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Forbidden Planet More at IMDbPro »

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Outwardly it's just '50s sci fi, but a few secret weapons make it much more

Author: Movie_Muse_Reviews from IL, USA
25 June 2013

"Forbidden Planet" has a lot of the elements of corny '50s sci-fi movies. It shows off its special effects in masturbatory fashion, features a robot, loads the dialogue up with esoteric science babble and portrays its one female character in misogynistic fashion (oh wait, that's all '50s movies).

But "Forbidden Planet" doesn't simply trying to cash in on fans of "Flash Gordon" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Buried beneath it all is an ideal mystery plot with an intelligent payoff.

The film follows a space crew investigating the sudden silence on Altair IV. Upon landing— which they were warned not to do—they discover only Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) have survived (and let's not forget Robby the Robot). The intrepid Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen), Doc (Warren Stevens) and the playboy Lt. Farman (Jack Kelly) investigate and find that Morbius is hiding something from them.

"Forbidden Planet" is a special effects showcase, sometimes to a fault as scenes are designed almost exclusively around the movie magic, but compare it with the excessive CGI carnage of today's blockbusters and it's not something of which you can be all that critical. Besides, the weapon design, costume design and set design are all cohesive and tasteful, and in some cases marvelous.

The plot does take a long time to get somewhere. A lot of the plot gets lost in writer Cyril Hume's aforementioned display of gadgetry and in the romantic subplot between Altaira and just about everyone else, but it ends up being worth the wait. The mystery at the heart of the film doesn't have an contemporary counterparts, and most films targeted at a genre audience like this one don't sneak in powerful human themes. No doubt Hume honored Irving Block and Allen Adler's "Twilight Zone"-esque story in doing so. In terms of acting, Pidgeon, playing Morbius, the man who keeps that secret, sells us with his passionate performance, especially at the end.

Like all great sci fi, "Forbidden Planet" also plays with the notion of what's unseen. Perhaps Ridley Scott took some notes from director Fred M. Wilcox when he made "Alien," because the film hints at a frightening beast that it never shows and manages to wield a lot of suspense doing so. And you know it's legit, because clearly special effects and even makeup were not convincing enough in the mid-'50s to deliver a powerful creature reveal. Even though what comes you know won't measure up to your imagination, Wilcox has your imagination working, and that's the key.

Also, the film's electronic soundtrack (eons ahead of its time) has to get a lot of credit (especially for the suspense part). You expect the usual cheesy suspense strings in '50s films, but "Forbidden Planet" retains an aura of mystery to this day I think in large part to a score that doesn't telegraphic any of the plot's moves.

Although long stretches can be disengaging, and everything surrounding Altaira is pretty stupid, "Forbidden Planet" has its place in the canon of influential science-fiction movies. When you consider that the film's producers probably just wanted to make "an outer space picture," the end result is more than we could ask for.

~Steven C

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Anne Francis .

Author: feakes
31 May 2015

I was 14 years old just going into Grade eight. One night for movie night my Dad brought a new movie one that he said he saw when he was 16. The movie was Forbidden Planet. As I sat and watched it. I was entranced and bewitched and put under a spell by Anne Francis . I fell In love with her so much that back then and still to this day I consider her to be the most beautiful woman in history. Helen of Troy had nothing on her. But further viewing over the next 35 years convinced me of one fact. without this movie,Science fiction movies would be a lot different. and I believe that the genre might not have survived. The seriousness and the realistic approach to it makes it seem believable. Sure there was comedy. but it was kept to a minimum. The Real gold of the movie to me always was Anne Francis. BUT the heart and the soul of the movie belongs to Walter Pidgeon. Without him this movie would have fallen apart. he carries his role with such authority. And Leslie Neilson is the perfect 50's Hero hair perfectly combed and his confidence never shaken and the belief that he is always in the right. Another reason for the film's timeless feel is the tonalities that play instead of music. It adds to the futuristic feel of the movie and helps it feel timeless. I can only imagine how it must have felt back in 1956 being a 14 year old boy and seeing this on the big screen for the first time. Talk about a life changing movie. It has inspired writers from around the world to write Sci-Fi like this to put their own spin on it. This movie is not only a prototype for all science fiction movies that came after it. It also gave us Robby The Robot. As well as the famous monster from the ID. This movie has so much going for it. That its impossible not to see its influence on modern Sci fi movies. Even George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry both claimed this movie as a major influence in their creations. To me this simply is the best science fiction has to offer.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The single greatest Sci Fi movie of all time.

