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While not re-treading the comments or plot summaries of other IMDB
users, I thought I'd say that this particular film does get better as it
gets older. While ground-breaking on it's release in 1956, the visual
"look" of this film has grown over the 46 years since it first arrived.
True to the pulp sci-fi of its day, the art direction has mellowed into an archetype that has not been bettered to this date. MGM put a surprising amount of money into the production values (similar to, but better than Universal's "This Island Earth"). This is a living "cover art". The indelible images of the saucer passing through space, landing on Altair-4, Robby, and the disintegrating tiger linger long in collective memory.
This must be seen on the big screen if possible, and in the original Cinemascope format. I've been lucky enough to see it (it was re-released in the 70's on a double bill with George Pal's "The Time Machine"), and the power it carries in scenes such as the Krell machines and the attack of the Id Monster are truly impressive. Watching it on a television just doesn't come close, although the "letterboxed" version is better than nothing. I am a poster collector, and even the advertising material for this film is exceptional. I see the one-sheet for it every day in my living room, and have never grown tired of it. "AMAZING!" is what is says, and for once they got it right. A true classic of it's type.
A flying saucer manned (literally) by a crew of about 20 male space
explorers travels hundreds of millions of light years from earth to
check in on a colony founded some 25 years ago on a 'forbidden planet.'
What they find is a robot more advanced than anything imaginable on
earth, a beautiful and totally socially inept young woman, and her
father, a hermit philologist haunted by more than the demons of the
ancient civilization he has immersed himself in.
On the surface, this story is a pulp scifi murder mystery. Some compare it to Shakespeare's Tempest, but this is a stretch, and, in some ways, an insult to the scifi genre. Stripped of what makes it a scifi film, sure, its The Tempest, but how many hundreds of films can you say something similar about?
Underneath, this is a cautionary tale about progress and technology and the social evolution necessary for its appropriate and safe use. Yet the film still proceeds with all the hopefulness for our future that we have come to expect from shows like Star Trek.
Anne Francis is not the only reason why this film is best described as beautiful. The special effects, and even the aesthetics of the backdrops are powerful enough to make the uninspired directing and uneven acting almost unnoticeable. If it were not for the goofy retro-art-deco-ness of 1950s sci-fi props, you might think you were watching a 1960s piece.
This is a classic of that very special sub-genre of sci fi I like to call 1950s sci-fi, and, though not, in my opinion, the best it is certainly a must see for anybody interested in sci-fi film and special effects. The clever plot, now rendered trite by its reuse in six or seven episodes of Star Trek, Lost in Space, and even Farscape, is worth paying attention to, and will sustain the interest of most scifi fans. Trekkers will be particularly interested in the various aspects of the film which seem to have inspired themes of Star Trek's original series aired about 12 years later, though they may find themselves disappointed by the (relatively mild) 1950s sexism and the lack of any kind of racial integration. While I do not mean to nitpick, the lack of social progress manifest in this film was the one major problem I had with it.
Some will probably see this film simply to catch a glimpse of young, good-looking Leslie Nielsen in one of his first starring roles. Unfortunately, Nielsen's performance is only average, and at times down-right poor (especially at the climax of the film). Walter Pigeon, though quite excellent in other films, over-acts his role as well. Ms Francis, Earl Holliman, and the amazing Robby the Robot are the stand-out actors in this crowd, though on the whole the character actors filling in the ensemble do a good job. The problems with the featured performances, I think, are as much the fault of the director and the editor, as anything. Though they certainly got most of the film quite right.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Forbidden Planet rates as landmark in science fiction, carefully
staying within "hard" aspects of the genre (science -- not fantasy,
ergo nerds will love it) while still playing with imagery and ideas of
contemporary 1950s values. Morbius's isolated house is a model of
modern design with open spaces that step out into sculpted gardens, a
swimming pool, and the ultimate home appliance: Robby the Robot. "A
housewife's dream!" exclaims the Captain after lunch and a
demonstration of the robot's abilities to synthesize food and
Also revealing to the 1950s: Fruedian psychology rears its head in the Id explanation, although Morbius dismisses it as an outdated concept. There is a touch of the Pacific war drama in the battle with the invisible monster and life aboard the saucer. Perhaps most timely is the post-atomic fear that Science is the enemy, and arrogant scientists will unwittingly bring down destruction in their blind quest for knowledge.
Yet the suburban drama presented by Forbidden Planet seems uniquely fresh in the sci-fi genre. They aren't swashbucklers or heroes, but ordinary sailors crossing the galaxy with a serviceman's crudeness and honesty. The good guys drive the flying saucer, and the aliens are so long gone we don't even know what they looked like -- although their music er-"atmospheric tonalities" by Bebe and Louis Barron are remarkably futuristic today. The views from Morbius' house are truly alien with jagged cliffs and pink bonsais. The interior of the saucer is just this side of Buck Rogers. There's a lot visually to like. Although we get fantastic monsters and robots for the kiddies, Forbidden Planet is a cerebral movie, slow paced and talky. It is working on many levels at once: hard sci-fi against space adventure, philosophical against domestic.
