By Matthew Chernov
When a film franchise lasts for more than four decades, it’s bound to collect a few odd moments along the way, and the Planet of the Apes series is no exception. As the eighth film in the popular saga arrives in theaters July 11, here’s a look at some of the strangest riffs on simian cinema.
The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
Animal acts were a staple of Johnny Carson’s 32 years on The Tonight Show, and none were more memorable than when singer Paul Williams took the stage in full orangutan makeup and crooned a bluesy ballad to promote his role as Virgil in Battle for the Planet of the Apes. The lit cigarette in his hairy hand helped add to the surrealism.
The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour
During the second season of this CBS variety show, Cher dressed in a loincloth and appeared with a group of gorillas in a spoof of the original 1968 film. Guest stars for this episode included Telly Savalas and Lassie. Disappointingly, Sonny and Cher’s signature song lyrics were not changed to “I Got You Ape.”
The Carol Burnett Show
A year after appearing in his final Ape film, actor Roddy McDowall endured three-and-a-half-hours of chimpanzee prosthetics to perform a romantic song and dance with a comically flustered Carol Burnett. This vintage clip also includes a rare behind-the-scenes makeup demonstration.
Don Rickles & Don Adams TV Special
In the 1973 NBC comedy special A Couple of Dons, comedian Don Rickles and Get Smart star Don Adams, neither of whom appear in any of the Apes films, donned full prosthetics to poke fun at the sci-fi film series. By this point, the popularity of the franchise had dimmed considerably, which explains why this short clip is built around a single banana joke.
British Planet of the Apes Live Shows
During the mid-70s, a small British PR firm called Television Character Promotions secured the rights from Twentieth Century Fox to produce a series of live appearances and performances by costumed Apes characters across England. These events proved so popular that a deal was eventually struck with Marvel Comics U.K. division, resulting in the creation of the first official Planet of the Apes Fan Club.
Having composed the theme music for the short-lived 1974 Planet of the Apes TV Series, Lalo Schifrin was tapped by Twentieth Century Records to write a funky Ape-inspired dance single. Released as a vinyl 45, “Ape Shuffle” features jungle drums, a brass horn section and grunting ape-man vocals.
Brazilian Planet of the Apes (1976)
Perhaps the strangest addition to Ape film history is this feature-length South American knockoff produced by a Brazilian comedy troupe best known for its unofficial Star Wars remake. Titled Bungler on the Plateau of the Apes, this one falls squarely in the “must be seen to be believed” category.
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