Author: robert-259-28954 from United States
8 September 2014

If there was an "11" rating, this film would surely deserve it. This film succeeds on so many levels, that it's almost impossible to catalog them all. To say that it is "ahead of its time," would be a gross understatement. Every "perfect' movie, in my opinion, must contain elements that all 'perfect' movies must have— from actors, to story, to concept and production. This landmark film has it all. From its handsome leading man, Leslie Nielson, whose screen presence would be seen in many decades of popular films to come, to the stalwart father figure, a superb Walter Pidgeon, and to a luminous Anne Francis, whose forthright, powerfully sexy lead character was also a foretaste of things to come (remember, this was only 1956!). And the supporting cast was equally excellent, with so many future stars contained in the lineup that it is equally as difficult to mention them all. Suffice it to say, television would be short at least a half dozen series leads without them. Then, the story. Shakespeare said it best, so why try to rewrite history... "the play's the thing." This script had so many memorable lines in it that it simply beggars the imagination. I can think of at least 90% of the sci fi dialogue written for the film still being used today. How about, "a simple blaster"? Or, "hyperspace"?? Star Wars wouldn't have been the same without it, ditto, Star Trek. When the space ship first enters the atmosphere of Altair, the entire crew undergoes a preparation to slow to "light speed" that predates current space technology by about a thousand years. Just listen to Nielson's explanation of the process. And what about, "Monsters from the Id"?? Who would even THINK of using an homage to Dr. Freud in in mid-fifties? The special effects, crude and impossibly low tech by today's standards, set a mood that still manages to excite my imagination every time I see it. Many film critics agree that 40% of a movie is the music, and once again this film sets an entirely new standard for science fiction films for years and decades to come, in its futuristic use of the totally electronic score featuring the fabulous tonalities of Louis and Bebe Barron. From my perspective, a truly great film never gets old in the rewatching, but only ignites the same wonder and fascination that it engendered in its day. In this way, this film succeeds on every conceivable level. It has become a part of my past, and my present. It's timeless.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

"My evil self is at that door and I have no power to stop it!"

Author: utgard14 from USA
19 February 2014

Unquestionably one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time from a decade full of legendary sci-fi films. A spaceship crew travels to the planet Altair IV to investigate what happened to a research team. Upon arriving, they find Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) are the only survivors left. Morbius has been living quite well using the technology of the planet's extinct race, the Krell. Despite Morbius' insistence that the crew leave, they will not go. The crew's leader, Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen), wants more answers about the fate of the other research team members and more answers about the Krell. He also wants to spend more time with the pretty Altaira, which papa Morbius is not happy about.

Beautiful-looking sci-fi film. That's the primary selling point of this classic. It just looks amazing with rich colors, wondrous sets, terrific props and special effects. Robbie the Robot! How could anybody not love Robbie? There are arguably some more thoughtful and intelligent sci-fi films of this era but none that come close to matching the visual spectacle of Forbidden Planet. It's just gorgeous. The cast is good, headed by vet Walter Pidgeon. Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis handle themselves well. The rest of the cast, which has been compared to the principal crew of Star Trek, are all fine. Much is also made about this film being a sci-fi adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest. There's certainly more to it than meets the eye, as is the case with all great sci-fi. This is a phenomenal movie, enjoyable from start to finish. It fills you with a sense of wonder that sadly is lacking from most of today's science fiction films. Definitely check it out. It's a classic in every way.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Judge no other sci-fi movies until you have seen this.

Author: theumpire
31 December 2013

Quite simply a great film for it's time.

While the special effects may not be as good as Star Wars or any of a number of other more modern movies, you have to take it for what it is, and for the time it was made. Doing that you can't help but see how it is one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made.

I have seen it 3 times and every time lost count of how many concepts in this movie that I have seen replicated, in some way shape or form, in sci-fi movies made subsequently.

Truly the trend-setter for all sci-fi movies that have followed.

Well worth watching and a must see for anyone who calls themselves a sci-fi fan.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Excellent science fiction film

Author: Jose Cruz
23 December 2012

Stanley Kubrick once said that he wanted to make the proverbial "good science fiction film", in a mail to Arthur Clarke, implying that before 1968, and his 2001: A Space Odyssey, there weren't any good science fiction films. He was wrong. I haven't watched many important science fiction films from the 1950's but this one is a keeper. An excellent science fiction film that deals with very interesting ideas. The one problem of this film, I think, is the thin drama involved, which is a minor problem really since the focus of the film is not on the plot but on the ideas.

