Fans of the film might recognize the name, Morton Haack. He was an American costume designer who created the look for the 1968 film, Planet of the Apes. He would also work on Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1970, Escape from the Planet of the Apes in 1971, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes in 1972, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes in1973. Haack’s work on the first film earned him a nomination for Best Costume Design for the first Planet film.
We’re introduced to the population of this film one group at a time.
Taylor, Landon, and Dodge are three astronauts, each wearing gray jumpsuits with various patches on them. For the time, these were functional but somewhat futuristic. They serve the purpose of setting the opening scene and giving us a broad timeframe of “The Future.” The suits were sleek and tighter-fitting than the conventional astronaut suits of the time. They were also without the bulky helmets.
We’re introduced to the gorillas, first. They are wearing simple, sleeved tunics and pants both made from a dark purple material. The color reads as a dark brown, in most shots. Over this, the militant gorillas wear black vests, gloves, and special boots made to accommodate their odd-shaped feet. This detail, added to all the ape-like cast, further distinguishes them from humans. Gorillas are seen as the militant ones, as well as, the labor force.
For the majority of the populace, Haack creates variations on a theme of dark green coats over dark green pants with black or brown accents and boots. For Dr. Zira, there is an added undergarment of a woven brown material, giving her a distinction without setting her apart. The collar of her initial garment is different, as well. There is a type of panel on the front of the coat which appears to have a type of symbol-pattern which implies writing, of a sort. Zira and her husband, Cornelius, are chimpanzees and represent doctors and/or scientists. Much later, after Taylor is captured, we see other chimpanzees in the crowd, also dressed very much like Zira, Cornelius, and Galen. The green, with black or brown accents, is a constant.
Dr. Zaius and his kind, orangutans, represents the leaders of the ape theocracy. The light orange tunic/coat combinations are accented with either darker orange or brown pieces. The orange reads as a light tan in most scenes. Zaius wears several versions, with different accent pieces. The governmental orangutans, seen during Taylor’s trial, wear the most detailed versions, all decorated with the same symbolic/lettering details. Later, after the trial, Dr. Zaius is without the orange overcoat, giving us a good look at the brown tunic underneath. Like the coat, it has leather pieces on the sleeve to create a different texture and feel.
For most of the humans, the most basic of garments were created. For Taylor and the others, different versions of a short skirt-like piece over a standard brief made up the costumes. Nova, the lead human female, is given a bikini-type costume with some wide-mesh pieces to wear atop them. One of the film’s better details is the haphazard poncho-style garment Taylor wears. Dr. Zira makes the observation, the human has used his “blanket” as a type of clothing.
For the film’s sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the costuming style would stay almost the same. Most of the same color palettes and materials were used, adding continuity to the piece. The basic design elements, the cut and shape of the garments, also stayed the same, adding consistency to the aesthetic. The viewer still feels as though they are on the planet of the apes.
One of the new additions to the cast is the character of General Ursus. The general wears the basic gorilla military outfit but his vest is a box-cut piece, studded with rectangular panels. A rounded, elongated collar covers the upper chest and shoulders. A bulbous helmet with side flaps adds an intimidating detail to the overall look.
In the various crowd scenes, we’re given a broader look at the different groups which make up Ape City. The militant gorillas, the scientific chimpanzees, and the government bodies of orangutans are all grouped together, all wearing similar garments. Again, brown and black for the gorillas, green and black (or brown) for the chimpanzees, and orange and brown for the orangutans.
Maybe one of the film’s smartest costume choice comes when we are introduced to the mutated humans living underground. Brent, the astronaut who came looking for Taylor, is brought before a kind of council consisting of five robed beings. Each one wears a different color, red, blue, lilac, sea-foam green, and yellow. What makes this brilliant is, the colors are soft, almost muted, but still stand out against the gray and tan background. The robes go over basic grayish-tan bodysuits and contain an ornamental side piece. The ornamental pieces are decorative without being indicative of any particular time or location. They give the “Other World” feel without being distracting.
Including the council, the mutated humans wear a headpiece of the same grayish-tan material. It’s fitted tight to the skull and around the face and has different types of piping (or ribbing) for each wearer. When the mutants are gathered in their place of worship, they’re given robes of neutral grays, tans, and an almost nude color. Another interesting detail is, since the mutants worship a bomb, they all wear a type of necklace with a bomb-shaped pendant attached.
1971 would bring Escape from the Planet of the Apes to the screen and with it, a new set of challenges. The plot would call for three of the apes to be wearing space suits, complete with bowl-like helmets to cover their faces. The suits were simple enough without any of the flags and symbols astronauts of the time would wear. Zira and Cornelius would return and so would their green and brown/black costumes from the previous two films. There were slight changes in the collars but Zira would retain the slit-sleeves and woven brown undergarment.
During the course of the film, Zira and Cornelius are introduced to the human society and are dressed in human clothes. For his first outing in society, Cornelius wears a simple tan suit, striped shirt, and a large tie, so common in the 70s. Zira is dressed in a burgundy vest and skirt and a pink printed blouse, an outfit considered very chic in the timeframe. When she debuts this outfit, it’s underneath a burgundy cape with two ornate pink cord-clasps which match the scarf underneath. She wears this outfit several times, each time giving her a sophisticated air.
One special bit of costuming is the scene in which Cornelius relaxes in a hotel room. While watching television, he is wearing a multicolored, striped robe and is seen with his feet up. If you look at the left portion of the screen, you can see the special boots made for the actors which depict a more ape-like foot, as opposed to the human foot. Later, in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the viewer sees the apes forced into regular human boots. The actors stand at odd angles and shuffle a bit more, giving the believable impressions of ill-fitting footwear.
Haack does something very clever with this bit of 1970s costuming. He brings the “Other World” into the present without compromising the character’s believability. He also works with the amazing makeup John Chambers designed. The collars and accessories compliment the face and neck pieces.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, in 1972 gave a new feel to the franchise. The humans in the film are all dressed in black, a conscious choice to give them a more tyrant-like feel. Even the character of Armando, who debuted in the previous film, wore darker colors. Darker clothing for the humans meant the lighter, more colorful clothing for the apes stood out more. The simian cast wears either a red, green, or yellow jumpsuit according to their classification of gorilla, chimpanzee, or orangutan. This is a consistent callback to the original film and its caste system.
There is even a scene in which a gorilla serves at an outdoor café and is wearing a red jacket with black shoulder pieces and gold piping. Even in this subservient state, the fierce gorilla does not escape the caste categorization.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes would be the final film in the pentagonal franchise. Haack stuck very close to what he had done before. The militant gorillas wore cloth shirts and pants in the same deep purple with the same black vest/glove/boot accents. Most of the soldiers wore a brown bandolier and sidearm, giving them a unified look.
Virgil was a new, scientific character. As a member of the upper caste in the city, and orangutan, he is also clothed in the light orange/tan colors and style of the others. Like so many of the other costumes, Virgil’s coat is accented with strips of brown leather. The film’s opening narrator, known as The Lawgiver, also wears a version of this orange/tan costume, also with the symbol/writing panels on the chest. It’s a unifying feature which harkens back to the first Planet film.
There were no standout moments from this film, as it was to be the last and had the lowest budget of the five films. The costumes were simple and used the same color palette as previous films. It is a testament to Morton Haack’s ability that the look and feel of the film is consistent to all the others. Watching all five back-to-back, the viewer is never taken out of the narrative by the wardrobe. The “Other World” stays intact and you believe you are on the Planet of the Apes.
Costuming Science Fiction Films: Planet of the Apes
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