Parody Of The Planet Of The Apes

PrintE-mail Written by Paul Bullock

Rise of the Planet of the Apes marks the seventh big screen outing for the Apes franchise and what Fox will hope will be the start of many more. It’s now ten years on from the failed Tim Burton reboot and 38 from the end of the original franchise. The extended absence has done nothing to diminish the series’ place in pop culture though, with TV shows, adverts and films referencing the Planet of the Apes saga in all kinds of ways. Here, we run down the ten best send-ups to work out what’s the finest Parody of the Planet of the Apes.

1. Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off (The Simpsons)

A three-way parody, this majestic send-up from seventh season episode A Fish Called Selma is a highpoint for The Simpsons and pop culture parodies as a whole. Looking to relaunch his failing career and clinch the sidekick role in McBain IV: Fatal Discharge, Troy McClure embarks upon a relationship with Marge's sister Selma. "The marriage thing is very in these days," his agent, the magnificent named MacArthur Parker, reminds him. Alas, the couple eventually split, and McClure ends the episode rejecting the sidekick part in favour of the lead in self-penned magnum opus The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel. In between comes this masterpiece of parody. Part Apes satire, part riff on Falco's Amadeus, part musical theatre spoof, it features some of the show's most quotable lines ("I hate every ape I see/From chimpan-A to chimpann-Z") and a toe-tapping finale that may even better the original's ending. The Simpsons writers have a long history with sci-fi parodies and in particular Apes references (listen out for Jerry Goldsmith's The Hunt music during riot scenes), and it's the fidelity to the source that really make Stop the Planet of the Apes stand out. From the clothes to the backgrounds to the awkward movements of the apes' mouths, this is just like watching the real thing.

2. Spaceballs

One of the original and still one of the best, Mel Brooks' Star Wars spoof also found time to reference Apes in its farcical conclusion. When President Scroob, Colonel Sandurz and Dark Helmet’s dastardly plan is foiled, their ship Mega Maid (a gigantic Statue of Liberty-esque woman, just with a vacuum instead of a torch) is blown to smithereens, plunging the trio, along with Mega Maid's head, into a nearby planet. Which just happens to be inhabited by talking apes. "Dear me," says one to the other as the three villains descend, "what are those things coming out of her nose?" "Spaceballs?!" comes the reply. "Oh shit, there goes the planet." Like The Simpsons, it's Brooks' fidelity to the source that makes the Spaceballs parody work, with the set-up, the make-up, even the eerie crashing of the waves upon the shore all perfectly replicating the original. Of all the film's riffs and references, this is comfortably the best.

3. Charlton Heston, Saturday Night Live, 1993

Charlton's Heston's relationship with the Apes series was surprisingly affectionate considering many stars of his stature tend to look down upon sci-fi. He spoke fondly of the films in the 1998 documentary Behind the Planet of the Apes, and would go on to make a brief cameo in the Tim Burton remake three years later. He was also happy to appear in several skits parodying the series, most notably during his hosting spot on Saturday Night Live in 1993. Having fallen asleep just before the show starts, Heston wakes up in the Studio of the Apes, a dark inversion of the SNL studio populated entirely by talking simians. "Oh, my God! It's happening again!" says Heston as he runs for his life. He's eventually captured in a neat play on the original film's hunt sequence and brought before an enquiring ape audience, who refuse to believe he's anything but a talking mutant. The skit ends with Heston reprising his famous madhouse dialogue from the film and continuing with the show. After all, even an ape audience is better than no audience at all.

4. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

"In this world gone mad, we won't spank the monkey; the monkey will spank us", so says Jason Mewes during Jay and Silent Bob's minute long take on the Apes saga. It's a tour de force for Mewes, who embraces the nonsense concept with his trademark manic glee. Highlights include a surprisingly realistic Ape City, cameo appearances from Clerks duo Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson and the sight of Jay taking Heston's place on the original film’s beach-head. Planet of the Apes with Jay instead of Heston? Now that's something we'd like to see!

