Saturday, 23 April 2016

Forbidden planet

Fred M Wilcox, 1956, USA

“Monsters, John… Monsters from the Id!”

Taking smartly and happily from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and Sigmund Freud, ‘Forbidden Planet’ is about as pure as retro-science fiction as you can get. Flying saucers, super-robots with clunky appeal, astronauts with razor-sharp partings in their hair, the mystery of the alien Krell, impressive effects, otherworldly atonal music – namely the first fully electronic score by Bebbe and Louis Barron – and a brusque scientist… it’s all here. Some hokey dialogue, dated romancing and weak ‘drinking cook’ humour can’t undermine the evident intelligence and pulpy joy of the film. It is painterly - with some of the best ever use of matte paintings making it look like a sci-fi book cover come to life - marked by purplish-blues, baked alien vistas and best of all, the unforgettable tour of the subterranean city. It becomes more extraordinary as it progresses, for upon the stock-sci-fi dramatics grows a tale of failed alien civilisations, the failings of intelligence and super-technology, and those monsters of the Id that spark from the barely subtextual sexual tensions. It’s as if ‘Flash Gordon’ stumbled into ‘The Tempest’. A thorough classic and a perfect example of pulp with big ideas.

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