BEWARE! #3, 1973 “The Monsters are Coming”

At a recent con (Boston Comic Con – 2014), I grabbed a few comics at a bargain, and one of them happened to be an issue of the reprint series, Beware! This particular issue reprints some Golden Age material from Atlas Comics (Marvel). Some pre-code stories by greats like George Tuska, Joe Maneely, and Al Luster! The cover by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott really sets the tone for the book!

Each story contained within has a different angle, but it doesn’t interrupt the flow from front cover to back. I really enjoy these types of books, and another good one is from Yoe Books (IDW distributing), called “Haunted Horror“. It’s a great reprint series showcasing some of the early horror work from some of the best talent of that period, and quite frankly, of all time. Give it a look if you can spare the time. In the meantime, take a peek at some of the awesome work in this fantastic book!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

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Title: The Revenge of Frankenstein

Distributor: Columbia Pictures (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Eunice Gayson, Michael Gwynn, Michael Ripper

Released: June 1st, 1958

MPAA: UR

 

In what basically is a direct sequel to The Curse of Frankenstein, this film has a unique twist to the tale of the Frankenstein Monster. With the usual cast of characters, and production stalwarts, some consider The Revenge of Frankenstein to out-do the first film. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is a good film, and we’re going to dive head first into the plot in a moment. The film stars the incredible work of Peter Cushing, along with a solid performance by Francis Matthews. Now, let’s get down to business!

The film begins with good old Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), as he’s being led to the guillotine for his crimes against nature. There’s a few people surrounding him; a priest, a guard, and a man who appears to be crippled. This crippled man and the Baron share a quick nod, and as the camera goes off scene, we here a struggle, then the guillotine does its job. That scene then cuts to a bar, where a woman is howling because she’s having a good time. The view turns to two men, getting drunk, and talking about a job. One of the men tells the other that it’s a simple job of snatching a body from the graveyard. The other man (Michael Ripper), doesn’t seem to trust him on the real ease of the job, but he needs the money for booze (I guess), so he agrees to come along for the job. As the two men dig up the body, they realize the grave is marked Baron Frankenstein. Inside the casket though, is the body of a priest! This scares the one man off, but the other one stays to finish the job. Before he can do anything more though, a shadowy figure creeps out of the bushes, and introduces himself as Baron Frankenstein. This gives the old guy a heart attack, and he dies right there on the spot.

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Three years later, a few gentlemen that belong to a “medical council” in Carlsbruck, are discussing a doctor in town that’s been stealing all of their patients. They agree that they’ll send a delegation to meet him and convince him to join their ranks. One of their number is Dr. Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews image above), and as they visit Dr. Stein (Peter Cushing), he recognizes him, but keeps quiet. After Dr. Stein refuses the medical council’s offer, Hans returns later that evening, and calls out the Baron on his true identity. Dr. Kleve then tells the Baron that he wants to learn under his guidance, and will keep quiet in exchange for knowledge. The Baron then takes him to his laboratory, and shows him his latest achievement. He shows Dr. Kleve a new body, constructed from “spare parts”, and tells him that it will be the new body for the crippled assistant, Karl (The Baron made a deal with Karl, that if he saved him from the guillotine, he’d grant him a new body).

Next, we see a young woman, Margaret, (Eunice Gayson) at the hospital for the poor (where the Baron gets his spare parts from), as she informs Dr. Kleve that she’ll be working at the hospital doing charitable work for the patients. Her father, who’s the minister of this town, would be trouble if “Dr. Stein” refused, so he allows her to stay. That night, the two doctors descend into the laboratory, to give Karl his new body. The surgery seems to be going well, but then suddenly, the body begins to twitch violently, and requires restraining. Karl’s brain now resides in the new body, and they take him to a secluded room at the hospital.

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Once there, the janitor (George Woodbridge- image below)) sees them transporting the body there, and he also eaves drops on them as they discuss Karl (Michael Gwynn) and his new body. Karl screams out in pain, and the janitor shudders in fear. The next day, as Dr. Kleve is watching Karl (who’s still strapped down), he tells him that Dr. Stein wants to show him off to other doctors around the world. Karl gets upset because “people have stared at him his whole life”. Dr. Kleve tells him not to worry, and leaves for the day. The janitor wants to impress Margaret (image below), so he tells her of the “special patient” in the room upstairs. She visits him, and he asks her to loosen his traps, because they’re hurting him. She thinks nothing of it, and loosens them. Karl then uses this chance to escape the hospital. He doesn’t want to be ogled by anyone and wants to live his own life.

