Earlier this year, the Aero Theater presented a 70mm screening and panel discussion of SF classic Forbidden Planet (1956). The organizers put on a good show, lining the lobby with film stills and props, including a life-size replica of Robby the Robot. When he introduced the film, one of the panelists, a film historian and collector, surprised the audience by revealing the original thigh-high, silver tunic worn in the film by Anne Francis, who played Altaira, the nubile virgin of the planet Altair in the constellation of Aquilae. On seeing the costume the audience burst into gasps and applause. It was one of the single purest geek moments I have ever had the dubious honor of witnessing. What can you say? Forbidden Planet is more than simply the best SF film of the 1950s, a decade that had more than its share to choose from. Planet has also emerged as a motherlode of latent boomer fetishes and nostalgic longing. That’s not surprising, since its deep space story of men, machines and “monsters from the Id” completely skirts the Cold War paranoia that marked most of its genre contemporaries to plumb deeper vortexes of desire, repression and taboo. But what’s more, its widescreen alien panoramas (resplendent with some of the studio era’s most dazzling matte painting) and its experimental score by Bebe and Louis Barron (credited for “electronic tonalities”) never allow viewers to find a comfortable footing, even as some of the film’s racier dialogue has mellowed into cornball innuendo. It’s a space fantasy that still packs a surreal punch. Included on the disc are a number of documentaries about the film and ’50s SF, along with a second film, The Invisible Boy (1957), and an episode from The Thin Man television series — both of which feature Robby the Robot in subsequent starring roles.
Other recommended new releases: The Fallen Idol (DVD). Also released this week: DVD: Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker; Aleksandr Zarkhi’s Anna Karenina; A Heart In Winter; Archangel; Battle of the Brave; The Harry Smith Project Live; Inside the Actors Studio: Dave Chappelle; Inside the Actors Studio: Icons; The James Bond Ultimate Edition Volumes 1 and 2; The Junky’s Christmas; Little Man; Person To Person; The Pixies — LoudQUIETloud; The Seduction; Shottas; Sky Fighters; The Souler Opposite; Take My Eyes; Transformers: The Movie 20th Anniversary Edition; The Who: The Vegas Job; Wordplay.