THE ABSENT MINDED PROFESSOR (1961, Stevenson)
Today’s post is pretty fun, if you ask me. There is no doubt in my mind what an influence this Disney film must have had on a young Spielberg (someday I’ll ask him), and I think today’s 2 shots from The Absent Minded Professor, starring Fred MacMurray, prove it.
It’s well known how Spielberg admired Disney, but re-watching the Disney film a while back I was suddenly certain I had found proof that some of its visuals must have indeed stuck in Spielberg’s subconscious and influenced two of his most famous sci-fi works, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.
Steven Spielberg’s Flubber Homage
Recall if you will, the moment in CE3K when Richard Dreyfuss is driving at night, and waves a car from behind to go on by. The first time, the driver calls him a jackass for taking up the entire road. The second time, the “car” turns out not to be a car at all, but a UFO, which floats up behind him, an eerie and comic moment.
Compare, if you will, with the seed of that very image at 44:53 in this youtube of The Absent Minded Professor – it’s the exact same shot! (And how perfect would this guy in the car on the ground have been to play Mad Men‘s Pete Campbell had he been born 50 years later?!)
The second shot that struck me as (what would become) downright Spielbergian, is the moment when the always-delightful Keenan Wynn (son of hilarious Ed Wynn) goes to throw an apple out his window, only to catch a glimpse of the flying model T passing before the moon, with a romantic piano score setting the transcendent mood (even the music is Spielbergian) – a tone and image that would find their way into the iconography of E.T. I’m not saying it’s the exact image, but I think very easily could have been the seed of the idea, nay, probably was, my opinion.
That moment is in the same Professor above clip at 50:00.