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Later that night, the Baron and Dr. Kleve head over to the hospital to check on Karl, and find that he’s gone. Karl heads over to the laboratory, and attempts to dispose of his old body. He makes some noise, and the janitor that’s cleaning up hears him, and investigates. He attacks Karl, hitting him with a chair, then punching him several times. This causes brain damage to Karl’s recently operated on brain, and causes him to begin to revert back into his old self. He violently kills the man, then runs away crying. Dr. Kleve tells Dr. Stein that he told Karl about the big plans for him, and they realize that he couldn’t handle the news, and ran off. They immediately head over to the lab and discover the dead janitor, and also that he burned his old body in the furnace.

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The next day, Margaret is finishing up some horseback riding, and heads into the stables to check on the other horses. She discovers a traumatized Karl (image below), hiding in her stables. Margaret tells him that he can’t stay there, but she’ll find a way to help Karl out without telling Dr. Stein (Karl tells her that he’s afraid of him). She returns to the hospital and tells Dr. Kleve about Karl. Meanwhile, Karl begins to relapse into his crippled state, and runs off into the night. In a nearby park, a young woman and her boyfriend are talking, but she soon dulls of his words, and leaves for home. She barely makes it around the corner, and she’s attacked and killed by Karl. Dr. Stein and Dr. Kleve are on their way to Margaret’s home, when they are stopped by the police. They tell them that there’s been a murder, and they investigate, and realize it may have been Karl. They then go to a party at Margaret’s house and speak to her bout what happened with Karl. In the next moments, Karl bursts through the window, and shouts “Frankenstein, help me!”

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The following day, the medical council meets, and they decide that action must be taken to oust Dr. Stein. The hospital is empty as well, as word has gotten out about “Dr. Stein”, and his true lineage. Dr. Kleve is summoned by the medical council, and urges Dr. Stein to leave the country and they can start anew somewhere else. He refuses to leave and actually joins Dr. Kleve in the meeting with the medical council. Dr. Stein denies his real name, and the council goes to get proof. They dig up the grave, and find the priest’s body in the casket. As they are doing this, Dr. Stein is in the hospital for the poor, making his rounds. The janitor was apparently telling the patients of the rumors, and they savagely attack him.

I’ll stop here for now, and leave the ending a secret, but rest assured, the old Baron has a plan up his sleeve, and also Dr. Kleve to help him survive…or does he?

OK, here are my thoughts:

Although I like this film a lot for its interesting perspectives and plot, it doesn’t surpass the original. It lacks any real scare factor, unlike the first movie. Maybe this is due to Christopher Lee not being the “monster”, or maybe the lack of someone of strong principles opposing Baron Frankenstein. Either way, it’s still a good film, due to the roles played by Cushing and Matthews. Both are very good, and even the janitor, George Woodbridge, does a good job as a a secondary character.

The sets were quite good, as you’d expect from being filmed at Bray Studios. The music is average, but that can probably be attributed to the absence of James Bernard. The colors didn’t seem as vibrant in this second film either. If that’s just to the copy I have, or just fact, I’m not quite sure. Oscar Quitak (Karl, before the operation), was also very creepy in the movie, even though he was only around for the first third of the film. The brief appearance of Hammer faithful Michael Ripper definitely puts me at ease. His mere presence in any Hammer production automatically elevates it no matter what the quality is of the film. Definitely check this one out if you haven’t seen it before. It’s worth a watch and owning if you’re a Hammer fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

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Title: The Curse of Frankenstein

Distributor: Warner Bros. (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Jimmy Sangster

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds (also Max Rosenberg)

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart

Released: May 2nd, 1957

MPAA: X (originally in the U.K., but PG in the U.S.)

 

To say that this film was groundbreaking for its time, is an overwhelming understatement. What Hammer Studios did was take the foundation of horror that was laid by Universal Pictures back in the 1930’s, and build  a mansion of horror on top. It all began with this film, The Curse of Frankenstein, in 1957. The film broke down barriers that had been in place for a long time, and nothing would be the same after its release. Peter Cushing is an absolute superstar in this one, and it vaulted his career into the atmosphere. Let us now turn back the clock to 1957, and witness the birth of true horror.

The movie begins with a priest, as he rides along a windy path to a prison on a hill. Once there, he’s shown to a cell where a man is “raving”, but the priest enters alone anyway. Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is the man inside the cell, and he’s scheduled to be hanged in one hour. He tells the priest to sit down and listen to his story, so that he can pass it on to others over time. The priest tells him to start at the beginning, so Baron Frankenstein begins his story in his childhood days, when his mother died. He explains to the priest that he inherited the family fortune at the age of fifteen, and brought in a tutor, Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart- pic below), to finish his schooling. The two grow to be quite close, and after two years, the young Baron has learned all Paul can teach him. The two are fascinated by the possibility of regenerating dead matter, and go ahead with their plans to conduct experiments that will lead to such a result.

