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FORBIDDEN PLANET is the best SF film from the golden age of SF cinema and
what makes it a great film is its sense of wonder . As soon as the spaceship
lands the audience - via the ships human crew - travels through an
intelligent and sometimes terrifying adventure . We meet the unforgetable
Robbie , the mysterious Dr Morbuis , his beautiful and innocent daughter
Altair and we learn about the former inhabitants of the planet - The Krell
who died out overnight . Or did they ?
You can nitpick and say the planet is obviously filmed in a movie studio with painted backdrops but that adds to a sense of menace of claustraphobia I feel and Bebe and Louis Barron`s electronic music adds even more atmosphere
I`m shocked this film isn`t in the top 250 IMDB films .
This is the Roman Empire of Science Fiction films. All films before lead
into it, and all films since flow out of it. It captures the romance, the
spirit, and the nifty look of 1950's pulp science fiction. This is one
science fiction movie with a theme, not just eye candy. No matter how high
humanity climbs on the evolutionary scale, no matter how advanced our
technology becomes, we must never forget the primal instincts of our darker
This film is a masterpiece.
A space ship has carried out the year long journey from Earth to the
remote planet Altair-5 with orders to check on a scientific posting
there. They find only one small compound on the whole planet home to
scientist Dr Edward Morbius, his daughter Altaira and a fantastic robot
called Robby. Learning of the deaths of the others of the original
group, Commander Adams decides to stay until he can contact Earth for
further orders. However 'something' else is on the planet with them and
the ship is subject to sabotage of key equipment. Things escalate when
members of the crew are attacked and the full extent of the dangers on
the planet become more and more clear.
I have seen quite a few trashy sci-fi's from the 1950's because I rather enjoy their b-movie qualities but this is far from being a genre film because it stands out from the usual sci-fi's that act as an allegory for communism (whether deliberate or in hindsight) because this film is very intelligent although I assume it was based on the fears of the period as well, or at least I'd like to think so. Certainly, at a time when nuclear war and technology was risking the Earth, it seems only fitting that the film send a message about the destructive power of technology that the Krell were not ready to use. The script is quite intelligent even if the plot has plenty of holes in it if you're looking for them. The idea of a destructive power within the subconscious is interesting and well delivered and it is certainly a lot more thought provoking than many other sci-fi's of the period. It also has a good mix of comedy in the form of the cook and, surprisingly, Robby the Robot (one of the most famous robots in cinema history) but mainly the film succeeds because of the interesting concept and good delivery.
It's not all perfect of course and some of the plot holes are a bit of a pain if you really want to pick at them and also the need for a 'happy' ending spoils what should have been a much darker conclusion I don't understand why the script spent so much time warning only to offer an optimistic view of the self same things that it had warned against. However, it doesn't overdo this aspect and it still works well enough
The cast are roundly solid even if some of the performances are a little bit stiff and just what you'd expect from the genre. Certainly these actors are not as adept at interacting with special effects as those working with green screen lots are they generally look clunky when they are firing lasers or interacting with the beast. It's hard to watch Nielsen in straight roles now that I've grown up with him in his Police Squad style material but he is good enough for his material here even if he is a little bit wooden at times. Pidgeon is also a bit wooden but it fits his character and the genre and his performance is good. Anne Francis is a little off but she is a little minx and she serves her purpose on the whole. I appear to be one of the few viewers who liked Holliman's work as the comic relief cook but I must admit to finding the rest of the crew (including Kelly and Stevens) to be quite workmanlike even if they weren't 'bad' per se.
Overall this is a great piece of sci-fi that has stood up really well over the past 50 or so years. The film may look rather quaint by today's standards but it is intelligent, funny and thought provoking true, it's not really high art but it is certainly heads and shoulders above the standards set by the rest of the genre. Not as spectacular or as action-based as many of our modern sci-fi's but it just has different qualities and is a great film that I'm surprised is not more highly considered or even mentioned on the IMDb top 250!
I first saw this movie when it originally came out. I was about 9 yrs. old
and found this movie both highly entertaining and very frightening and
unlike any other movie I had seen up until that time.
BASIC PLOT: An expedition is sent out from Earth to the fourth planet of Altair, a great mainsequence star in constellation Aquilae to find out what happened to a colony of settlers which landed twenty years before and had not been heard from since.
THEME: An inferior civilization (namely ours) comes into contact with the remains of a greatly advanced alien civilization, the Krell-200,000 years removed. The "seed" of destruction from one civilization is being passed on to another, unknowingly at first. The theme of this movie is very much Good vs. Evil.
I first saw this movie with my brother when it came out originally. I was just a boy and the tiger scenes really did scare me as did the battle scenes with the unseen Creature-force. I was also amazed at just how real things looked in the movie.