There are many suburban touches. In spite of all their space-talk, the soldiers are dressed for the golf course. Morbius' fatal discovery is a humble educational facility, a schoolhouse. The most interesting character is Morbius' daughter Altaira. Having never seen a man she is unashamedly forward to the crew. She's a post-Madonna teen who designs her own space-age clothes and takes every opportunity to change outfits -- imagine Christina Aguilera with a household replicator. Men watching the film might see her as a naive girl in a minidress, but every woman knows there is no such thing as a naive girl in a minidress. Anne Francis deserves better recognition for humiliating the Leut with kisses. Alas we'll never know if she was "working" him as he suspects, since the Captain interrupts and becomes a more interesting target for her attention. She is the character who makes the important change in the film. Shocked that her father compares the dead Doc to the other "embeciles" in his landing party, she turns away from her father, her home, to leave with the sailors for Earth. It's this act of defiance, of maturity, that sends Morbius' Id creature over the edge, allegorically destroying its creator just as it did thousands of centuries earlier to the Krell.
Maybe the Krell had teenage daughters too...?
Many comments have been made about Forbidden Planet. It was the
prototype for what later became a golden age of science fiction. It was
an sci-fi epic based on Shakespeare's Tempest. It featured great acting
from Walter Pigeon and Leslie Nielsen (most people are surprised that
Nielsen was really a fine actor at one time), and an excellent
supporting case, most of whom achieved later success, mostly on TV. It
featured one of the great classic story lines from all of science
fiction. It was visionary in combining classic Disney animation with
live actors. It featured new concepts: electronic music, hyper-drive,
Clystron relays, Freudian subconscious id monsters.
But apart from the last line of movie ("... will remind us that we are after all, not God"), very few comments has been made about the religious side of the movie's message. It was, after all, Commander Adams who opened up that part of the dialogue when he told Morbius, "All of us are part monsters in our subconscious. That's why we have laws and religion." That confluence of Freudian psychiatry and religion must have rankled people in the 1950s', who were trying to replace religious concepts with the teachings of Freud. But the movie went further than that. Morbius actually went through the process of repentance. At first, self-denial ("I'm not a monster"). Then realization of guilt ("Yes, I must be guilty"). Then confession ("My evil self is at that door, and I have no power to stop it"). Finally, giving up the sin and the self-created "monster" ("Stop, Don't come any further. I deny you. I give you up."), along with great sorrow and regret.
It was also the intent of the movie to claim that the tragic mistake of the Krell was in their attempt to link their subconscious minds and imaginations to their super-powerful matter generator in order to give themselves god-like powers. The attempt to transcend the limitations of mortality must have impressed on the Krell the need to reach beyond the merely human or finite and to somehow experience the infinite, through true creation. The horrible tragedy of this attempt echoes the Garden of Eden when Satan says to Eve, "if you eat of the apple you will not die but you will surely be like God".
The intellectual arrogance of the Krell and Morbius doomed them to extinction. One reason why this movie continues to draw our attention, even 50 years later, is its great moral lesson. As we use technology and become more and more dependent on it, the day will finally come when that technology will do the bidding of our very thoughts. Then we will have crawled to the point where the Krell stood in their moment of triumph, tragedy and annihilation.
At that moment we will need to heed the final line, once more, that we are after all, not God, or face our own imminent destruction.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The only thing I knew about this film prior to seeing it was Robby The
Robot. My preconception was that it was another in a long line of
cheesy sci-fi flicks that the 1950's was noted for. How wrong I was.
Big studio, big budget and big production values make this a strong
contender, at least visually, for the best sci-fi film coming out of
the era. I qualify with the word visually, because "War Of The Worlds"
is a lot darker and scarier than "Forbidden Planet", and probably fits
the mold better as a foray into alien territory.
What impressed me immediately was the color rendition of the cinematography, followed by the intricacy and scope of detail involved in Dr. Morbius' (Walter Pidgeon) home and laboratory. But that was only the prelude to the icing on the cake, the labyrinthine underground that served as the Krell stronghold. It appeared that Krell technology was even more advanced than say, that of "Star Wars". Which made me consider, audiences for this movie back when it was released probably sat in the same kind of awe that theater goers experienced in 1977 with SW, or in 1986 with "Aliens". Watching it on a large screen TV in my living room offered me the same effect, and I'm fairly resistant to hyperbole.
