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If you want to see a true classic of the scifi genre, go for Forbidden Planet. While its 1956 tag may make you think it sucks big time, you sure won´t be disappointed. There is absolutely NOTHING CHEESY about this movie, as we could expect. The FX (graphic as well as sound) are brilliant, as good as those of 20 years younger Star Wars (okay, the synth sound fx are cheesy, but what the hell. it contributes to the atmosphere), cinematography is awesome and the plot is very clever. Yes, indeed, we have seen such plot a hundred times since, but remember this movie is from 1956. You will find lots of resemblances in there, such as the Star Trek-like captain-doctor relationship or Star Wars-like mega-storeys ventilation shaft. I wonder why this film has so little attention nowadays, it certainly deserves more.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
******Spoiler or Two*******
Forbidden Planet was perhaps the most intelligent sci-fi movie of the fifties, taking title with War of the Worlds and The Thing as best of the era. The ambience and plot seem almost like an episode of Star Trek, albeit with a flying saucer instead of the Enterprise.
The plot was far reaching for the day, talking about aliens hundreds of thousands of years old, and the special effects were marvels of originality, trying to encompass the huge underground world of the lost alien race. The scene of the beast trying to break through the electric fence is still good today, although Robbie the Robot is a square throwback to another time. The musical score was probably the first ever made on a computer, back in an era when most people would never even see never mind use a computer, but although it took over year to make it just sounds weird and further dates the film.
The science was well thought out for the time, but still has a few blips, such as atomic power and radiation being key to everything. It's partly understandable, as the fifties was a time when people thought we would be colonizing the galaxy by the twenty-first century, and the recently discovered atomic energy would do it for us. It's kind of like how modern movies tie DNA into all kinds of ridiculous things, such as bringing people back with all their memories from a few cells.
It may be dated, and not show the sophistication we have with today's technology, but Forbidden Planet is still a thinking movie worth seeing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although the special effects and acting will seem somewhat dated today this film was far ahead of its time. Imagine a dead alien race who had created a machine that could make all of their dreams come true. Thats what the interplanetary explorers discover on Altair 4 a planet inhabited by only two survivors, a scientist and his daugher plus their very own robot. Our new arrivals keep losing crewman until they discover that whoever or whatever had destroyed the alien Krell is now trying to destroy them. We discover that the Monsters are from the ID. Great ending ties it all together if you haven't guessed.
Today's sci-fi thrillers are more like Rambo in outer-space with monster special effects (frequently ludicrous such as sounds of explosions in the vacuum of space). Though tame by today's standards, the special effects of "Forbidden Planet" were quite striking for their time. Even today, they still hold plausibility. Yet, the best part of the movie is perhaps the reason that radio thrillers still have appeal. Much of what was going on was left up to the imaginations of the audience. (What did the Krell creatures look like?) By having much of the framework of the story never divulged or only divulged in the end, the tension and suspense held throughout the movie. The ending was also very thought-provoking and satisfying. In my mind, this is still one of the best (if not the best) sci-fi films ever made.
If you haven't seen Forbidden Planet, you are in for a
Even moderate SF fans will concur that there is almost a total gap for quality SF between Forbidden Plant and Star Wars. And it appears as if FB preceded SW by a few years, not a couple of decades.
The acting is impressive, the sets and effects equally so, and the plot is gripping, absorbing, and satisfying. As I write, I'm conscious that I am not doing this really marvelous film justice: it simply is a must-see. You'll marvel at the thought that FB is now over forty-four years old -- unlike its black and white, visible-supporting-wire cheap successors, it endures.
I suppose you have to take sci-fi of the 50's in context of its time.
Those guys were exploring space before the actual science, had to
improvise a lot and imagine even more. Which is why watching something
like this is so endearing these days: you get to see 1950's present
projected into some imaginary future.
- a space mission pretty much run by army yokels, including a lieutenant who makes a pass on the first babe he sees, and a cook who uses molecular robot technology to reproduce 60 gallons of whiskey. This is so unimaginable now, it may well come true when space flight becomes ordinary duty.
