Directed by Fred McLeod Wilcox
Written by Allen Adler, Irving Block, Cyril Hume
Produced by Nicholas Nayfack
Starring Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly, Robby the Robot, Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman, George Wallace
Absent this seminal space opera's influence, one can scarcely imagine subsequent Treks, Wars or Battlestars, much less exploits whilst Lost in Space, proximate to a Black Hole or during the 25th Century. Planetary colonization in the twenty-third century enjoys sporadic success; one such enterprise is investigated by the crew of a circinate military cruiser, who encounter on an otherwise desolate planet a haunted philologist (Pidgeon), his nubile, ingenuous daughter (Francis) and their compliant, multifunctional automaton (Robby), survivors of a scientific expedition unaccountably slain a score antecedent. A percontation pursued by the vessel's courageous captain (Nielsen) prompts Pidgeon's scientist to serve as a docent of monumental technology produced by an Atlantean species extinguished 2000 centuries prior, but can't explicate the unseen, butcherly force that massacred his colleagues when it reemerges. Visionary concepts amplify the ambit of The Tempest's themes and scenario as science fiction, while its adventuresome climate reflects an unmistakably American postwar optimism. Though definitely dated, the innovation invested in immersive production design by Arthur Lonergan, Cedric Gibbons, Mentor Huebner and co-author Irving Block, clever practical effects by Disney's Joshua Meador, et al., and Bob Trochim's animation image immensity sampled from a perished race's titanic technology and its horrifying reverberations, shot in sprawling CinemaScope. Less imperishable are the script's excess, expository dialogue, adolescent dalliances between Francis's ingenue and the officers she arouses, and comic relief from the crew's bibulous chef (Holliman), chintzy counterweights to its humane drama. Louis and Bebe Barron's shrieking, droning, whirring, whistling, warbling, blooping, bleeping, burbling "tonalities" constitute the first fully electronic soundtrack of a feature film, besides pioneering programmatic noise in lieu of music ambagious in application for ambience and sound effects. Kubrick's and Clarke's supreme achievement elevated the genre, but inspired few endeavors to effectuate such sublimity. By reworking Shakespeare's classic in vernacular as a medium of futurism, Wilcox, Adler, Block, Hume, Nayfack and their crew affected the imaginations of mundanes as middlebrow as the mountebanks (Roddenberry, Lucas, Nation, Larson, etc.) who succeeded them.
Recommended for a double feature paired with This Island Earth, The Black Hole or any tragic episode of Star Trek.
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