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Third Annual Film in the Fog Screening

Forbidden Planet and Cruise Cat

Assuming that the unseasonably warm nights that have graced the Bay Area in recent weeks finally give way to the foggy shroud that usually blankets San Francisco, filmgoers will be able to bundle up for an enjoyable evening of classic science-fiction cinema in the historic Presidio. Sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society and the Presidio Trust, the third annual Film in the Fog outdoor film and music program presents a chilly evening emceed by Jan Wahl of KCBS and KRON 4. The star attraction is the 1956 science-fiction classic, Forbidden Planet, preceded by a vintage newsreel and ample hijinks in the 1952 Tom & Jerry cartoon, Cruise Cat. (Watch closely, because our very own Embarcadero makes an appearance in the opening shot.)

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Special Effects, Forbidden Planet introduced audiences to the imaginative character of Robby the Robot (who now ignobly graces a dark corner of the Metreon). Based loosely on Shakespeare's "The Tempest," this sci-fi hit from MGM stars Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, and a dark-haired Leslie Nielsen. The year is 2200 and space travelers from earth visit the remote, green-skied, barely inhabited planet of Altair-4 in search of survivors from a previous expedition. The only remaining souls are a combative scientist, his beautiful and naive grow-up daughter, and their well-mannered robot. But there's also a mysterious force that terrorizes the visitors and threatens to destroy the planet.

With its eerie score of "electronic tonalities", vast sets shot in CinemaScope, and unforgettable special effects, Forbidden Planet set the standard for ambitious, intellectual science-fiction to follow -- such as "Star Trek". The story explores the human psyche and contrasts its fragility with the seeming invincibility of a long-vanished alien species. This is a great film to absorb. Long-winded expository scenes give way to moments of politically incorrect levity (after all, the all-male crew hasn't seen a babe in months), followed by explorations of immensities of scale that dwarf human achievement. You may roll your eyes now and then at its theatrics, but in the end Forbidden Planet is an engaging example of intellectual filmmaking that makes great use of science-fiction's potential as a genre. ("Star Wars" this is not.)

The event will be held Saturday, October 2, on the lawn of the Main Post Theatre, 99 Moraga Avenue, in the Presidio. According to the promoters, visitors to Film in the Fog should bring short lawn chairs and blankets, and arrive early to reserve a spot from which to enjoy the live music and film. The SuperSonic Saxes and Brass Wings from the Air National Guard Band of the West Coast will entertain visitors with an outdoor performance of American standards beginning at 5:00 pm. Food and beverages from the White Star Café are available for purchase. The historic Main Post Theatre will be open for public tours at 5:00 pm. The movie screening begins at 7:00 pm.

Stars: 4 out of 5