What really captures my attention as an adult though is the truth of the movie "forbidden knowledge" and how relevant this will be when we do (if ever) come into contact with an advanced (alien) civilization far more developed than we ourselves are presently. Advanced technology and responsibility seem go hand in hand. We must do the work for ourselves to acquire the knowledge along with the wisdom of how to use advanced technology. This is, in my opinion, the great moral of the movie.
I learned in graduate school that "knowledge is power" is at best, in fact, not correct! Knowledge is "potential" power depending upon how it is applied (... if it is applied at all.) [It's not what you know, but how you use what you know!]
The overall impact of this movie may well be realized sometime in Mankind's own future. That is knowledge in and of itself is not enough, we must, MUST have the wisdom that knowledge depends on to truly control our own destiny OR we will end up like the Krell in the movie-just winked-out.
Many thanks to those who responded to earlier versions of this article with comments and corrections, they are all very much appreciated!! I hope you are as entertained by this story as much as I have been over the past 40+ years ....
Rating: 10 out 10 stars
Sure Star Wars (a movie I have seen at least fifty times) beats all the
others in special effects, but this film has every thing
It has horror(non-graphical), romance, robots, witty repartee, intelligence, (surprisingly good) special effects, and drama.
I saw this film a couple of years ago in a revival with a newly struck print, and I was amazed at how well it held up today. I thought the old 40's style electronics would look hokey, but they somehow looked futuristic and moderne.
Ann Francis in here (mostly) short skirts and bare feet with a girlish innocence that is hard to beat still gets a rise out of me.
The Krell monster appearing in the ray beams still scares the bejebees out of me.
Of course we all know that the "Great Bird of the Galaxy" probably modeled much of "Star Trek" from this movie.
No one has yet to beat Robby, the Robot, in terms of personality
(sorry, R2D2 and C3PO).
This movie, overall, is the standard that all other Science Fiction films will have to measure up to!
Honorable mention for the haunting electronic score which kept us all on pins and needles.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am always so frustrated that the majority of science fiction movies are
really intergalactic westerns or war dramas. Even Star Wars which is
visually brilliant, has one of its central images, a futuristic "gang that
couldn't shoot straight." Imagine your coming upon about 600 people with
conventional weapons, most of them having an open shot, and they miss.
I have read much science fiction, and wish there were more movies for the thinking person. Forbidden Planet, one of the earliest of the genre, is still one of the very best. The story is based on a long extinct civilization, the Krell, who created machines which could boost the intelligence of any being by quantum leaps. Unfortunately, what they hadn't bargained for, is that the brain is a center for other thoughts than intellectual. The primitive aspect of the brain, the Id, as Freud called it, is allowed to go unchecked. It is released in sleep, a bad dream come to corporeal existence. Walter Pigeon, Dr. Morbius, is the one who has jacked his brain to this level, and with it has built machines and defenses that keep him barely one step ahead of the horrors of the recesses of his own mind. His thoughts are creating horrors that he soon will not be able to defend. The Krell, a much superior species, could not stop it; it destroyed them. The landing party has never been of great interest to me. The rest of the actors are pretty interchangeable. Ann Francis is beautiful and naive, and certainly would have produced quite a reaction in the fifties adolescent male. Her father's ire is exacerbated by her innocence and the wolfy fifties' astronauts (for they are more like construction workers on the make than real astronauts). They are always trying to figure out "dames." The cook is a great character, with his obsession for hooch. Robbie the Robot has much more personality than most of the crew, and one wonders if Mr. Spock may not be a soulmate to the literal thinking of this artificial creature. The whole movie is very satisfying because the situation is the star. Morbius can't turn back and so he is destined to destroy himself and everything with him. There are few science fiction films that are worth seeing more than once; this is one that can coast right into the 21st century.
Well, of course, "Star Wars" defined the genre, and "Alien" and "Blade
Runner" perfected it; but "Forbidden Planet" created it. Argue, if you
must, that movies like "The Day the Earth Stood Still", "Them" and
"Five Million Years to Earth" are the cerebral grand-fathers of the
film genre (and I won't disagree with you), but for
"science-fiction-as-plot-driven-action-epic," this is it. This is the
It's so unerringly on target, in fact, that it still plays very well even today. The modern audience has to overcome the "Leslie Nielsen Factor" (and it is difficult to watch him in a totally straight role), but once you do, the movie is pure enjoyment. Forget about dated plots and special effect. Robbie the Robot is a guy in a suit, yes, but he is thoroughly believable. He even adheres nicely to Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, a trick that the digital robots in this summer's "I, Robot" had a great deal of difficulty with.
And the monster! I defy anyone to avoid getting the willies when the monster first shorts the security fence. Great special effect, then and now!