It's not too much of a stretch to imagine "Forbidden Planet" as a direct antecedent of the 'Star Trek' TV series; Gene Roddenberry himself stated that the movie had a great impact on his vision for the show. Followers of that short lived series will readily recognize plot elements used here that turned up in 'Star Trek'. I had to do a double take when the men of United Planets Cruiser C57-V headed for a transporter room, while the conundrum presented to Robby that created an impossibility to respond was an element used at least two or three times in the ST series.
Where the movie definitely took a cerebral turn had to do with the whole idea of 'monsters from the Id'. That Morbius himself was using his subconscious mind to defend Altaire IV was certainly a unique concept for 1956, when every other sci-fi flick of the time was dealing with Martians or other grotesque space creatures. The film worked it's subtle magic on this viewer by helping me understand that Morbius was the protector of Altaire IV some time before Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen) explained it.
You know, looking at the calendar, the year 2200 isn't that far off. This movie may be the one that actually gets it right relative to exploring and living on other planets. I think though, that they'll have to come up with a sleeker looking version of Robby.
If you like Star Wars/Trek, come see where they got all their ideas and
cinematic devices. It's my top 2 favorite movies of all times,
other-worldly-futuristic and psycho-thriller. The intensity of the root
material (Shakespeare's "The Tempest") is not overshadowed by whizbang
gimmickry (a la later Lucas). And just because it was made in 1956,
don't assume you can 'see the strings' holding the flying saucer up.
This was the first movie where you COULDN'T. Miracle it was made at
"A-movie" scale, economics and tastes at the time were stacked heavily
against it. And director Wilcox's previous 'hit' was "Lassie Come
Home". Until I looked him up, I assumed 'Fred Wilcox' was a pseudonym
for a director who was already or later became famous, but at the time
didn't want to be associated with sci-fi, which was strictly a "B"
genre back then. This was either a very VERY visionary production, or a
very fortuitous 'mistake' on the part of the folks who bankroll
There are the massive-scale mattes with live action almost microscopically inserted that Lucas used extensively. There are intelligent machines that transcend the stereotypical 'user interface'; "computers", as they've come to be portrayed much less futuristically in later works. Star Trek's 'transporter' is there, visually, almost unaltered by Roddenberry 10 years later. And if the Trek/Wars technobabble turns you off, FP's scientific references are not overdone and are all accurate, even today. The "ship" set is comprehensive, sparklingly realistic, as good as anything you've seen since, and more convincing than anything 'Trek' has done, for TV or film. We didn't get to spend as much time there as I would have liked.
If you ever wondered how movies got into space so competently, watching FP will explain all that. It's definitely not 'Wagontrain to the Stars'.
In creating my own list of favorites, I put this at the top of my SciFi
category. But that was based on viewing a long time ago. So I rented it
recently and was shocked. Times have changed, and science fiction depends so
much on the consumers' context.
I still like this because it revolves around an intelligent idea rather than cheap scares (Alien) or cowboy myths (Star Wars). But check it out.
Science Fiction is all about extrapolation. What makes this film even more interesting than when it was new is that the world has changed so fundamentally. Their future is now different from our future, and the differences between these parallel universes are striking.
This is before computers, at least the solid state kind. `Solid state' is now an obsolete term, being so fundamental. Their computers have the quaint clack of relays. Notice how there are NO computer displays. You have either binocular viewers (very much superior for 3d) or electromechanical models (which the Krell have made virtual). There is no notion of Artificial Intelligence; that whole exercise has risen and fallen since. Instead, the amplification and projection of human intelligence is the focus. How unique this seems now.
This was just on the cusp when we changed from celebrating the hugeness of engineering marvels to their miniaturization. Hence, the scale of the powerplant/computers (20 miles cubed by 400 locations), and incidentally their powering by fission.
Also curiously outdated is the notion of the ID-monster (and its contrast in `pure' feminine innocence). Freud and his following detractors saw the human as essentially simple. Here, the ID is an uncontrollable, violent, invisible beast. Today's viewers would be asking `why invisible, why not a schemer, why not enter the minds of others, why be limited by death, is the ID a social construction and (considering the Krell), what does that say about the universality of social conventions?'
I rate this as the current top science fiction film, but not because it was great when it was new. Instead, it has become great because it offers a parallel future now inaccessible. That's because we have become besotted by computation -- hence a relatively simple notion of reason. And (perhaps as a result) our common notion of social construction has so many new taboos we cannot manage any clear vision other than those relatively weak notions of `rights' and `personal expression.'
