It really seems to be the season for celebrity deaths, because almost every day you hear that another actor, singer, director, writer or other artist, whose work has influenced your life in big or little ways, has died.
Irvin Kershner will probably be best remembered for his contribution to the SF genre as the director of The Empire Strikes Back and along with Leigh Brackett probably the main reason why Episode V is the best of the Star Wars films.
And while Leslie Nielsen will mainly be remembered for his comedy parts in Airplane!, The Naked Gun, Dracula – Dead and Loving It and many others in the same vein, for me that first film that comes to mind will always be Forbidden Planet, which is probably best SF film made between the release of Metropolis in 1926 and the release of 2001 – A Space Odyssey in 1968. And since I don’t care for 2001, for me Forbidden Planet wasn’t topped until Star Wars 21 years later.
I remember watching Forbidden Planet for the first time around 1990 as part of my quest to track down all of the films mentioned favourably in my stack of film books (more on that here). Forbidden Planet was one of the comparatively few films that completely lived up to its reputation, while most others were either over- or underrated. The appearance of Leslie Nielsen, already a big comedy star at that time, was a surprise, though. Crap, that’s Leslie Nielsen. In a serious role. And he’s young. And kind of handsome, actually.
Finally, not to leave her out, though her work meant a lot less to me than either Kershner’s or Nielsen’s, German folk music singer and jodel queen Maria Hellwig died on Saturday aged 90. Maria Hellwig and her daughter Margot were a sort of constant TV presence for generations of German youths, her folk music shows forced upon us by our parents and grandparents, before we were old enough to have our own TVs or gain control of the remote. Because she maintained her looks remarkably well over the past 30 years or so, Maria Hellwig was also one of those celebrities you secretly suspected of being a vampire. In fact, I suspect that German commercial folk music (which has very little to do with actual folk music and is a horror barely imaginable to those never exposed to it) is dominated by vampires in general. At least Heino is totally a vampire.