Twilight Zone: Planet of the Apes
The current Golden Age of Television has led to countless opinion and think pieces that often note how the classic divide between television and film has been bridged. Production values and budgets of television shows rival those of Hollywood movies, stars and directors cross over from the big to the smaller screen. In the 1960s however, television and film were battling for hegemony and quality was very much a weapon used in that battle: the quality (and size and color) of the image, the quality of storytelling and source material, and so forth.
This ingenious video essay challenges that historical hierarchy by turning one of the most famous films of the 1960s into an episode of one of the most famous television series of the 1960s. The film is the science fiction classic Planet of the Apes (1968), the television series is CBS’ equally famous The Twilight Zone (1959-1964). On the face of it the two couldn’t be more different, even though their storylines share a love for the outlandish and are often thinly disguised morality tales. The fact that Rod Serling was involved in both of them also points to a shared genealogy. But this remix of the movie, which is then mashed up with elements from the television show, shows just how similar they are.
This reimagining was produced by The Forbidden Zone, a Planet of the Apes fansite that gathers information on all aspects of the long running franchise. In the accompanying article the rationale and the modus operandi behind this video are extensively explained. It’s a great read, showing how the advent of consumer video editing tools made this whole project possible.
This fake Twilight Zone episode adheres to all the formal requirements of the show: the characteristic opening and closing narration, the three-act structure which allows for commercial breaks, even the titles are faithfully recreated. It is revealing to see just how easily the Planet of the Apes theatrical movie is conformed to that television template. Its 112 minute runtime is reduced to the standard 25 minutes, but it still feels as a perfectly rounded narrative. The 2,35:1 aspect ratio of the film is cropped to fit television’s boxy 4:3 frame, but rarely do the frames feel out of balance. The colors are drained to mimic The Twilight Zone‘s black and white broadcasts. Most importantly, the storyline and narrative beats of the theatrical release are a perfect fit for those of the television series. A great example of how one can use videographic techniques to compare and critique very different – or not – audiovisual productions.