Welcome to Altair IV, the setting for one of the finest SF films ever made, Forbidden Planet
Even though calling this blog Robbie The Reebok is an almost irresistible pun, Sole Of Sci-Fi is managing to get ever further into this charity challenge without having resort to its least favourite brand. The trainers are actually Tevas, so I could have done a “Teva Loka – land of the Kinda” gag (you know from Day 33 that I have a pink snake – sort of – available) but though this blog has many Doctor Who followers, a reference to a 1982 Peter Davison story did seem a little obscure.
If you haven’t seen it here’s what you’re missing. It’s a shame to story is mostly remembered as “the one with the rubbish snake” because it’s actually a really, really well written and superbly acted four episodes. Great incidental music too – one of the finest electronic scores the classic show ever produced.
Forbidden Planet is one of my favourite science fiction films. In fact, depending on what day it is and what mood I’m in, I may even occasionally claim that it is my number one science fiction film. I’ve written about it on a number of occasions (including waxing lyrical about the Krell machinery in the “We Love Sci-Fi” section of SFX) so instead of expending any mental energy on this sunny Saturday thinking up something new to write about it, here’s an extract from something I wrote for a book that’s due out later this year, Science Fiction Chronicles. You’ll have to wait till then to read the full entry along with my wibbling on The Midwich Cuckoos, Irwin Allen and more. Meanwhile, I’m off to have fun in the sun:
“Prepare your minds for a new scale of scientific values,” boasts Walter Pidgeon’s Dr Morbius as he prepares to show the officers of United Planets Cruiser C57-D the awesome Krell machinery buried beneath the surface of Altair IV. He may as well have been addressing the audience, who had never seen anything quite like Forbidden Planet before. This was Hollywood’s first attempt to take science fiction seriously.
For a film that changed screen sci-fi forever it had humble origins. Writers Irving Block and Allen Adler pitched the original script, then called Fatal Planet, to various studios as a B-movie project. They approached MGM almost as a lost cause, never expecting a studio renowned for glossy musicals and expensive spectaculars to bite. Amazingly, MGM saw something it liked, and suddenly Fatal Planet was blessed with and unprecedented $1 million budget (which would double as production progressed) and a name change.
Make no mistake, greenlighting Forbidden Planet was an audacious move: it was the first major science fiction film entirely set in space, with not even a guest appearance from Earth; it used Shakespeare’s The Tempest as a plot template; it incorporated Freudian psychoanalysis into the plot; it referenced Asimov’s Three Laws Of Robotics. This was the original Space Odyssey.
Directing duties were assigned to Fred M Wilcox, of Lassie Come Home fame. His CV hardly made him a shoo-in but he proved to be an inspired choice. He immediately understood what was required and according to a pre-comedy Leslie Nielsen, who played Captain Adams, “He discussed the film with everybody working on it, and he said, ‘This is a serious film¡K treat it like that.’”
The result is a film full of seminal sci-fi imagery, from the clunkily functional Robby The Robot to the awesome expanses of the Krell machinery and the “invisible” monster from the id, only ever seen in outline, in a halo of laser fire, brought to life by an animator, Joshua Meador, on loan from Disney.
• Current total: £770
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Cheers Dave G