Anne Francis, R.I.P.

Anne_Francis_FP_CUAnne Francis, best known to most readers as Altaira ‘Alta’ Morbius in 1956’s SF Classic FORBIDDEN PLANET, passed away Saturday, January 1st 2011. She was 80.
Francis made a good impression with audiences in the role of the intelligent, but naive and innocently sexy castaway, and became of favorite of SF film fans.  
Her co-star and love interest in that film, Lesile Nielsen,  died November 28th, 2010. 
Born Anne Lloyd Francis, she was sometimes billed that way, particularly in later years. A good and popular performer, she appeared in many films and television shows.
In 1965, she appeared on the detective show BURKE’S LAW as HONEY WEST, soon spun off as it’s own ABC series in 1966-67. 
Honey West ComicBased on a series of novels about a female private detective by Gloria and Forest Fickling (“G.G. Fickling”), the TV version was a kind mix of James Bond and THE AVENGERS’ Emma Peel, dressing up in a black bodysuit for spying and fighting. She also used a number of then borderline science-fictional surveillance devices and weapons.
Only lasting one season of 30 episodes, it nevertheless had it’s own short-lived Gold Key comic book.
Other genere-related appearences include the live TV anthologies SUSPENSE (1949) and LIGHTS OUT, She appeared in the film THE ROCKET MAN (1954), two episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE  (Jess-Belle and  The After Hours), KRAFT SUSPENSE THEATER, two connected episodes of THE MAN FROM UNCLE as a villianess, several ALFRED HITCHCOCK’s, germ warfare thriller THE SATAN BUG (1965),  THE INVADERS, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, supernatural TV movie HAUNTS OF THE VERY RICH (1972), KUNG FU, WONDER WOMAN, FANTASY ISLAND (both incarantions) MAZES AND MONSTERS (1982), and even an episode of the CONAN television series.
Read more about Anee Francis’s life and carreer at The L.A. Times.

Leslie Nielsen, R.I.P.

Nielson_FPLanet_TintLeslie Nielsen passed away yesterday, November 28th, 2010. He was 84.

Most famous for his later-in-life comedy roles in THE NAKED GUN series, Nielsen was also a well-known sci-fi and horror performer. In 1956, he starred as Commander J.J. Adams in FORBIDDEN PLANET, the first big-budget, full color, and Cinemascope  Outer Space-set science fiction film. A classic of the genre, the film would be the blueprint for serious SF productions for years to come.
Born in the North West Territory of Canada, he attended Toronto’s Academy of Radio Arts before moving to New York and joining The Neighborhood Playhouse. Soon he became a regular performer in live television, including a number of science fiction-themed shows.
Among the live performances were OUT THERE (1951), LIGHTS OUT, SUSPENSE, and several episodes of TALES OF TOMORROW (1952-53). In one of the TALES shows, Appointment on Mars, Nielsen’s astronaut character was supposed to shoot another (played by Brian Keith). However, the prop gun refused to fire its blanks during the live program, so he was forced to rush his adversary and strangle him instead.
His powerful voice and leading man looks lent Leslie Nielsen an air of authority, making him a natural for FORBIDDEN PLANET’s serious-minded skipper of the United Planet’s Cruiser C57D.  Nielsen invested the stock character with a touch of  quiet humor in lighter situations and a sense of at-times barely-controlled fury at the strange predicament that imperils his ship and crew.
For Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color,  Nielsen played Col. Francis Marion in the eight-part THE SWAMP FOX, based on the historical figure,  who was an originator of the use of intelligence-gathering and guerilla tactics during the Revolutionary War.
He appeared in episodes of THRILLER and ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, starred as modern policeman Lt. Price Adams in THE NEW BREED (1961-62).
Dark_IntruderIn 1965, he played 19th century occult detective Brett Kingsford in  DARK INTRUDER, originally planned as a supernatural mystery series to be called THE BLACK CLOAK. Not picked up by a network, Universal released it as a feature film.
During the 60’s  and 70’s Leslie Nielsen appeared on many TV shows, often playing straightforward or ruthlessly corrupt authority figures. SF/Fantasy shows included VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, WILD WILD WEST, and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
 TV Movies NIGHT SLAVES, THE AQUARIANS, HAUSER’S MEMORY (all 1970) shared some SF slant. Nielsen guested in two episodes of the supernatural anthology THE EVIL TOUCH (1973-74), played a recurring adversary for Caine in KUNG FU, and faced off against a bear in the ecological SF flick DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977).
Leslie Nielsen visited FANTASY ISLAND three times (1978-80) before spoofing his screen image in AIRPLANE. He brought a deadpan delivery of nonsensical dialog as Dr. Rumack in the 1980 film, a chance to show off his real-life sense of humor and love of the absurd. 
Dracula_dead_and_lovingThis film would lead to a short-lived TV series POLICE SQUAD! as the disconnected from reality Detective Frank Drebbin, later spun off into the NAKED GUN films, and eventually other thick-headed characters in comedies such as THE CREATURE WASN’T NICE and DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT.
He also appeared in horror movies PROM NIGHT (1980) and CREEPSHOW (1982), and horror spoofs REPOSSESSED (1990), and SCARY MOVIE 3 & 4.
Leslie Nielsen is sure to be missed, by several generations of TV and Movie viewers, and fans of both genre and mainstream entertainment. 