Finally, the universal theme of man's (and Krell's) individual flaws inserting themselves into an otherwise perfect system and TOTALLY gumming up the works is as relevant today as it was then. More so.
A number of factors make it easy for me to state that I
think this is the most important science fiction film ever made, despite
some of the acting, outdated dialogue etc.
First, there is the scale of imagination in describing the Krell, a humanoid race native to the planet, now all dead, who were 1 million years more advanced than Earth humans(us), and their technology, particularly the 8,000 cubic mile machine.
Second, there is the music and sound effects, which are inseparable from each other. It creates an eerie, unearthly feeling, unlike "2001", which had traditional classical music.
Third, its "monster" is not only the most powerful and deadly ever envisioned, it's also based on real science and doesn't break the laws of physics and biology.
Finally, and most importantly, Forbidden Planet is the only movie ever made that attempts and, more incredibly, succeeds in making an honest, intelligent and mercilessly logical statement on the limits or ceiling of human (or any other biological entity's) development, no matter how long we survive as a species.
In other words, it predicts our inevitable destiny.
Like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, this film helped make sci-fi respectable
instead of the stuff for silly B-movies with cheap costumes and obviously
faked sets. To help strengthen the thought-level of the story, the
scriptwriters included elements of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST, the Biblical
story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and Freudian psychology to make
an enlightening tale of other-worldly mystery.
Leslie Nielsen is in his serious mode here long before he became the comic madman of the NAKED GUN movies and POLICE SQUAD television series. It is easy to see the prototypes of much of STAR TREK in this movie. The electronic soundtrack becomes a bit repetitious, but it works well as it is used in the scenes.
The short skirt on the heroine is a bit much but of course "cheesecake" was one of the things the cigar-chomping studio suits always liked in the 1950s and still do. Robbie the Robot is thrown in for some comic-relief and appeared in many other movies and television shows including LOST IN SPACE.
The most interesting aspect of the story for me was Monsters from the Id. The point being made is that the serpent is still in the Garden of Eden because we carry evil around with us wherever we go.
This is an excellent entertainment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a film that has it all, the dashing hero, the beautiful damsel in
distress, the noble figure with the tragic flaw, and a truly wonderful
robot. Forbidden Planet has maintained that special magic over the years
and doesn't lose its flavor with repeated viewings (although the sex
of the youthful Anne Francis helps considerably on that
Movie fans will recognize the youngish Leslie Nielsen portraying the handsome and heroic Commander Adams, although those of us who have grown fond of him in comedic roles will perhaps be a bit taken aback by his appearance in a serious role. The distinguished and noble-looking Walter Pidgeon is also a featured player as the scientist with a secret (Id). Other supporting cast deserve a nod, especially Warren Stevens as the brainy and resourceful "Doc", and of course the charms of Miss Francis, as noted above.
This film was an early pioneer in the use of electronic music, in the 1950s, no less. The credits call them "tonalities", but those of us who tried to tinker together early versions of the "Theremin" device will recognize the eerie and spooky whines and screeches sometimes used in the sound track. Still, it lends to the image of the exotic and alien landscape of the mysterious and forbidding world of the Krell.
The special effects are also quite arresting. I recall my fear as a youngster waiting for the next manifestation of the invisible "Id" monster, and when it is finally visualized in the one battle scene it literally shook me to my toes in wonder and awe. The magic of matte art is fully exploited in the dizzying scenes of the Krell scientific complex as the characters make their way through the various labyrinths and passageways, guided by the enigmatic Dr. Morbius.
I recall feeling some measure of jealously that Dr. Morbius would have such a cool toy in the form of Robby the Robot. The persona of Robby is quite charming and in some ways he seems more human than some of the other characters. Viewers of follow-on shows like Twilight Zone and Lost In Space will recognize the recycled Robby prop in some of those episodes, although I recall he never had the "personality" of the original Robby.
I must admit to not fully understanding the complexities of the plot until I was old enough to understand the various references to Freudian psychology and the danger of unleashing the hidden and normally contained fears and rage we carry within but have trained ourselves, through force of will, to submerge and control through adherence to societal codes. Although the key to the story seems obvious once revealed, it remains unknown (or perhaps deliberately overlooked) by Dr. Morbius until pointed out by the clear-thinking Commander Adams, who forces Dr. Morbius to confront the evil within himself. It still gives me goose bumps when Commander Adams pushes Dr. Morbius down before the Krell machine that endowed him with superior intellect, which opened the flood gates of his subconscious to the power of the Krell machine: "Here. Here is where your mind was artificially enlarged. Consciously it still lacked the power to operate the Great Machine. But your subconscious had been made strong enough." Zowee!
Forbidden Planet remains probably my favorite sci-fi film ever, and remains timeless and classic for its carefully crafted story and wonderful visualization and realization on the screen.
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