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After months of gathering information and equipment, they finally attempt to revive a dead puppy. The laboratory is filled with all sorts of arcane looking devices, and before you know it, they activate the machines, and revive the animal from the other side. At this point they theorize on what to do next. Paul believes they should share their findings with the medical federation that meets in London every year. The Baron disagrees, and tells Paul that now is the time to open Pandora’s Box, and “find what lies beyond it.” Paul seems confused, and the Baron tells him that they must build a man, piece by piece, and animate it, creating life, in the vein of God creating mankind itself. Paul seems skeptical, but agrees to go forward.

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A neighboring town has just hanged a man for being a criminal, and hung his body at the town limits to warn others of the punishment waiting if they should try anything. Paul and the Baron cut the body down, and begin their experiment. First, the Baron tells Paul they must cut off the head, because the eyes and half of the head were eaten away by crows. Paul stands in shock and awe, as the Baron flippantly cuts off the head of the corpse. He then tosses it in a vat of acid, disposing of it once and for all. The Baron then informs Paul that he’s going away for a few days to get something (a new pair of hands for the creature). The next day, Paul is talking with Justine (Valerie Gaunt), the maid. A knock at the door interrupts them, and the door opens to show Elizabeth (Hazel Court- pic below), the baron’s cousin. She announces that she’s coming to live there, and to be married to the Baron as it was arranged by her mother. Paul then tells the Baron (in seclusion) that he’s decided to stop helping him with the experiment. The Baron tells him to leave him alone, and continue on without any help.

We next see the Baron and Justine, sharing a passionate kiss in a dark hallway. She tells him that she’s jealous of Elizabeth, and that she wants the Baron to marry her, as he promised. He kind of chuckles at her request, and then carries on with the make out session. The following day, the Baron leaves once again for more “materials”, and this time he brings back a new set of eyeballs for the creature. He then is seen examining them, close up. A knock on his laboratory door by Paul interrupts him, and then the two have a conversation about what the Baron is doing. The Baron then reveals the creature to Paul, but he rebuffs him again, and leaves.

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Another day or so passes, and we see that the Baron is hosting one of the most brilliant minds in Europe. This older gentleman is a scientist that is possibly more brilliant than the Baron himself. As they have conversation, Paul enters the room, and the Baron introduces the two. The Professor then tells them that he’s tired, and needs to retire for the evening. The Baron agrees to walk him to his room, and shows him a painting at the top of the balcony. We see the Baron get a strange look on his face, and then tell the Professor that if he backs up against the railing, he’ll get a better view. As he backs up, the Baron pushes him over the railing, shouting as if the Baron is having an accident. We get the impression that the Baron planned this all along. He then offers to let the body of the Professor rest in his families crypt, being that he had no family. After the burial, the Baron sneaks into the crypt, and removes the Professor’s brain. Paul shows up, and the two argue over the fact that the Baron basically murdered the Professor. The argument gets very heated, and then Paul grabs the bag containing the brain. A brief struggle ensues, and the brain gets smashed against the wall. The Baron get furious, and pushes Paul out of the way.

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Paul the warns Elizabeth that Victor is meddling with things he cannot control. She tells him that she wont be leaving, and he leaves her room, very disappointed. Next, we watch as Victor fixes the damage done to the brain by the struggle with Paul (or so he thinks). He then begins the process of reviving the creature. Initially, nothing seems to happen, but as he leaves the room, he then asks Paul to help him, and threatens to involve Elizabeth is he wont help him. Suddenly, he hears a loud crashing noise coming from the lab. He returns to see the creature (Christopher Lee), alive, and extremely volatile. It attacks the Baron, nearly killing him, if not for Paul intervening. The Baron is in ‘full arousal’ over this (even though he’s almost killed), and Paul is mystified at this reaction. Paul then begs Victor to dispose of the creature, but Victor tells Paul it’s his fault because he damaged the brain in the fight they had previously.