See this. I wonder if we (or our children) will ever see `Blade Runner' in a similarly new context.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***Major spoilers ahead***
Cheesy FX and a robot from the 50s may hide the most intellectually powerful sci fi movie before 2001, Tarkovski's Solaris, Planet of the Apes or Blade Runner. In fact, in terms of science fiction, it is impossible to surpass Forbidden Planet because its extrapolation of technology is complete: what happens if you have a fully accomplished technology, i.e., an immediate control of mind over matter? You must face the roar of your unconscious mind (the ID monsters) which of course you can not avoid because you (human, krell or whatever) are the product of a biological evolution and even your most sophisticated reflections are build upon the instinctive layers of the brain. All other great sci fi movies, or books, tell us the same: no matter how fast you run away from yourself riding the technological wave, you will ultimately clash with the limits of your self. Turn into the next step of evolution (2001), into an alien (Solaris), an ape (Planet of the Apes) or an android (Blade Runner): you still are somebody, and everybody has an ego.
Forbidden Planet is ultimate science fiction, and as such it hints that the only way out of the trap of our mind is self-knowledge.
The shots within the huge Krell machine are awesome, specially when you see three tiny men (Morbius, the captain and the doctor) on a catwalk in the middle of an extremely wide shaft. They appear to be real people walking, not animated FX (they even cast shadows on the catwalk), and the composite with the shaft background is perfect, even with the camera moving! I still wonder how they managed to do that in the 50s: visually and conceptually awesome. At least that FX shot is not, and will never be, dated.
Ten out of ten. A gem for those able to appreciate it.
At a time when science fiction movies were invariably cheap rubber
attacking our cities and scaring our women, "Forbidden Planet" offered an
usually thought-provoking plot that worked on a number of levels. Today,
too many sci-fi movies are nothing but computer-generated special effects
extravaganzas masking the lack of thoughtful plot and characterization.
"Forbidden Planet" had awesome special effects for their time (many of
still hold up well today)--but these were used to effectively support the
multifaceted plot and characterizations, not try to compensate for their
The Shakespearean ("The Tempest") and Freudian ("Id-monster") elements have been noted by many critics. In the 1950's, with the atomic and hydrogen bombs so new and terrifying, other sci-fi movies had asked whether man had the wisdom to use all the new science for good rather than evil. But they usually dealt with that solely on a surface level, by just having some monster created with the new science that comes out and kills a bunch of people. Only "Forbidden Planet" dared to actually delve into the depths of human psychology to see what our baser instincts are capable of when given full rein. It directly refuted the notion that all that new science and technology was somehow civilizing humanity. The Krell, a far more advanced race than we, are never seen on screen (only their artifacts are shown, leaving you to imagine what they looked like). But their disappearance is a warning that even a far more advanced race like they, couldn't escape the baser instincts and subconscious drives deep within their own brains--so what of man?
One subplot that is less often discussed, but equally well thought out, is the scenes with Altaira and the tiger, an allusion to the myth of the virgin and the unicorn. Until Altaira meets the male crew of the C-57-D, she is virginal and the tiger is a tame beast in her presence. After she has her romantic interludes with Farman and the captain, the tiger attacks her. (Being the 1950's, the dialogue only subtly suggests what has happened.)
For "Star Trek" fans, it's worth seeing "Forbidden Planet" just to list all the parallels between "Forbidden Planet" and "Star Trek: The Original Series". The basic theme (a "United Planets" spaceship explores a strange new world), the characters and characterizations, the weapons, and even the special effects all seem to have unconsciously inspired Gene Roddenberry to create his own vision.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You can't beat this movie.
It's got EVERYTHING a sci-fi/horror movie should have. Mad scientist, square jawed hero and his faithful crew, a menacing robot and most of all a hottie in actress Anne Francis! You know the plot, a starship crew goes to investigate a colony of earthlings on a distant world who'd been incommunicado for decades. They discover the colony save two survivors is gone due to some unseen menace that rended them "limb from limb.".
Soon we find out that the unseen menace is none other than the mad scientist's unconscious mind having been given form from a super computer that was designed to manifest the thoughts and desires of a long lost civilization. The scientist, like the ancient civilization overlooked the fact that the computer that gave life to thought also was accessible by the unconscious, beastial mind. Such sinister and repressed thoughts destroyed the ancient civilization and almost the starship crew but the commander played by Leslie Nielsen figures it out in true, cool, starship captain finesse just in time to save everyone.
The importance of the storytelling in this movie is second to none. It does what great film and storytelling are supposed to do, bring the best of your imagination to bear. We don't always 'see' the monster nor the mayhem it creates but the mere suggestion is enough to keep one's imagination going for a lifetime. You can't buy that level of superior craftsmanship.
The acting is superb throughout in this sendup to Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and the special effects legendary. So you get the full package of entertainment and enlightenment all rolled into one.
Think of today's internet and computing. The Krell's super computer was their internet that was like internet version 1,000,000,000.0 or something.
A good metaphor and lesson to us all that lest we allow our technological progress to override our good sense our doom might come from our dreams that turn our lives into nightmares.
A definite must have movie.
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