OF THE APES nut I can confirm that the original US airdate for the first TV episode "ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW" was Sept 13 1974 on CBS. At home here in the UK it premiered on Oct 13 the same year.

  12. Thanks for posting this! On my 9th birthday my mom asked me what I wanted for my Bday. Now, I would also read the TV guide cover to cover at that age or earlier (never thought anyone else did that!) and I knew that the POtA was going to air on my Bday and it was on a Friday night. So I told her I wanted McDonalds for Dinner (with Large Coke and Fries!) and to eat in front of the TV while watching the TV premier of The Planet of the Apes! I believe it was Sept 14th, 1973 or 74. So, she let me do that! What good memories that was! Loved reading all these similar experiences!