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The following day, the creature gets loose, goes into the forest, and kills an old man and his grandson. Victor asks Paul for his help in tracking it down, then, Paul brings a rifle, and shoots the creature, killing it once and for all…or so he thinks. He and Victor bury the monster, but Victor then digs it up and keeps it secretly in his dungeon. Justine then threatens the Baron if he doesn’t marry her as he promised. He tells her that she had better not or face the consequences. He also tells her that she’d better be gone by tomorrow, or else. That night, Justine creeps out of her room to gather proof of what’s going on in the laboratory, so she can either extort Victor or hurt him by telling the police. Victor realizes this, and lays a trap for her. As she creeps into the lab, and then the dungeon, Victor slyly locks the door behind her, and the creature kills her.

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Once again, Paul confronts Victor after learning the creature still lives. Victor and Paul argue and fight in the lab, then out in the street as well. The creature busts out of his chains, and attacks Elizabeth on the rooftop. Victor grabs a pistol, and in trying to shoot the creature, accidentally shoots Elizabeth. The creature then attacks him, but he throws a lantern at it, and it is engulfed in fire. It then stumbles towards the window, and falls into the pit of acid.

We then return to the prison, as Baron Frankenstein finishes his story, and the priest seems unconvinced. The guard then tells the Baron that Paul Krempe has come for a visit, and he shows him in.  Victor begs Paul to corroborate his story, but Paul acts as if he has no clue what the Baron is talking about. The priest walks out, and Victor then attacks Paul, but the guards drag him off. Paul leaves and tells Elizabeth that Victor has gone insane. The last thing we see, is Baron Frankenstein being led to the gallows.

 

My thoughts are as follows:

In the beginning I said this film was groundbreaking, and that’s no exaggeration. It showed copious amounts of red blood, and now for the first time in color, it seemed even more revolting. Hammer is known for its “RED” blood, no doubt about that. The scenes of other grotesqueness include the Baron holding an eyeball right in front of the audience, the reveal of the creatures horrific face, when the Baron cut off the head, and disposed of it in the acid, and so on. This movie pushed the envelope of what it meant to be a “horror” movie like no other of its time.

Peter Cushing was marvelous, of course, and Robert Urquhart added a fantastic element of struggle against the Baron. Both men played off of each other very well, and showed how just two characters can carry an entire film literally by themselves. Yes, you did get Lee as the creature, and Hazel Court was beautiful, and well spoken, but those two men were the shining light of this movie, make no mistake.

In typical Hammer fashion, we had sets that were awe-inspiring, and the locations were numerous but none more famous than Bray Studios. Fisher, Hinds, and Sangster, gave us a masterpiece with this film, and should be lauded for their efforts. Also in keeping with Hammer traditions, the music score by James Bernard will send chills up your spine and have you on the edge of your seat with his thunderous climaxes. If you’ve never seen this film, shame on you, and rectify this blemish on your record immediately. If you have watched this film but do not own it, buy this film in a set like I did (TCM Classic Horror), it includes four Hammer classics that every horror fan needs to own!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvel’s Unsung Heroes! -George Tuska!

The name George Tuska (RIP) doesn’t stand out for a lot of people, but this guy had quite a career beginning way back in the Golden Age. Titles such as “Crime Does Not Pay” and “Captain Marvel Adventures“, were home to hard-working guys like George. He really is the textbook definition of a  journeyman. He has a ton of credits, but personally, I don’t own many of his books. That being said, he’s made an impression on me, and I think he deserves to get some love! So, here’s to you, George, thanks for all the work you put in over the years in the world of comic books!

 

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Marvel’s Unsung Heroes! -Ross Andru!

Even though I don’t own a ton of this man’s work, his pencils have always left me looking for more! The late, great, Ross Andru, left an impression on the world of comics, whether you know his pencils from Spider-Man, or his work on DC’s war titles (GI Combat, Our Army at War, etc.), you have to admire his work ethic, and overall positive attitude he brought with him to the drawing table. Often teamed up with long time friend, Mike Esposito, Andru did some really good things for the industry, and deserves to be shown some love right now! So, here’s to you Ross Andru, thanks for the great memories!

 

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Cinema Sunday: Forbidden Planet (1956)

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Title: Forbidden Planet

Distributor: MGM

Writer: Irving Block & Allen Adler (Screenplay by Cyril Hume)

Director: Fred M. Wilcox

Producer: Nicholas Nayfack

Starring: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens

Released: April 1st, 1956

MPAA: PG

I’d like to begin by setting the record straight. This is the best sci-fi film ever made, and the 1950’s is the best decade ever for the genre, and it’s not up for debate. OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get down to dissecting –Forbidden Planet! The actors and cool science fiction elements really jettison this film into the atmosphere! Walter Pidgeon and Leslie Nielsen are incredible, and the lovely Anne Francis really ignites the picture when she steps into the light!