Laserblast, September 7: Supernatural, Smallville, Hatchet

Also this week: FORBIDDEN PLANET, DOCTOR WHO, TOMMY, PHANTOM, TMNT, TCM Hammer Horror Collection, and more!

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Tuesday, September 7 is filled with more DVDs and Blu-ray discs than store shelves can possibly hold. Not all of them are new titles – many are re-issues – but there are more than enough worthwhile offerings to make a serous dent in a dedicated collector’s pocketbook. Read on, to see what’s in store…
SUPERNATURAL: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON arrives on 6-disc DVD and a 4-disc  Blu-ray set. Bonus features include “Supernatural: Apocalypse Survival Guides – Bobby’s Exclusive Video Collection,” “Ghostfacers: The Web Series,” Producer-Writer Commentary on Episode 4, The End,” Unaired Scene from Episode 9,The Real Ghostbusters,” and a Gag Reel.
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If that’s not enough television for you, this week  offers up SMALLVILLE: THE COMPLETE NINTH SEASON, which also arrives in a 6-disc DVD set and a 4-disc Blu-ray set. Extras include “Kneel Before Zod” (a look at the Kryptonian criminal), “Justice for All” (the Smallville creative team bring the Justice Society of America to television for the first time), and Cast-Creator Commentaries on episodes “Idol” and” Kandor.”
SyFy Channel’s PHANTOM, an adaptation of the pulp action hero, also makes its way onto home video in the DVD and Blu-ray formats. That’s just about it for high-profile new titles; fortunately, lots of older stuff is resurfacing from the vault.
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Horror hounds will now get to see Victor Crowley’s predations in the magic of high-def, thanks to a Blu-ray release of HATCHET; the disc ports over the bonus material from the previous DVD release and adds a new audio commentary from writer-director Adam Green (whose recent film FROZEN arrives later this month). HATCHET 2 is currently appearing at film festivals, so you better catch up with the first one.
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Fans of classic cinematic science fiction will want to pick up FORBIDDEN PLANET on Blu-ray. The film has been released on DVD in several forms, including a tin collector’s set, but its lovely production design and colorful special effects demand the image resolution that only high-def can provide.
Three DOCTOR WHO titles arrive on DVD this week: PLANET OF FIRE and THE KING’S DEMONS (starring Peter Davison) and THE CREATURE FROM THE PIT (starring Tom Baker).
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Writer-director Ken Russell’s outrageous film fantasy TOMMY, based on The Who’s seminal rock opera, has been remastered and restored in high-def picture and sound for its Blu-ray debut, 35 years after the film reached theatres back in 1975. Unfortunately, the disc lacks featurettes and audio commentary, even though most of the principals are still around, including Russell, Roger Daltrey (who plays the lead), and Pete Townshend (who created the opera and supervised the music).
Previously available titles reappearing on DVD include:

  • K-PAX (Collector’s Edition)
  • JURASSIC PARK III (Widescreen Collector’s Edition)

Previously available titles arrving in Blu-ray include:

  • THX 1138
  • LOST IN SPACE (with William Hurt)

There is also a 6-FILM HORROR BLURAY COLLECTION, featuring the likes of HAUNTING OF WINCHESTER HOUSE and I AM OMEGA. Plus the usual direct-to-video obscurities.
Have fun!