Saturday, December 25, 2010

12 Days of Favorites: Forbidden Planet

The story of Love & Squalor begins many years before the fateful meeting of Wilde.Dash and M, long before the almost nightly movie marathons on uncomfortable and rank smelling dorm furniture and Sound of Music sing-a-longs. From the mid 80’s on, unaware of each others’ presence, M and Wilde.Dash were bonding with family, not over board games or a large family meal (ok, there was a lot of that too), but over the likes of Woody Allen and Walter Pidgeon. The holidays in said families were filled with the usual Christmas fair, but also with strange family film favorites and traditions. So hang your stockings with care and when your sister starts complaining about your billionth viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life and how boooooring it is, spend your 12 Days of Christmas with the movies that have followed Love & Squalor from infancy to bloggerhood.

As I've mentioned throughout this little recurring holiday feature, there are only a handful of films truly beloved by my Dad.  Of those few, Forbidden Planet is clearly his favorite.  It's one he quotes with regularity, and one he will actually note the absence of if the time between viewings has been too long.  During the holiday  season, Forbidden Planet became the antidote  to all the average Christmas screenings.  See, Christmas isn't my Dad's holiday.  It's not something he was raised with so, while he can tolerate the once a year visits with A Christmas Story and White Christmas, he'd really rather avoid them.  So, somewhere between that ideal lodge in Vermont (must be beautiful this time of year, all that snow...) and shooting our eyes out, we would visit the Krell laboratories on Altair IV.  Of all the 50's science fiction B-movies (Day the Earth Stood Still included), Forbidden Planet is easily my favorite as well. The story is a reworking of Shakespeare's The Tempest, with that remote island here replaced by a mysterious planet in deep space.  Though the poster seems to suggest otherwise, the stakes here are not truly a matter of man versus giant robot or alien.  It's a tale of monsters from the human id.  And that giant robot?  He's just subservient Robby, pretty much the best walking trash can you'll ever encounter.  I'd be lying if I told you that I hadn't secretly wanted a Robby the Robot for Christmas nearly every year.  Ah well, science, maybe one day...
On the surface Forbidden Planet is an unusual movie to bond over, but imagine the shared joy that occurred when both Wilde.Dash and I discovered that our fathers had indoctrinated us both from an early age. I can’t remember when or how I started watching it, just that I’ve always watched it, and always heard my father going on and on about what it was like to see it in the theater with his grandmother. Like Wilde.Dash, it’s my favorite 50’s sci-fi film. It’s not just the bonding with my dad that always made it special. As Wilde.Dash said, there’s much more to the film--a great Shakespearean translation, and a deep expression of the battle with the id. But my favorite thing about it is the atmosphere. While it’s totally 50’s, all bright neon Technicolor (the version I grew-up on) and space age furniture from the Jetsons, it feels different…truly strange and surreal, a mix of Dali and Dr. Suess, particularly when Morpheus unleashes the monster from his id with special effects that rival anything Michael Bay’s put out there. The other thing that always caught my eye? Altaira’s wardrobe custom made by Robby the Robot. 

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