The special effects were made by Disney and were incredible for the time, using hand drawn animation integrated into the film in just the same way today we use CGI effects. In fact, this shows that our modern science fiction films are little more than animated films with actors inserted in the film.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Still good if not perfect

Author: lyrast from Ireland
5 May 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I decided to watch and reassess "Forbidden Planet"{1956}. I've always felt that it was somewhat over-rated as a classic fifties sci-fi film. But it certainly still does have its moments.

On the negative side, the critics have criticised the performance of Anne Francis as "Altaira" {Alta}. There's little doubt but that the "romantic" plot element in the film is by far the worst thing about it. The "love" of Alta and Commander Adams {Leslie Nielsen} is almost completely psychologically unmotivated. It is contrived, silly and plot-forced. It's a relationship that just happens.

But is this because Anne Francis is a poor actress? I don't think so. In 1960 Francis played a manikin come to life in "After Hours", a Twilight Zone episode and did so with considerable sensitivity. The role in which she was cast in Forbidden Planet was itself a terrible, limited, stereotypical part that could offer no challenge to any actress.

Part of the problem may lie in the nature of Science-Fiction itself. It is a genre which is heavily theme-oriented and usually relies on the idea of human manipulation of the external environment through scientifically created artifacts. "Soft" sci-fi tends to emphasize the areas of psychological and sociological extrapolations. For the most part, the idea becomes the great central focus. In this situation it is certainly all too easy for deeply felt human emotions to simply be taken for granted. That is what happens to the romantic love element of the plot here. Alta is the heroine so she has to fall for the Commander who has to rescue her from her deluded father so they can live happily ever after. Neither Francis nor, for that matter, Nielsen has much chance to shine in that kind of scenario.

On the positive side, the film has some excellent and striking set designs. The Shuttle shaft section is particularly impressive. The "Id" monster is quite an effective creation. Pidgeon is good as Dr Morbius, the deluded scientist who finally redeems himself.

Perhaps the best quality of the film is the very one that should be good in science-fiction. "Forbidden Planet" does have a profound, though-provoking central theme. The alien Krell--the super race who have disappeared--become metaphors for the human race. In them we see that ultimate destruction lies not in the things created through science but in "subconscious hate, lust for destruction". The tendency of the human condition is to twist, deform, and destroy that which in itself is good. Even the super-race was imperfect. So are we.

It is a theme we see too in "The Day the Earth Stood Still". There it is presented in another variation of the danger of apocalyptic destruction. "This Island Earth" is yet another examination of the same concept. In some ways these films are scientific recreations of the great religious dogma of Original Sin! It has been said that "Forbidden Planet" is a scientific meditation on Shakespeare's "The Tempest". Forget it! Any resemblance to the great Late comedy of the Bard is so vague as to appear purely coincidental. Enjoy the film for what it is: a solid, often brilliant--if somewhat flawed--study of human fallibility.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The case for a Special Edition release

Author: flowerfunk ( from Colorad Springs Co
25 September 2002

I first saw Forbidden Planet (FP) as a child of ten, and was immediately struck by the vibrant colors,landscapes, and especially the rather haunting electronic soundtrack. I have managed to catch it several times over the years on television and was even able to tape it, once VCRs became widely available. None of these broadcasts satisfied however, due to commercial interruptions, and failure to properly fit the movie to a T.V. screen. With the advent of DVD, this was the first movie I purchased, and I must say I was bitterly disappointed. Not in the film itself of course, but in the fact that the DVD was extremely skimpy in terms of production information, and color/sound enhancement. There is no voice over commentary, There are no interviews with the surviving cast or crew (leslie Nielsen is still around, so is Ann Francis), not even a collection of promotional material to view (posters, etc). What one gets is a choice between letterbox/fullscreen, a movie trailer, and a choice of languages. This could have been compensated for, if time had been taken to revitalize the appearance of the film, and do justice to the electronic score via electronic enhancement. As it is one must make major adjustments to the television settings for color, brightness, Etc, in order to view it properly. I run the soundtrack through my stereo,(Bose speakers) but alas, it is still relatively weak and faded. A Special Edition release could address all these problems and provide fans like myself, with the color, sound, and inside information one expects within a DVD format. As regards a remake...I hope one will be made someday, (there many FP devotees out there) my only concern is that the beauty of the film is not diminished by graphic violence, and overt sexuality. In FP there are several violent and lethal confrontations, but blood and gore are not shown. Likewise the sexual undercurrent and interaction within the characters of the movie is there but subdued. To give a comparison: the one hint of nudity in FP (the skinnydipping scene) is modest, as compared to lets say Red Planet for example, where the female captain of the ship is unabashedly nude in a shower scene..barely ten minutes into the story. I for one would be outraged if Hollywood manages to demean this great film, with that type of approach. Still one wonders... Val Kilmer as Captain Adams... Perhaps Anthony Hopkins/Morbius, Kurt Russel as the Doc...It may be worth a try.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A Superb Example Of Early Sci-Fi

