‘Apes' collection, holiday classic top latest Blu-ray titles

Doug Nye
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

A legendary science-fiction film and its sequels and a holiday classic lead the list of Blu-ray titles arriving Tuesday in the DVD high-definition format.

Anchoring the "Planet of the Apes 40th Anniversary Collection" (20th Century Fox, $139.99) is the original "Planet of the Apes" (1968), whose box-office success took many, especially critics, by surprise. Even after four decades, it remains an engrossing and unforgettable movie experience.

Charlton Heston stars as Taylor who, along with three other astronauts, is sent on voyage into deep space and into the distant future. Their ship is hurled into the 40th century, where it crashes on what at first appears to be barren planet.

Taylor, who had become cynical about life in the 20th century, has no regrets about leaving a world where one of man's pastimes was to constantly wage war against each other. He has second thoughts, however, when he discovers he has landed on a planet where life has been turned upside down. Apes rule the world while humans are considered sub-species.

The cast includes Roddy McDowell, Kim Hunter and Maurice Evans all hidden behind the magnificent ape makeup. Based on the novel by Pierre Boulle with a screenplay co-written by Rod Serling and Michael Wilson, the film looks and sound terrific on Blu-ray.

Also included in the collection are:

"Beneath the Planet of the Apes" (1970) stars James Franciscus as an astronaut sent into the future to find out what happen to Taylor and his party.

"Escape from the Planet of the Apes" (1971) has apes Cornelius (McDowell) and Zira (Hunter) leaving the future and landing on earth in the 20th century. After the original, this clever entry is the second best of the series.

"Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" (1972) takes place 20 years in the future where apes have become domesticated servants, i.e. slaves. Caesar, the offspring of Cornelius and Zira, prepares to lead a revolt and take over the planet.

"Battle for the Planet of the Apes" (1973) fast-forwards another 10 years when Caesar attempts to bring about a peace between apes and humans.

The "Apes" films became a phenomenon and spawned a short-lived TV series, an animated series, a string of comic books and dozens of action figures and other items. This is a Blu-ray collection well worth owning.

Just in time for the Yuletide season is the collector's edition of "A Christmas Story" (Warner, 1983, $49.98) which comes packaged in a decorative cookie tin that includes cookie dough, cookie cutters, a string of Christmas lights each shaped like a leg lamp and various other items. The film, based on a short story by Jean Shepherd, ranks among the most popular holiday movies ever made.

Peter Billingsley plays Ralphie, the boys who dreams of getting an official Red Ryder B-B rifle for Christmas. Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon are terrific as the parents. The film will strike a nostalgic chord in anyone who remembers what is what like to be a kid during the holidays. Making it even more enjoyable is Shepherd's delightful whimsical narration.

Among the extras are a history of the Daisy air rifle and the documentary "Another Christmas Story" featuring interviews with Billingsley and other cast members

Other notable Blu-ray releases this week:

"Get Smart" (Warner, 2008, $35.99): Would you believe that this is a surprisingly funny and highly entertaining film based on the 1960s TV series that spoofed the secret agent genre? Well, it is. Steve Carell plays Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, who battles the evil forces of KAOS. Anne Hathaway plays his partner Agent 99.

"Futurama: Bender's Game" (20th Century Fox, 2008, $39.99): Another film spawned by the Matt Groening animated TV show. On a mission to find large supplies of fuel, Bender and company stumble upon a medieval world complete with knights and dragons.

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