- the modern house of Dr. Morbius as one flow of clean, open space that pools into a living area full of smart household appliances, and opens up through glass into cascading gardens outside. "A housewife's dream" muses a character. Frank Lloy Wright was at the time building in this style, inspired by Japanese Buddhist temples.
- by contrast, the alien technology of the extinct super-race of geniuses (the Krell) is stark, geometric, conceived on a titanic scale. It's pure Metropolis, with no flow or elegance whatsoever.
- there are no computer screens, but the notion of screen -cinematic- vision is present: notice inside the ship, the weird would-be hologram with a miniature ship inside a plastic balloon, and the Krell device that projects mind images. The ship is of course a flying saucer.
- the 'forbidden' aspect of the planet is mind augmentation, the subconscious, an actual Id-monster. Freud's ideas on dreams and repressed sexuality were radical in their time, but you can see their hard limits and in my opinion, opposite effect, in the struggle to repress and control the 'monster'. Not Japanese at all.
- the moral denouement is that we best not tamper with forces beyond our comprehension, a necessity it seems of the early atomic age.
I admit it's a film of heady contrasts.
The sedentary scientist and naive bombshell daughter with their robot, next to the boisterous army crew.
The vast and obsolete 'futuristic' technology, next to sand deserts and the organic architecture of the house.
The pastel colors of the MGM backlot (green skies!), next to the art-deco look of machinery.
The thunderous shot that reveals the immensity of the Krell laboratories, compared to everything else being standard eye-level shots - it sticks out.
It's so heady, you can trace its unmistakable influence from Star Trek to Alien. Every visual- and story element is memorable, that's for sure. At the time, a space world this coherent must have been stupendous to watch. It's not very intelligent or cinematic in current terms though: the cinematic eye is unexciting - color has been splashed from the outside - and plotwise everything of some importance is postulated in as much stentorian tones as Hammer. It's a curious piece.
I do wish Welles in his Arkadin mode had taken this on, with blurs between the investigation and Krell-transmitted 'reality'.
A spaceship is sent on a rescue mission to a planet where a previous mission went awry. Regarded by many as an early sci-fi classic, this film deserves credit for influencing the likes of "Star Trek" and "Star Wars." However, it's not a great film by any means. Too much time is spent on showing off the sets and special effects. It may have been impressive for its time, but now the sets look fake and the effects are primitive. The cheesy electronic soundtrack becomes annoying after a while. Pidgeon is well cast as the scientist. Nielsen makes one wonder how this film might have worked as a spoof. Francis does little more than wear short dresses and look lustfully at men.
Forbidden Planet is directed by Fred M. Wilcox and stars Walter
Pidgeon, Anne Francis, and Leslie Nielsen. Screenplay is written by
Cyril Hume from an original story by Irving Block & Allen Adler
(original title being Fatal Planet). It is a CinemaScope production out
of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and is shot in Eastman Color (not Metrocolor as
suggested on some sources) by cinematographer George J. Folsey. The
piece features a novel musical score (credited as "electronic
tonalities") by Louis & Bebe Barron.
Loosely based around William Shakespeare's play The Tempest, the story sees Nielsen and the crew of the C-57D spaceship sent to the remote planet of Altair IV. Where once was a colony of Earthlings, now the only inhabitants are Dr Morbius (Pidgeon), his daughter Altaira (Francis) and Robby, a highly sophisticated Robot that Morbius had built. It transpires from Morbius that all civilisations on Altair IV was wiped out by an unseen force, but not before he himself was able to use some of the knowledge gained from the Krell race to build Robby and the Plastic Educator. However, it's not before long something starts stalking and killing the men of the C-57D. They must get to the bottom of the mystery or they too will be wiped out.
