Brazilian Planet of the Apes
Join me for a look at some Brazilian Tramps who ape the Apes!
Deja View is a Telly Award-winning series that explores foreign remakes of popular American films.
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It’s a planet where apes evolve from men. A world where gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees hold domain and where humans are little more than pets and slaves. It’s a mad house! A mad house!
And it’s only a short balloon ride from Rio de Janeiro.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a funny feeling of Deja View.
The original “Planet of the Apes” film, based on the Pierre Boulle novel of the same name, was an enormous success upon its release in 1968. In less than a decade it spawned four sequels and two separate television series. It’s little wonder that others wanted to jump on the simian bandwagon.
The concept even made its way to other countries. And in 1976 it was taken on by some very silly people in Brazil.
Meet “Os Trapalhões,” aka The Tramps, a Brazilian comedy troupe who are a little bit The Three Stooges and a little bit Abbott and Costello. And part of their shtick, much like Abbott and Costello meeting Frankenstein, is getting mixed up in other movies.
And so, in their travels they get caught up in Star Wars, meet the Wizard of Oz, and even stumble upon the Planet of the Apes — which, no doubt for budgetary reasons, has been downsized to merely the Plateau of the Apes.
It’s unfair to call these remakes, of course — any more than you’d call the “Abbott and Costello” movies remakes. They’re spoofs. But that doesn’t make these Brazilian takes on American hits any less fascinating or entertaining.
Os Trapalhões began in the mid-1960s, and over the years the troupe has starred in approximately 30 feature films as well as a long-running TV series. Their movies have been exhibited at the Berlin Film Festival and they’ve won numerous awards.
One of their earliest films was “O Trapalhão no Planalto dos Macacos” — “A Tramp on the Plateau of the Apes.”
Though from the beginning you’d have a hard time believing the film has anything to do with apes. The story begins with a couple of friends named Conde and Alex who are off to spend the day surfing, but when they accidentally run over a police officer’s foot and get mistaken for a couple of jewelry thieves, they find themselves on the run.
They get into a very messy fight with the police officer and the real thieves at an egg factory, and finally stumble across the launch ceremony of a hot air balloon that can allegedly travel to other planets.
They attempt to hide in the balloon, but the predictable happens and it accidentally takes off with them inside – the police officer included. And after a long journey they crash-land onto the plateau of the apes.
It’s here where we begin to find ourselves in familiar territory. Just as in the 1968 film, our shipwrecked protagonists become reluctant explorers as they’re forced to investigate their strange surroundings. Their wanderings lead them to a banana plantation, but their hopes of a meal are shattered by the appearance of violent, intelligent apes on horseback.
What’s notable about “O Trapalhão no Planalto dos Macacos” is that the locations and overall production design are remarkably similar to “Planet of the Apes.” It certainly doesn’t have the Antoni Gaudi-inspired look of it’s big budget cousin, but it’s VERY reminiscent; and there are moments where you could easily believe you were watching the real thing. Even the costumes and ape masks are surprisingly effective, despite being cut-rate versions of their models.
Other notable similarities to the original “Planet of the Apes” films include an analogue to Taylor’s mute companion Nova — here called Hula — and an equivalent to General Ursus, whose sole aim is the destruction of the Tramps. They even have their own Forbidden Zone filled with relics of an ancient human-dominated civilization, even though such a thing makes very little sense in this context.
But for the most part, the Plateau of the Apes simply serves as a primitive playground for the Tramps’ zany hijinks. And that’s something it does very well. In fact, it often feels quite a bit like a live action cartoon, which is no doubt the intention.
“Planalto dos Macacos” is an extremely silly film. Of course it is, it’s a kid’s movie. But it’s also one of the more entertaining Trapalhoes parodies of American films. If you’re adventurous and interested in seeing it for yourself, it was recently released on DVD in Brazil along with their other films.
But be warned: the troupe’s comedy is a bit like Vegemite. If you’re not from the country and didn’t grow up on it, you may not find it as palatable.
Now if you’ll pardon me, I have some monkey business to take care of.
Thanks so much for watching, and I’ll see you next time.
“Deja View” will be on a short hiatus while I get back to work on post-production for Press Start 2 Continue, but rest assured it will return!