Friday, April 7, 2017

Michael Rennie Was Ill The Day The Earth Stood Still, or Thoughts on Forbidden Planet

For my 400th post I thought I should talk about a movie that is 400 times better than any movie released this year so far, MGM’s Forbidden Planet (1956).  Essentially an updated Shakespearean Tempest with flying saucers and robots, Fantastic Planet stars Walter Pidgeon as Dr. Morbius/Prospero with Anne Francis as Altaira/Miranda.  Yes, there’s also a Caliban and a bunch of sailor/astronauts led by the intrepid, square-jawed Captain JJ Adams, played without a hint of irony by Leslie Nielson (The Naked Gun, which would launch his second act as a comedy superstar, was 32 years in the future).
And what a glorious, optimistic future was envisioned for the United Planets Cruiser C-57D, an actual flying saucer that incorporated aspects of a 50’s diner with Cadillac fins.  It’s so huge, the interior looks bigger than the NCC-1701-D, and it’s an all male crew; very post WWII in its command structure and politics.  Also side note, if you don’t know what the NCC-1701-D is, I don’t know if we can hang out any more.
The color palette and design of the movie, now charmingly retro-futura, still holds up even after we find ourselves living in the 21st Century.  The landscapes are perfectly composed paintings, while the costumes, in particular Anne Francis’ dresses, remain stylish and attractive.   The theremin soundtrack by Bebe and Louis Barron, listed in the credits as "electronic tonalities" remains eerie, haunting and other-worldly.  The design of the iconic Robby theRobot, which I would describe to a new viewer as a fat C3PO with Artoo legs, also reflects that mid-century aesthetic and optimism.  He’s built like a curvy tank, but he has a replicator in his stomach that can produce literally anything, from slinky silk dresses to moonshine.  This is how we envisioned the future kids, world peace and unlimited potential while still dressing well.
Also watch out for Richard Anderson, who would go on to play Steve Austin’s boss Oscar Goldman in The Six Million Dollar Man, as Chief Quinn.


my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).