Wednesday, April 28, 2010

#3 of the Top Five Stand Alone Sci-Fi Movies

This blog post is part of a Top Five Stand Alone Sci-Fi Movies countdown that I collaborated on with Shaun Anderson from The Celluloid Highway, if you get a chance, visit his blog and check it out. Dont forget to return tomorrow for our #2 choices in the countdown!

The Celluloid Highways #3 pick - THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (Jack Arnold, USA, 1957)

In the 1950’s Jack Arnold was the undisputed king of the science-fiction/horror film. His contributions to the genre included It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge of the Creature (1955), Tarantula (1955), The Space Children (1958), Monster on Campus (1958) and four episodes of Science Fiction Theatre (1955). But overshadowing all of these enjoyable and entertaining productions was his helming of Richard Matheson’s adaptation of his own novel The Shrinking Man. It was Arnold’s only science-fiction film to truly explore with some measure of success the philosophical and metaphysical questions of a human beings place in the pecking order of the universe. Arnold’s own principal thematic concern which was learning to tolerate and accept difference - be it physical or mental also finds its way into a film rich in depth and symbolism. The hazy and glittering cloud of dust which envelops Scott Carey (Grant Williams) whilst he is holidaying and heralds his slow shrinkage only hints that radiation or some other scientific disaster is to blame. The film is consistently vague on how and why Carey picks up this condition. This is not the primary concern of the narrative. Instead the film is concerned with Carey’s adjustment and behaviour within the framework of dull suburbia. In his interaction with forces no longer under his control (sex, money, status) and his frustrations with the failures of modern medicine to reverse the effects. The film dramatises brilliantly Freud’s concept of the uncanny. Familiar things such as a dolls house, a pet cat, a cellar, and most terrifying of all a spider (the battle of wits between Carey and the spider is masterful) become unfamiliar fragments from our worst nightmares. The monochrome photography only aids the brilliant in camera visual effects, which make wonderful use of distance and perspective. In the final scene Carey’s escape from the confines of the cellar is a metaphor for his own escape from the dull orthodoxy of suburban middle class America.


The Film Connoisseur's #3 pick - DUNE (David Lynch, USA, 1984)

David Lynch’s Dune is such a misunderstood film. From the very beginning, this film had a problematic production. The first attempt to bring Frank Herbert's gargantuan science fiction tale to the silver screen, was going to be directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. You know, the guy responsible for such cult films as The Holy Mountain (1973) and El Topo (1970). So you can begin to imagine just how different this version might have turned out. Jodorowksy wanted Salvador Dahli to star as the Emperor of the known Universe, but problems arouse when Dali's price for his performance was unrealistcally high.  Sadly,  that film never came to be even though a lot of money had been spent in post production. But producer Dino de Laurentis wouldnt give up with Dune, he was determined to make the next sci-fi spectacular. So, the project was presented to Lynch, who accepted directing duties. Dune was not an easy one to tackle. Frank Herbert’s Novel is dense and epic. Its not something you can just shoot and film without an effort. Nope, whoever was going to accept to direct this film was accepting a daunting task. But Lynch did it. And honestly, I applaud him for it. This film does adhere very well to the novel, though when you compare the book vs. the film, Lynch’s movie feels like a fast forward version of the novel, omitting many important moments and situations. But the core of the story is there, and it is still epic in scope which is why I love the movie so much. For its 'epicness'. I love the fact that its such a lush production. This film deals with feuding royal families across the universe, so the production had to be one worthy of royalty. And it is, everything had this expensive regal look to it. There’s not an ounce of cheesiness here! Another thing that attracts me to this movie is that at its core, this film is one of rebellion against an evil empire. The Fremen are the rebels that go against the despotic “Emperor of the known Universe”, Emperor Shaddam the IV. Paul Maudib is the Christ like figure that rises to free the people, lead them and take back planet Arakis! The cast is an interesting one. Kyle MacLachlan, Brad Dourif, Virginia Madsen, Jack Nance (a David Lynch regular) and Jurgen Prochnow. In my opinion, even though Lynch publicly disowns this film (“they took it from me!”) I still love it very much. Lynch gave it that weird, spooky vibe he gives to a lot of his films. Its epic, big scale, filled with heavy themes. It has tons of political and religious intrigue, this film has a huge scope. Not to be missed.

4 comments:

The Film Connoisseur said...

The Incredible Shrinking Man, another one I havent seen. I've seen The Incredible Shrinking Woman with Lilly Tomlin though, does that count for something?

Shaun Anderson said...

As long as there is shrinkage of some sort it counts :-)

A second vote for DUNE! I'm quite surprised that this film has figured in both our Top 5's considering the reputation it has accumulated over the years. But I'm glad that people can see beyond the spectacle and special effects to the ideas that beat at the films heart.

The Film Connoisseur said...

I love the ideas and themes in the film!

At first I was amazed when I saw the movie, Paul Moadib was the christ like figure coming to save the Fremen (a play of words on "Free-Men") and lead them in the rebellion.

I was surprised when I read the second novel (Dune Messiah) where Paul is worshipped as a messiah of sorts, an idea that he rejects. He does not like for people to worship him like some sort of God. It kind of went against this idea I had of Paul Atreides, the savior.

Ever seen that tv movie FRANK HERBERT'S CHILDREN OF DUNE? It was made by the same people who made FRANK HERBERT'S DUNE for the Sci-Fi Channel. They basically took books two and three and made them into one movie. I recommend it if you are a fan of the DUNE universe.

The Film Connoisseur said...

By the way Shaun, yeah, we coincided in choosing DUNE on our top five. What can I say, its a great movie. Great production values, great director, in depth story, great performances and cast..whats not to like right?

Another film figured into both of our top five lists...but that one will be revealed tomorrow when we finally reveal our choice for #1 Stand Alone Sci-fi.

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