I’ve got to stop writing about public education and politics for a day or two. It’s playing the devil with my blood pressure. In a bid to unfrazzle myself, I offer this list of five favorite science fiction movies.
1. The Time Machine (1960), one of George Pal‘s best efforts, has always fascinated me. I don’t know what aspect of it I like best: the introductory scenes, which never fail to arouse my imagination; the eerie sets and scenery; the acting, in which we encounter tenderness, of all things; or the story itself. A time traveler hurls himself 800,000 years into the future to find what looks like a world given over to Obama-ism run wild. He finds the Eloi, a race of passive, no-information nebbishes totally dependent upon an elite class of monsters, the Morlocks, for all the necessities of life. In return, the Eloi get to be lunch for the Morlocks–literally. The only thing the screenwriters got wrong was their estimation that it would take the human race 800,000 years to reach this point.
2. Jurassic Park (1993). Overlooking the fact that I’m a dinosaur freak, what tickles me about this movie is its treatment of the illusion that scientists and businessmen “know what they’re doing” and are “in control” at all times. As events roll out, we soon see that they haven’t got the foggiest idea of what they’re doing and have no control of it whatsoever. The sooner the rest of us wake up to that truth, the better.
3. Forbidden Planet (1956). I watched this many times on “Million Dollar Movie” (“If you missed any part of Forbidden Planet, or wish to see it again, please tune in at such-and-such a time…”). This was another one to ignite a young imagination. I’ll never forget Walter Pigeon, once the mystery of the planet has begun to be unraveled, shaking his head and lamenting, “My poor Krell!”
4. The Blob (1958). Seeing this again, fifty-odd years later, this movie is a lot cooler than I remembered it. Steve McQueen became a star, for his work in this unassuming little thriller. You’ll be surprised at how good The Blob still is.
5. Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) Betcha never even heard of this one! One of Roger Corman’s early films, it features an aged Basil Rathbone in a minor part and supposedly rips off a Soviet science-fiction classic I never saw or heard of. The story is about the first expedition to Venus (this was before we knew that underneath all those clouds, Venus is considerably hotter than a sauna). The special effects are as cheap as you’d expect, but never mind–in what can otherwise be called nothing but a clunker of a movie, the payoff comes at the very end. It’s worth waiting for, trust me: surprisingly poetic, unexpectedly beautiful and oddly moving. You won’t forget it.
OK, I’ve left a lot of great movies off this short list–but only so that you, dear readers, can nominate some of your own favorites.