Author: sddavis63 ( from Durham Region, Ontario, Canada
21 August 2010

In the 50's sci-fi was still in its early life, and most of what had been done was based on the idea of aliens visiting earth, rather than humans visiting other planets, which means that you don't really expect a sci-fi movie from this era featuring space travel and set on another planet to stack up particularly well in the modern era. But "Forbidden Planet" pulls it off superbly. It does not seem old or dated even almost 60 years after it was made. It has an interesting story, a great cast, good use of humour, and features only limited use of what has by now become sci-fi staple (futuristic weapons and monsters) and no space battles - proving that such things aren't really necessary. It's also clear after watching this that while Gene Roddenberry may have created "Star Trek" he borrowed rather heavily from "Forbidden Planet" as he did so, and a number of "Star Trek" episodes seem to have their origins in various aspects of the plot of this movie.

The story features Walter Pidgeon as Dr. Morbius, the only survivor of the crew of an earth ship that landed on Altaire IV many years before. Leslie Nielsen (who would later be considered for the role of Captain Kirk in "Star Trek" before losing out to William Shatner) played J.J. Adams - the commander of a ship sent from earth to investigate what's happened. The story is mysterious from the beginning. Morbius explains that some "deadly force" killed everyone else (he doesn't explain what the force was, and as the movie comes to its climax it becomes clear that he didn't know.) He and his wife (who later died) were the only ones "immune" to whatever had killed the others, and they had a daughter (played by the very beautiful Anne Francis.) She and Morbius are now alone on the world. Morbius has discovered that the world was once inhabited by a very advanced race of beings called the Krell, and he devotes his life to learning about them. Morbius is a mysterious character who would much rather be left alone than rescued. The great thing about this is that while he is mysterious (and therefore suspicious) he's not a stereotypical "bad guy." One of the things I loved about this was that there were, in fact, no real bad guys. Morbius turns out to be responsible for what's happening, but it's out of his control. It's a great story.

The sets are very well constructed. They're very futuristic even by today's standards. In fact, they put to shame the very mundane-looking bridge on the first "Star Trek" pilot "The Cage." The creature who's finally introduced near the end is a very imaginative creature and quite scary. I feared that Anne Francis was being used merely as window dressing, and while she does spend a lot of time in short skirts and bare feet, being taught how to hug and kiss by the crew of the rescue ship, in the end she's rather central to the story, as her father becomes increasingly jealous of her growing relationship with the newcomers. Perhaps the greatest addition to the film was "Robby the Robot." He seems to be something of a forerunner to the robot later found on "Lost in Space." He's got a great personality, he's friendly and helpful and even has a sense of humour.

It's perhaps a bit slow off the start, but frankly, this is better than any sci-fi that has been put out in recent decades.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Still great all these years later

Author: TheMarquisDeSuave from Worcester, MA
19 February 2008

"Forbidden Planet" is often acclaimed as the best science fiction film of the 1950s and with good reason. While I wouldn't say its my absolute favorite from the era (that'd be "The Incredible Shrinking Man" because of its emotional resonance), its still a great film all these years later. There's plenty of "gee-whiz" style thrills involving Robby the Robot and the invisible monster along with a surprising dedication to legitimate science. The film shows a large degree of intelligence and attempts to approach its fantastic story realistically. Sure, the set design is kitschy and there are plenty of more dated aspects to the production, but this was a massive leap forward from the space-opera antics of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers.

On a technical scale, the film is quite accomplished. The direction by Fred M. Wilcox isn't anything to write home about, but he knows how to keep the material moving at a good pace and really ups the tension towards the end. The acting all around is adequate. Leslie Nielson, best known to my generation for his comedic roles in "The Naked Gun" series, often surprises people that he was originally a dramatic actor. Hes a bit wooden but does a decent job overall. Anne Francis is quite good as the naive and lovely space maiden, and Walter Pidgeon lends a great amount of class to the proceedings. His performance is terrific. Again, "Forbidden Planet" manages to be a classic and a really good film because of the intelligent screenplay. (9/10)

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