The 50s was of course the decade of the B movie. A decade where sci-fi schlockers and creaky creature features ruled the drive in theatres. As paranoia of potential nuclear war and technology spiralling out of control gripped America, film studios grasped the opportunity to make a cash killing whilst providing an entertainment stress release courtesy of science fiction based movies. Be it giant insects, creatures or alien invaders, there were some fun-some bad-and some rather smart, movies, to hit the silver screen. Falling into the latter category is Forbidden Planet, an intelligent and excellently produced movie that is one of the few that genuinely holds up well over 50 years after its release. To delve further would be unfair to potential newcomers to the film, but in short the piece carries interesting motifs such as sexual awakening, the power of the sub-conscious, or more appropriately the perils of a repressed conscious. It's a Freudian twister, and then some.
Also lifting Forbidden Planet a long way above those men in rubber suit movies of the decade, is the production value of the piece. True, the budget was considerably larger than what was normally afforded the genre (almost $5 million), but every penny is up there on the screen. The CinemaScope really brings to the front the sets and visual effects, while the Eastman Color fully enhances the animations and matte paintings on offer. The whole look and feel of the movie points to it being later than 1956, so it's no surprise to see musing on the DVD extras such luminaries like Spielberg, Lucas, Cameron & Scott, since Forbidden Planet has influenced as much as it has enthralled.
With one of the cleverest stories in the genre, one of its best ever robots (Robby would become a star all on his own) and certainly the best spaceship landing ever, Forbidden Planet is a genre high point and essential viewing for those interested in said genre pieces. 9/10
Even as MGM was collapsing, the studio had the ability to make this
science fiction movie, with production values not to be seen again in a
science fiction movie until 2001. From the giant cyclorama showing the
Altair IV landscape behind the spaceship to the near invisible monster
impervious to energy weapons, Forbidden Planet displays a combination
of art direction and use of visual effects twenty years ahead of its
time. Just like the all powerful Krell, the MGM studio, once all
powerful (the only major Hollywood studio to go through the Great
Depression without losing money), was disintegrating. Dore Schary was
in his last year in charge of MGM studio in 1956, soon to be dismissed.
MGM also let go almost all its contract employees, including art
director Cedric Gibbons, who had been with MGM from the start in 1924.
Unlike the Krell, who vanished suddenly, MGM lingered on, betting its future on big pictures like Ben-Hur and How the West Was Won. But by 1970, Kirk Kerkorian was cannibalizing MGM, selling its 40 acre Culver City backlot, the movie sets demolished to make way for a housing development, and then auctioning off MGM's two warehouses of props, including the three pairs of ruby slippers Dorothy wore in The Wizard of Oz. Two were swiped before getting to the auction floor by a temp laborer hired to move the props. At least one person knew the value of MGM memorabilia being sold like so much junk at a yard sale.
I can't help now looking at what happened to MGM as it ran out of money and then got taken over by Kirk Kerkorian's wrecking crew and think about what is happening in the United States now, as corporate assets like Anheuser Busch and much of the domestic steel industry are sold to the highest foreign bidder. Most of the lower level MGM employees who hit the bricks after the studio shut down regular operations could not get another steady job in the Hollywood film industry. Top talent like actor Stewart Granger and director Andrew Marton could get one movie jobs (no multi-year contracts anymore)in Europe for a while, but it was the end of the road for many studio employees' Hollywood careers behind the camera.
The Krell met a sudden, unexpected end in the movie Forbidden Planet, but when MGM went onto a slow death spiral, life did not reflect art. There was no happy ending for the MGM story, except for Kirk Kerkorian, who somehow managed to continually buy and sell MGM's assets until 2004, when Sony bought the MGM studio and let go its remaining 900 employees.
Yes, we in the 21st century always expect Leslie Nielsen to play some
goofy role, but "Forbidden Planet" shows where he started. He plays
Cmdr. John J. Adams, leading a mission to a strange planet where only
Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pigeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne
Francis) are alive. As the movie progresses, we come to realize that
this is no ordinary planet; it holds an unpleasant secret that may be
the key to what happened before the story started.
Okay, so watching the movie with a modern viewpoint makes it seem dated, but it is definitely worth seeing. If absolutely nothing else, it shows that Leslie Nielsen can play a serious role. As for Robby the Robot...well, he's passable; I would like to be able to speak 187 languages.
Anyway, this is one movie that you gotta check out sometime.
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