Entering the Forbidden Zone

This week’s Planet of the Fans interview took a turn down Apes history as we got to speak with Roger, the super-fan behind one of the largest and oldest Planet of the Apes archives on the web, the Forbidden Zone. Disappointed with the lack of fan resources for Planet of the Apes, Roger started the site in 1996. Now, it dishes out the latest franchise news, contains multimedia archives, and offers fascinating discourse about the universe of the Apes.

Find out what inspired Roger to create this ambitious cornerstone of the Apes fandom in our interview below!

What is your favorite Apes movie and why does it stand out to you? On the same note, who is your favorite Apes character and why?

I absolutely love the original because it was the first, was so groundbreaking, and is just an amazing movie. I also love Dawn because it was the Apes movie I never dreamed was possible. It far exceeded my expectations.

But my actual favorite is Battle. It usually ranks at the bottom, but that’s the one that spoke to me as a kid. During one of the many Apes marathons I watched, I sat in front of the TV with my cassette tape player held up to the speaker. Many a night afterwards, I would lie in bed listening to the audio over and over, letting my memory fill in the pictures. I still get chills every time Caesar shouts, “Now, fight like Apes!” The Roddy McDowall Caesar is probably my favorite (particularly in Conquest) but I also love Dr. Milo from Escape. His screen-time was short, but his conversations leave me with many, many questions!

Describe what it was like the first time you watched an Apes movie. Did it have any lasting effects on your appreciation for movies or the sci-fi franchise?

My earliest memories of the franchise are of sitting in front on the TV during Apes Marathon Week. I was absolutely fascinated by the visuals and especially the make-up. I wanted to watch the movies over and over, but this was long before even VHS, which is why I recorded the audio of Battle.

When the live action TV series came on, I found an article about how they did the makeup. I took my Aquaman action figure and turned him into a chimp with Play-Doh! It [the show] definitely had a lasting effect.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the franchise. How do you think these films have withstood the test of time? What is it about these films that are timeless to you?

When I was a kid, I was amazed by the incredible makeup, the set design, and the special effects of the original series. When I got older, I was amazed yet again by the substance. There was so much more going on than I had realized! I think that’s a lot of why these films work so well.

Pierre Boulle’s original concept of an upside-down world of humanized apes is just so amazing all on its own. And then to add the story depth and social commentary is just beyond fantastic. Its themes are timeless. That’s what I love about the new series, too. Rick and Amanda knew that PotA was always about far more than talking apes (but also knew that you can’t beat a chimp on horseback wielding two machine guns).

My final mind-blowing realization was when I discovered that Rod Serling wrote the first screenplay. Which is a perfect segue to the next question!

What about these films inspired you to create your own Planet of the Apes works? How do you hope your works have expanded or added value to the Apes universe?

I’ve been a huge movie fan all my life, especially of genre films. Back in 1996 when the internet became a thing, I searched for an Apes fan site and was frustrated when I could only find a couple of episode guides for the live action TV series. I’d wanted to learn more about the creation of the franchise, but the only sources I had were IMDb and Joe Russo’s Starlog article, “Planet of the Apes Revisited,” about his “forthcoming” book.

So, I created theforbiddenzone.net, one of the oldest and most popular PotA fan sites. I scoured the Internet for everything I could find to add, plus pulled items from various books (Heston’s bios especially). Eventually people started sending me things.

I was particularly thrilled when Fox reached out asking me to help promote PotA, and through this site, I’ve been fortunate enough to interview Linda Harrison, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver, help Joe Russo find a publisher for Planet of the Apes: Revisited, participate in a 50th panel at USC, and even visit the Fox Studio Lot. That was a dream come true!

I feel like I did a small part helping keep interest in PotA alive. For the longest time, I felt it was an untapped franchise and hoped that Fox would create a D2DVD series or something. I kept up with all the attempts to reboot the series over the years and was so glad that Rise, Dawn, and War are worthy successors.

My other work is a fan-edit of the original film. It was a major lightbulb moment when I realized that Rod Serling had written the original screenplay. With its shock ending, it plays just like a two-hour episode of The Twilight Zone—so much so that I thought it would be a great idea to recut the film as an episode. I used Marc Scott Zicree’s Twilight Zone Companion as my guide, and found Serling narration from two different episodes that worked perfectly.

My greatest thrill was when I got a fan letter from Marc Scott Zicree (who heard about it from Leonard Maltin). He said it plays just like an actual episode of Twilight Zone! I’m very excited to see more people realize Serling’s involvement these days, especially the upcoming comic adaptation from Boom! Studios.

Attribution: Images used in this article taken from Planet of the Apes (1968) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). TM & © 2018 TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.