In 1956, this film wasn’t a media darling, but it did make money. It wasn’t until later, when it was re-released in 1972, that it started to gain momentum, and eventually become a cult classic! DVD sales have been fantastic, and it will forever occupy space on my DVR! For those of you who haven’t seen this flick yet, stop reading this, and get out there and buy it before continuing! Now, let us journey to the 23rd Century…

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The film opens with a space cruiser (United Planets C57-D), as it heads out into the far reaches of space. Once the ship nears it’s destination, it releases the explorers from “hyper-sleep”. They make contact with the planet below (Altair IV), and Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) tells them that everything is OK. Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen), informs him that even though everything is fine, they must land and do an inspection. Morbius warns the commander that he won’t be held responsible for anything that happens from here on out. Commander Adams tells him to supply them with landing coordinates, so they can safely land the ship.

Once they land, Commander Adams, Lt. Jerry Farman (Jack Kelly), and Doc Ostrow (Warren Stevens), are greeted by a transport vehicle that appears to be going at an alarming rate of speed towards them. They soon realize that it’s a robot (Robby the Robot-pic below with Walter Pidgeoon), and he was sent by Dr. Morbius to bring them to his home. Once there, Morbius assures them that everything is fine, but when they ask about the other colonists, Morbius pauses, then tells them a fantastic tale. He recounts how the other colonists were killed by some unforeseen planetary force, and as the last few tried to take off in the ship to go back to Earth, the ship was vaporized. He cannot explain how or why this happened, only that he and his wife were spared, and they shared a love for this strange new world.

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As they’re finishing up lunch, a beautiful woman appears, and Morbius then introduces his daughter (Anne Francis). Lt. Farman immediately tries to put the moves o her, but she’s too immature to figure it out. Morbius thinks everything is OK, but Commander Adams must contact Earth for further instructions because the other colonists being dead wasn’t in the plans. Morbius isn’t happy about that, but can’t do anything about it either.

The men return to the ship for the night, and as they slumber, some unknown entity enters the ship, and destroys their communication device. Commander Adams questions the guards the following morning, but they don’t give any insight about what happened. Doc Ostrow and Commander Adams question Morbius about it, and he reveals to them that he’s been studying an ancient civilization known as the “Krell”, that once occupied the planet, but were wiped out by some mysterious means. He also shows them some of the devices that they invented, one of those being an education device of some kind that can exponentially increase ones mental acumen (pic below). This is how he was intelligent enough to create “Robby”, and some of the advanced equipment around the house.

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The men convince Morbius to lend a hand in constructing a new communication device,and Robby lends a hand as well. The following night brings even more chaos, as Commander Adams orders extra security, but the Chief Engineer is killed. A footprint is left this time though, and the Doc makes a cast of it to try to gauge what they’re dealing with. The cast is tremendous, and goes against any and all scientific knowledge. While all of this is going down, Commander Adams and Morbius’ daughter, Alta, are falling in love. We then see a scene, where this giant invisible beast (pic below) attacks the camp of the explorers, and simultaneously Morbius is having a violent nightmare. Alta wakes him up, and the beast mysteriously disappears. Commander Adams and the Doc realize that one of them must use the alien educator to heighten their  mental power, and find a way to get off of the planet unharmed. They return to the home of Morbius to do that, but are stopped by Robby. Alta uses an override command to stop Robby, and Commander Adams and Alta talk about leaving the planet. While they talk, Doc goes into the lab, and takes the “brain boost”. Later, he stumbles out of the lab, and dies in Commander Adams arms. Just before he does, he reveals the secret of what killed the aliens and the colonists!

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Will Commander Adams and his fellow explorers escape alive? Or will they succumb to the same planetary force that kills everything in its path? Find out, when you watch…Forbidden Planet!!!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This is the best sci-fi movie ever, no question. Yeah, it does have a couple of loopholes in it, but again, this was made in 1956! Think about it, that’s almost 60 years ago! The acting was quite good by all the people involved, but Leslie Nielsen and Walter Pidgeon deserve the lion share of the credit. All the others were solid too though, and even the “eye candy”, Anne Francis was more than serviceable.  Heck, even Robby the Robot added some dialog! Not only that, but I’m sure back in the day, Robby was an astounding achievement on the big screen too!

The electronic music score was quite a change from any other movies of that generation. The set designs were absolutely astounding as well, but they were the most incredible during the special effects scene with the monster attacking through the force field. This classic film is a must watch for anyone that even has a mild interest in sci-fi or just classic cinema of yesteryear! Kudos to the men and women that brought us Forbidden Planet!