Posts Tagged ‘Leslie Nielsen’

Movie Reviews 423 – Forbidden Planet (1956)

January 31, 2020

Ah, the classics! While Forbidden Planet is certainly one of the classics when it comes to 50’s Science Fiction films, the fact that it shares a number of elements from Shakepear’s The Tempest adds to its legitimacy to the term. Notably preceded by Destination Moon, Rocketship X-M and Conquest of Space as films that attempted to portray scientifically accurate depictions of future space travel, it nonetheless pushed a few boundaries forward and introduced us to  Robby, the first loveable (I liken him to a walking vintage washing machine) cinematic robot.

The story has the crew of Earth spaceship C-57D voyage to distant planet Altair IV with the aim to relieve the crew of a previous mission, only to find that the only remaining inhabitants are the evasive Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his striking daughter Altaira (Anne Francis). Morbius at first tries to convince the commander (Leslie Nielsen) that all is fine and dandy, and that they should just move. But then the encampment around the landed spaceship is breached by someone – or some thing – who managed to evade their security detail and destroy some of their equipment. Dr. Morbius soon confesses that an amazingly advanced society called the Krell long ago inhabited the planet leaving behind a vast underground city of running machines and contrivances whose functions Morbius has been trying to ascertain. Morbius himself was exposed to one of their devices that doubled his own cerebral functions. Adams explains that such a find needs to be studied by humanity but Morbius contends that mankind is not ready for this discovery and that he, and he alone, must study the treasure trove of knowledge left by the Krell. As Morbius battles with bouts of headaches, the encampment of the C-57D detect a creature visible only when it tries to make its way through the protective force field as the one that has been attacking them. The truth of what the creature represents is shocking in more ways than even Morbius could have imagined.

A film ahead of its time, Forbidden Planet presents a high brow concept using visually stunning sequences that stand up to this day. The color palette and background matte paintings by Henri Hillinck are reminiscent of Chesley Bonestell SF pulp art covers. The look and feel of most of the animated sequences and trick photography remain comparable in quality to modern CGi effects. While anyone today would swear that the acclaimed music score are feature sounds from a theremin (popular in the era), they were in fact created by specialized electronic circuitry (predating synthesizers) created and operated by Bebe and Louis Barren, and are prominently identified in the opening credits. And of course there is Robby the bubble headed robot with whirling gears, antennae, lights, grills, ribbed flex-hose arms which can only be described as a gimballed Vegas slot machine.

The film centers it story around Altaira, who having grown up with only Morbius as a guide, is innocent and naive to the ways of the world (and wearing skimpy clothing that must have been shocking in the 50’s). As the all male crew of the C-57D journeyed two years before arriving at Altair IV, most quickly ply their best pick-up lines on her. All except the commander who of course ends up being the one she falls for.

Highly recommend for Science Fiction aficionados, those who want something a little more intellectual than a simple BEM (Bug Eyed Monster) and perhaps Shakespearean scholars.

I should add that while perusing the extra features on my Warner 2010 Blu Ray release I was surprised to find that it included The Invisible Boy, a lower budget feature film that was released the next year in order to capitalize on the popularity of Robby.

Movie Reviews 393 – Prom Night (1980)

May 27, 2019

The high school prom can either be a terrifically exciting event or a dreaded affair depending on an adolescent’s social standing, milieu of friends and most of all, dating status. But in horror films proms take center stage and sovereign standing even greater than any queen and king.

The high school prom was first featured prominently (get it? prom-inently) in Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie, a story about a girl with supernatural abilities. But with the huge success of John Carpenter’s Halloween the 80’s became the decade of slasher horror cinema and one early entrant was Prom Night which also borrowed the services Halloween’s star and newly minted scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis.

The film begins with a flashback to four young kids, Wendy, Jude, Kelly, and Nick playing Hide’n’Seek in an abandoned building. We then shift to three other young kids immediately outside, walking to school. When Kim, the eldest of the three, realizes she’s forgotten something back home she urges her siblings to continue the walk without her. Her little sister Robin hears the other kids playing inside and wants to join them while her brother Alex refuses. But once inside, Robin becomes the target of taunting and is chased until she backed against into a second floor window. Her tormentors, pressed by Wendy, persist until the inevitable deadly crash to the pavement. The four kids then take an oath of silence.

Six years later Kim (Curtis) and her brother (Michael Tough) are enduring the usual shenanigans and anxieties as they are about to graduate from high school under the watchful eye of the school principal, their father (Leslie Nielsen).  Robin’s murder was never solved and the guilty kids,now all grown up have gone on to lead regular lives. Kim and Nick are even dating, and Kelly is one of Kim’s best friends. Wendy however is still a bitch, moreso since Nick dumped her before falling for Kim, him never having mustered up the courage to tell Kim he was partially responsible for Robin’s death.

But there is another card being played by a mysterious killer who has been phoning the four perpetrators. Could it be the sexual predator who took the fall for the murder, now having just escaped from prison? Perhaps it’s the creepy looking janitor?

This film was one that tried to capitalize on the Disco dancing craze with the horror slasher motif and frankly it was an odd mix then, and stands out like a sore thumb now. Even the surprise ending isn’t all that hard to figure out when looking back on certain emphasized scenes. But it does deliver on a few good true to form ‘slashes’ and even a gloriously fake plastic head decapitation under the rays of a disco mirror ball.

For what it’s worth, many horror fans regard Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II one of those rare instances where the sequel is even better than the original. I’ll soon find out as I’ve got the Prom Night Collection box set with the four movies in the arc. I’ve never picked up the 2008 remake, but from what I hear, that is probably a good thing.