Tuesday, November 01, 2011

sci fi double bill from the past

I recently got some pictures from my good friend John Putica(known him since high school) who had some photos of Tojima sensei's visit to Northern California in May of 1979. The color photo is of him taken at Big Trees in Santa Cruz. It is interesting that the Giant tree has a womb-like feel to it. Tojima sensei had this persona of being real cool. He could appear to be just another Japanese tourist with a camera. But of course he wasn't. I hope you enjoy the photo.

Sunday Night (October 31st) I went to the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto for a pair of sci fi classics from the distant past. They were probably special effect extravaganzas for their day.Showing were "Forbidden Planet" and "The Time Machine".
I can't remember if I saw "Forbidden Planet" in theater before. I've certainly seen it countless times on tv. I've always thought of it as Star Trek before Star Trek. Leslie Nielsen plays a very Captain Kirk type Starship commander. The film came out in 1956 and the special effects were done by the Disney studios. Robbie the robot steals the show. The plot is based on Shakespeare's "The Tempest". A starship comes to investigate the survivors on a planet from a previous starship voyage. They find all crew members dead except for a scientist(Morbius played by Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter (Anne Francis). The planet had been inhabited by a very advanced race that for some unknown reason suddenly died out. The crew of the first voyage had its members murdered by some unknown force, bodies literally ripped to pieces. It is mysterious that the scientist has survived somehow. And of course his daughter falls in love with the starship commander. I thought this very Star Trek, although the tv series came out later in the next decade. If you haven't seen it it stands up well and is very entertaining. Anne Francis I remember best as "Honey West" , a sixties half hour tv show that had her portray an Emma Peelish private eye..

"The Time Machine" came out in 1960. It won an Academy Award for Best Special Effects. It starred Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux. I remember seeing it in a theater in Santa Cruz(probably the Del Mar) and being really taken by it. I so wanted to be able to travel through time. There is much more a romantic sense to the Time Traveller and Weena in the film than in the novel....I remember being very scared of the Morlocks. And I remember seeing the film on tv with my parents and still being very enthralled by it. The scene underground where he goes to rescue Weena and confronts the Morlocks was and still is very gripping. In that futuristic world humanity has been divided into two races. There is an underground technological species called the Morlocks, who have descended into cannibalism and raise the surface dwelling and very passive Eloi as food, providing them with food and clothing. I had a chilling thought that in today's world the select few special interests that run the world are like the Morlocks. Have we become Eloi, passively accepting our condition on the planet while corportations really rule us? There was a 2002 version of this film I saw with my friend Marianne. I was very disappointed and much prefer the original. It is interesting that HG Wells emerged later with his time machine to become a semi-regular character on one of my favorite all-time tv shows, the -90's "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman". And the shows featuring this character with its time travel concepts are among my favorite episodes.

In spite of the lack of technological sophistication to the effects, I enjoyed both films immensely. Also seeing them in a real movie Theater, brought back memories from the fifties and sixties of going to see films with my father or my friends in a huge theater.A much different experience than we have now. I recommend you check the listings for the Stanford Theater, as it shows film classics and lets you see it in a theater experience from by gone days. It's charming.

I am including a youtube video of Chet Baker titled "Grey December" . It is mainly a vocal but notice how haunting and expressive his delivery is even though the song is sung very low key. And the trumpet playing is short but sweet.....


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