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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

WITH his glazed stare and mys­te­ri­ous back­ground (part-Swiss, part-Rus­sian), Yul Bryn­ner was a Hol­ly­wood enigma — their first egg-bald ro­man­tic hero and an un­likely ac­tion star in a string of su­pe­rior westerns. He scored a hit on Broad­way with The King and I and won an Os­car for his role in the 1956 film ver­sion with Deb­o­rah Kerr. But for me his most charis­matic ap­pear­ance came at the end of his ca­reer, when he played the ro­bot gun­slinger in Michael Crichton’s West­world (Tues­day, 8.30pm, TCM), one of the great sci-fi thrillers of all time, and still as scary and en­gross­ing as ever.

It’s set in a theme park where vis­i­tors act out fan­tasies in a world’’ of their choice — western fron­tier town, me­dieval palace — in­ter­act­ing with com­puter-driven repli­cas of hu­mans. And as Richard Ben­jamin and James Brolin dis­cover, West­world can be a pretty fright­en­ing place when the com­put­ers mal­func­tion and Bryn­ner turns into an im­pla­ca­ble killing ma­chine. True, the com­put­ers look a bit dated af­ter 40 years, but the film is still bril­liantly fright­en­ing and plau­si­ble. Crichton di­rected the med­i­cal thriller Coma (1978) and his nov­els were the ba­sis of other clas­sic Hol­ly­wood films in­clud­ing Air­frame, The An­dromeda Strain and Juras­sic Park. I’d love to see a full ret­ro­spec­tive of his work.

The year that gave us Yul Bryn­ner in The King and I saw an­other land­mark movie, MGM’s For­bid­den Planet (Satur­day, 10.00pm, Fox Classics), shot in the still-novel Cin­e­maS­cope for­mat and a trail­blazer of the space ad­ven­ture genre that was to give us Star Wars and more than one sum­mer block­buster from Steven Spiel­berg. With an in­tel­li­gent script by Cyril Hume, For­bid­den Planet is a fu­tur­ist retelling of Shake­speare’s The Tem­pest. Wal­ter Pid­geon’s char­ac­ter Dr Mor­bius dou­bles for the wizard Pros­pero and Anne Fran­cis his daugh­ter Mi­randa. In the year 2200 a space­ship lands on the planet Al­tair-4 to be told it is threat­ened by an in­vis­i­ble mon­ster. The film’s most en­gag­ing char­ac­ter, Robby the Ro­bot, went on to be­come a TV star. The di­rec­tor, Fred M. Wil­cox, is best re­mem­bered for di­rect­ing Lassie Come Home, an MGM clas­sic of a very dif­fer­ent kind.

Al­to­gether a good week for sci-fi fans, with Jack Lem­mon and Jane Fonda in The China Syn­drome (Wed­nes­day, 8.35pm, Fox Classics), a night­mar­ish story of a nu­clear melt­down with un­com­fort­able re­minders of Fukushima, and Richard Fleis­cher’s Soy­lent Green (Sun­day, 8.30pm, TCM), set in the year 2022 (not long to go) when the world is des­per­ately over­pop­u­lated and short of food. The source is a cel­e­brated scifi yarn, Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Har­ri­son, and Charlton He­ston is the New York cop who stum­bles on a hideous se­cret re­vealed in the fi­nal shot, though many view­ers will have guessed it al­ready. It was the last film of Hol­ly­wood vet­eran Ed­ward G. Robin­son.

(M) ★★★★✩ Satur­day, 10pm, Fox Classics

(M) ★★★★✩ Tues­day, 8.30pm, TCM

(M) ★★★ Sun­day, 8.30pm, TCM

Critic’s choice

For­bid­den Planet

Anne Fran­cis in

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