As discussed in prior articles (see Profiles in History Auction 28 Catalog Available Online, Profiles in History 28 Held Yesterday, Today, Heritage Music & Entertainment Memorabilia Auction – October 6-7, 2007, October’s Heritage Auction Addendum: “Planet of the Apes” Statue of Liberty Prop Removed from Catalog), a Statue of Liberty prop head – attributed to use in Planet of the Apes (1968) – was consigned with Profiles in History (where it failed to sell) and, subsequently, Heritage Auction Galleries (where it was pulled prior to auction).
This piece has generated much discussion in the hobby, yet many questions remain unanswered.
Profiles in History
Les Hemstock purportedly consigned the Statue of Liberty piece to Profiles in History for their Hollywood Auction 28, held August 2-3, 2007.
It was the cover featured piece of the auction:
This is the page from the auction catalog used to describe and market the piece:
This is the marketing description:
801. Statue of Liberty head from Planet of the Apes. (TCF, 1968) Standing approximately 15 feet tall x 14 feet wide (at the crown) x 8 feet deep, this iconic piece was built for perhaps the most shocking scene in cinematic history. Sculpted in a haunting, almost sorrowful, comic-book fashion, the symbol of liberty and escape from tyranny provided the apocalyptic revelation at the end of Planet of the Apes when astronaut Taylor looks up from the beach to realize at he was on planet Earth all along!
Typical with the filmmaking process, the revelation scene was shot from two different perspectives, utilizing two separate techniques. The first was shot from behind the head of the statue when the camera pans from right to left behind the spires of the crown, looking down at Taylor and Nova on the beach. This piece was utilized during this sequence. The Liberty head was hoisted by crane and mounted atop the scaffolding erected at Point Dume, Malibu, California where the scene was filmed. Due to the forced-perspective detail in its construction, it is plausible that this was intended to
be used in another shot from the front at a low angle. The second perspective of the Statue of Liberty is from the beach as Taylor looks up in horror to the statue, seeing it half-buried in the sand. A matte painting of the statue was used for this purpose.
This Statue of Liberty head was custom-fabricated using plywood and sculpted Styrofoam, and hand-finished with plaster. It was completed with multiple layers of paint to mimic the patina of extremely weathered copper. The crown is built in two sections, which are removable for ease of transport. The piece has recently been professionally restored to its former glory using period-correct materials. Arguably the most iconic piece one could hope to acquire from this science-fiction classic.
$30,000 – $40,000
Many collectors posed questions about this piece on the Movie Prop Forum prior to the auction date (see “PIH Auction whatsit?”). Hobbyists questioned the very concept that a 15′ tall Statue of Liberty head was used in the film, since no evidence of such a piece being employed in the production was known.
The consensus is that the front shot in the film (of the face and front of the statue) was achieved utilizing a matte painting by Emil Kosa, Jr. (see “The Invisible Art: Legends of Movie Matte Painting“; this is also acknowledged in the Profiles description), while many understand that the rear shot used a hanging miniature (though I have not seen a production image of such a miniature).
Owner/consignor Les Hemstock, under the username ansanaut, was a long time member of the Movie Prop Forum. He never reacted to or addressed these public questions and comments, before or after the Profiles in History auction.
The item in question, with a minimum bid of $30,000.00, passed with no bids and went unsold at the event.
Heritage Auction Galleries
Just one month later, the piece appeared in the Heritage Auction Galleries catalog for their Music & Entertainment Memorabilia auction on October 6-7, 2007. The estimate with Heritage was $15,000, reduced from the $30,000-$40,000 estimate in the Profiles in History auction.
The piece was pulled from the event by Heritage prior to the auction. No official reason was given.
The Movie Prop Forum
Les Hemstock initiated a discussion about himself on the Movie Prop Forum, in defense of unrelated negative comments other members had made about his kcotsmeh eBay account and sales (see “PROP COLLECTORS!, Important!“). In the course of the discussion, the Statue of Liberty head from Planet of the Apes was brought up again. Once this topic was introduced, Mr. Hemstock did not post on the forum again. He was subsequently banned from the forum by the administrator.
The following files were circulating among collectors during the Profiles in History consignment, and posted on the Movie Prop Forum in the aforementioned topics in a good faith effort to determine the accuracy and origins of the files. Mr. Hemstock posted no reaction to or explanation for the information and photos contained therein.
I therefore cannot at this time vouch for or affirm the authenticity or origin of the following files, as they have not been claimed by the maker, but they do appear to show the restoration/reconstruction of the Statue of Liberty head consigned to both Profiles in History and Heritage Auction Galleries (see direct comparison further below).
Is this first image the original “crown” from the piece? It does not resemble the long, narrow spikes seen in the film.
The following files include photos with narrative (click images for higher resolution):
Here is a comparison of the photo in the last file above and the piece consigned in the Profiles in History auction – the two pieces appear to match:
As noted, there are many questions from hobbyists regarding the very notion that such a large piece was used and/or filmed in the production, Planet of the Apes.
If such a piece was used, what is the provenance that places this particular piece in the production?
Does anyone have any visual verification of the employment of a 15’x14’x8′ piece during the filming of Planet of the Apes? Either from the film itself or in “behind the scenes” or “making of” material?
Is there any original material on the surface of the piece? Or has it indeed been completely reconstructed and resurfaced?
If this piece was used, the elements actually seen on screen in the rear shot – essentially the back of the head and the spikes of the crown – are these elements both original and a part of the prop as it is today?
Are the spikes in the first photo included in this section above the “original” spikes?
Are the spikes that are currently a part of this piece, as auctioned, completely manufactured replicas?
Is there a back of the head to this piece (as seen in the film)?
As the cover featured item in a large public auction event, with a $30,000 to $40,000 sale estimate, is there tangible evidence establishing authentication?
What is the chain of ownership? How did it leave the production? Was it used in any subsequent productions over the years? If so, was it altered?
Why did Heritage take the consignment of the piece subsequent to the lack of a sale at Profiles, following the prominent marketing and coveted positioning of being “the” cover piece of the auction?
Why did Heritage subsequently pull the piece from the auction entirely?
Of concern, too, is the marketing of the piece. The only reference to restoration in the Profiles marketing description is as follows:
The piece has recently been professionally restored to its former glory using period-correct materials.
Was Profiles in History aware of the massive restoration of this piece? Was Heritage?
What standards should serve as a guideline to the community and potential buyers as far as detailed disclosures about restoration to an original piece? When work was done? Who it was done by? A detailed accounting of work completed? A delineation of what is original and what is replica? Other considerations?
Jason De Bord