Long before Charlton Heston was strutting his stuff as the gun-toting president of the National Rifle Association, he was lending his iron-jawed profile to films The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur. However, he is cemented in the minds of millions of movie fans as the face of the human race in 1968's The Planet of the Apes. The success of this film led Heston into other, equally cheesy, scifi movies. Take a tour of his late 1960s/early 70s flirtation with scifi after the jump, including his own take on I Am Legend.
- Before Charlton Heston entered into acting, he had to change his name to shed his connection to a science fiction classic. Born John Charles Carter, he shared a name with the hero of Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom series of books, which featured John Carter as an American Civil War veteran fighting mythical creatures on Mars. The first book, A Princess of Mars, was being developed into a film in the early 1950s as Heston began acting, although it later fell through.
- Planet Of The Apes: While first deemed too expensive, 20th Century Fox eventually shot a $50,000 test scene in the 1960s in order to show that the film had potential. This was Heston's first turn as Astronaut George Taylor, and his star power helped convince the executives to go for it. The resulting film was a success, and led to countless repeatings of Heston's line, "Take your stinking paws off me you damned dirty ape!" for years to come.
- Beneath The Planet Of The Apes: Heston agreed to appear as Taylor again in this film, but only in a small supporting role. He also wanted his character to be killed off, and he got his wish in a spectacular way when he was the one who triggered the Doomsday device that destroyed the planet. The series went on to have three prequel films and a television series, but suffered declining ratings. Who knows if Heston would have been able to save the series, but he'd had his fill of monkeyshines.
- The Omega Man: Heston played Robert Neville in this second film adaptation of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend novel in 1971. Complete with afro-wearing Rosalind Cash playing it to the nines as a Foxy Brown version of Lisa, Heston sported Ray-Bans and an automatic weapon throughout the film's Los Angeles setting. It's a bit campy, but still considered a classic by fans of science fiction and guns everywhere.
- Soylent Green: Is there anyone left alive in the world who doesn't know what Soylent Green is made out of? Based on the 1966 scifi novel Make Room! Make Room!, the Earth has become incredibly overpopulated and food resources are extremely scarce. The Soylent Corporation aims to tide hunger with their miracle foods, soylent red, soylent yellow, and the ever-popular new flavor, soylent green. Heston plays a detective who unravels the mystery behind the tasty treat, leading to another very popular Heston-quote, "Soylent Green is people!"
- Earthquake: While not exactly science fiction in plot, this Heston disaster flick featured a new process that Universal Studios decided to install in theaters in order to help pump the excitement during the movies earthquake sequences. "Sensurround" involved huge speakers and a 1,500 watt amplifier that could pump out "infra bass" — ass-rattling waves of sound. Supposedly the system caused nosebleeds, cracked ceilings, and destroyed china in nearby shops. The process was also used in the 1979 Battlestar Galactica theatrical film, and later relegated to the trash heap.
- Solar Crisis: Heston's return to science fiction films in 1990 resulted in this god-awful travesty of a movie that features an artificially intelligent bomb named Freddy and TV's Parker Lewis Can't Lose himself, Corin Nemec. The combined might and one-armed pushupability of Jack Palance and Charlton Heston couldn't prevent this $55 million dollar movie about dropping a bomb into the sun to redirect solar flares from flaming out.
- Planet of the Apes (2001): Besides a role on an episode of SeaQuest DSV and narrating Michael Bay's Armageddon, Charlton Heston last science fiction role was an uncredited cameo as a dying ape who hands a pistol to his son in this Tim Burton-directed remake. This film was so bad that I wouldn't have wanted my name in the credits either.