5. Siskel and Ebert and Jay and Alice (The Critic)

Simpsons writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss's The Critic only ran for 23 episodes between 1994 and 1995, but even in that short period they managed to fit in a host of movie references and jokes. Planet of the Apes' moment in the spotlight came at the start of second season episode Siskel and Ebert and Jay and Alice, in which Jay is forced to partner with both the famous movie critics after their successful partnership comes to an end. Before all this, Jay fronts his own show in which he discusses 1970s sci-fi classic Planet of the Dogs. The clip references the famous stinking paws line and stars an unusually friendly Doctor Zaius. "Quit rubbing my leg you bloody bowsers," indeed.

6. Return to Beneath the Planet of the Pigs (The Muppet Show)

No list of parodies would be complete without The Muppets, and this entry dates back to the very start of the phenomenon in the mid-70s. Jim Henson produced two pilots for the series before it was officially picked up: the first, The Muppets Valentines Show, aired in 1974, the second, the curiously named The Muppets: Sex and Violence, hit screens a year later. It is this episode that features the Apes parody. In a similar set-up to The Critic, we're introduced to a movie programme, Film In Focus, where the presenter informs us of the latest "pseudo-epic from Colossal Pictures”, Return to Beneath the Planet of the Pigs. It's not one of the Muppets' finest movie parodies, but it scores points for capturing the Planet of the Apes atmosphere perfectly and creating an uncannily realistic Muppet version of Charlton Heston. Kudos too for the punchline, where our, of course totally unbiased, piggy reviewer praises the film for its realism.

7. Planet of the Aches (The Simpsons)

Another one from The Simpsons, though this time it's Itchy and Scratchy who are sending the series up. This is a unique entry into this top ten, being the only one to reference one of the series’ sequels, in this case Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Itchy traps Scratchy behind a wall and when the embattled cat emerges some 3000 years later he’s greeted by Itchy's ancestors who have grown massive, throbbing brains and telekinetic powers like the subterranean humans in Beneath. They bathe and feed Scratchy, but the kind treatment doesn’t last long. He’s eventually sliced and diced (telekinetically of course) and left for dead. Bart, watching on, is unimpressed. He’s wrapped up in a movie parody of his own, acting as Jimmy Stewart to Ned Flanders’ Raymond Burr in the episode’s main parody: Rear Window.

8. Go, God, Go XII (South Park)

Tenth season South Park episode Go, God, Go is a bit of a treasure trove for sci-fi fans. Brazil, Logan's Run and Aliens are among the films referenced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone in a story that sees Cartman freeze himself in a bid to make the three-week wait for a new games console go quicker. Sadly all does not run smoothly and, when he awakens, Cartman finds himself in a nightmarish future where otters ride ostriches and Nintendos don't exist. Parker and Stone have always been masters of sly references and the image of the otters riding the ostriches, along with the horn-blast sound that goes with it, is as neat and surreal a reference to the original film’s hunt sequences as I've ever seen.

9. The Apes of Wrath (Garth Marenghi's Darkplace)

Apes took centre stage in the fourth episode of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, a show that made a virtue of sending up sci-fi and horror tropes of the 70s and 80s. Though there are no direct references to the series - save the use of the central concept and some subtle hints at Goldsmith's score in the music - this is the most consistently funny clip on this list. Great scenes come thick and fast (the bike chase through a forest is particularly good) as do the notable lines, which come loaded with 'highly political subtext'. "Maybe we shouldn’t do anything," says Richard Ayoade's medical chief character. "No-one takes days off any more, everyone's grooming each other and the doctors are literally working for peanuts." Reports that David Cameron is seeking his own ape workforce are so far unfounded.

10. Serta Mattress commercial

This 1998 advert for an American mattress company isn’t a parody, but for sheer weirdness it had to get a mention. Dreams, the commercial reminds us, are the realm of the impossible, where anything can happen. One can have afternoon tea with your childhood sweetheart...and Cornelius from Planet of the Apes. Someone's been eating too much cheese...

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