Ok, we say this upfront: neither of us particularly care for science fiction movies, and are delighted that so few are considered classic films.
Granted, we both came of age long before the first Star Wars title burst upon the world and introduced modern sci-fi as we know it.
True anecdote: Frank found himself walking past the Astor Theater in New York City in 1977 when 20th Century Fox was ballyhooing the coming opening of a then unknown science fiction drama directed by someone named George Lucas.
Frank puzzled over the one-sheets outside the theater, and then declared that the coming attraction looked like a certain clunker, a surefire box office flop. (Even Fox had back then commercial reservations about Star Wars, believe it or not.)
Oh well, we all miscalculate from time to time.
Well, all this leads up to — Forbidden Planet.
This 1956 MGM outing, in color and Cinemascope, seems to fit our description of a classic film — that is, today’s movie fans seem to enjoy the film as much its original audiences. Our question today is: why?
Forbidden Planet stars MGM stalwarts Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis (an underrated Fifties actress) along with a serious Leslie Nielsen long before his wonderful comedic turns in the Naked Gun series. Also in the cast are two favorite character actors, Richard Anderson and Earl Holliman.
A solid cast, to be sure, but hardly blockbuster. The movie’s plot is about the spacial exploration of a planet inhabited by scientists who are being killed off. We’ve seen Forbidden Planet, and and found it mildly diverting but dated. A curiosity, nothing more.
Therefore we are a trifle dismayed by the attention the movie has received in recent years. Turner Classic Movies regularly runs the picture, and treats it with utmost reverence. Media mentions are laced with settled wisdom that this is one important picture. The Library of Congress last year included Forbidden Planet in its National Film Registry of titles deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Earlier this month, the Burbank (Calif.) International Film Festival included a screening of the picture in its “History of Cinema Program.” The Festival invited fans to show up and meet a replica of “Robby the Robot,” one of the stranger creatures in the movie. Fans were also encouraged to submit photos in their robot costumes.
On a more serious note, the Festival also paid tribute to composer Bebe Barron, who scored Forbidden Planet, doing so for the first time electronically. The use of an unusual musical instrument, the theremin, was noted with the instrument being demonstrated at the Festival.
All well and good. But isn’t this heaping a ton of self importance and prestige on the fragile back of what is essentially a routine early sci-fi effort?
We throw the floor open. If you like Forbidden Planet, please let us know and tell us why. Enlighten us, please.