Actor Leslie Nielsen’s career became synonymous with silliness, with his role in the parody series Police Squad! revived for three Naked Gun movies in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Those comedies, as well as an appearance in Airplane!, were a far more memorable legacy than Nielsen’s roles in countless lesser spoof comedies such as An American Carol and the benighted Scary Movie franchise. But, as much as I laughed my ass off at the Naked Gun movies, Nielsen will always hold a special place in my heart for a very different role: that of Commander John Adams in the 1956 science fiction classic Forbidden Planet.
Before he became known almost exclusively as a comedy guy, Nielsen worked extensively in television as a dramatic actor. Indeed, it was because he played the straight man so well that Police Squad! was so damn funny, with Nielsen deadpanning it in the face of utter ridiculousness. Those dramatic chops are on full display in Forbidden Planet, with Nielsen playing the no-nonsense starship captain sent to investigate the fate of the Bellerophon expedition to the planet Altair IV, which went out of contact some 20 years earlier. Upon arriving, he finds only two survivors: the brilliant Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis). All the rest of the Bellerophon crew were — according to Morbius — killed by a mysterious “planetary force” while trying to leave the planet.
Needless to say, Adams is suspicious there’s more to it, and when the same force seems determined to strand his expedition as well, he sets out to get to the bottom of what Morbius is hiding, and the ancient secrets of Altair IV itself. Nielsen is cracking good as Adams, so good that I think he could have been a starship captain worthy of the Enterprise if the Trek franchise had come along a decade earlier. Nielsen passed away in 2010, but he would have turned 88 years old today. Here’s a toast to the captain who wouldn’t quit digging until he discovered the secrets of the Krell and their “monsters from the id.”
Today in Television
Face Off (Syfy, 9/8c) — “In the Shadows”
The challenge is to create supernatural entities based on mysterious silhouettes.
Today in Home Video
Doctor Who: The Moonbase (DVD)
New to DVD! Digitally remastered Doctor Who classic The Moonbase! The TARDIS arrives in 2070 AD on the Moon, where a weather control station under the command of a man named Hobson is in the grip of a plague epidemic — in reality the result of an alien poison planted by the Cybermen. Polly realizes that as the Cybermen’s chest units are made of plastic they must be vulnerable to attack by solvents. She and her friends manage to destroy all the Cybermen on the base with a ‘cocktail’ of such chemicals shot at them through fire extinguishers.
Ender’s Game (Blu-Ray, DVD & Digital)
In the near future, a hostile alien race has attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training the best and brightest young children to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy is pulled out of his school to join the elite.
Farscape: Season 2 — 15th Anniversary Edition (Blu-Ray & DVD)
Farscape Season Two unfolds as a tapestry of histories and mysteries. Following Season One’s harrowing finale, John Crichton and the crew of the living space ship Moya must now evade the villainous Scorpius. But that’s even harder than it seems, thanks to the insidious connection Scorpius has forged with Crichton. And if the Peacekeepers weren’t enough trouble, Crichton and company soon cross paths with the ambitious, reptilian Scarran race.
The crew’s unstable camaraderie is tested when they discover the part a crew member played in the brutal fate of Moya s first Pilot. Things spin even further out of control as the crew struggles to deal with the violent nature of Moya s offspring not to mention murders, royal weddings, identity crises, terrorists and slave traders.
Building upon the mind-boggling Season 1, Farscape Season Two delivers even more ingenious stories, extraordinary new characters, its razor-sharp dialogue and dazzling special effects, from the artists at Jim Henson Productions.
The Returned (Blu-Ray & DVD)
In an idyllic French Alpine village, a seemingly random collection of people find themselves in a state of confusion as they attempt to return to their homes. What they do not yet know is that they have been dead for several years, and no one is expecting them back. Buried secrets emerge as they grapple with this miraculous and sinister new reality, struggling to reintegrate with their families and past lovers. But it seems they are not the only ones back from the dead. Their arrival coincides with a series of gruesome murders that bear a chilling resemblance to the work of a serial killer from the past…
After an ill-fated weekend of gambling in Las Vegas, four friends on the run from a loan shark find themselves stranded in the Nevada desert. But debt troubles may be the least of their worries when the group discovers that something unearthly may be stalking them. Director Jason R. Miller s UNIDENTIFIED cleverly mixes sci-fi suspense with comedy to create a truly unique take on an otherworldly encounter.