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This is a film that has been in the back of my mind for a while to watch, and it was over in the Columbo podcast website that a buddy of mine brought it to the forefront. This stars Leslie Nielsen in a very different kind of role that we're used to seeing him in, and it has to be said that he makes a credible leading man. As for the supporting cast, the sinister Dr. Morbius is characterised very well by Walter Pidgeon and his daughter, Altaira, is played nicely by Anne Francis. What with the presence of Robbie the robot, built at a cost of $125,000, and - for, what must have been at the time, an extremely novel alien landscape - one has to say that an excellent job has been done all round. One can certainly see the seeds of future sci-fi staples such as Star Trek. A must for all sci-fi fans and even those who aren't will derive at least some kind of enjoyment from this. Finally, as for the plot, this is based on 'The Tempest' by William Shakespeare, who surely brings with him his own credentials.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Directed by Fred M. Wilcox, "Forbidden Planet" opens in the 23rd
century, with Commander John Adams (Leslie Nielsen) of the starship
C-57D landing on the planet Altair IV. Adams attempts to make contact
with a human colony that was established on the planet several decades
earlier. To Adams' surprise, this colony has perished. Only Dr. Edward
Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) seem
to have survived.
Late in "Forbidden Planet", it is revealed that Altair IV was once inhabited by a race of aliens known as the Krell. Though the Krell are now extinct, Altair IV still possesses vast, subterranean caverns packed with working Krell technology. Doctor Morbius becomes obsessed with this technology, determined to learn its secrets. Morbius rationalises these obsessions the alien machines may one day benefit humanity, he insists but Capain Adams begins to suspect that something more sinister is afoot.
"Forbidden Planet's" final act contains a shocking revelation. Aided by a machine capable of materialising conscious and unconscious desires, the Krell wiped themselves out. Using this same technology, Morbius destroyed all human colonists on Altair IV. He did this to preserve his monopoly on both Krell technology and his own daughter, a young woman who is adored by colonists, Adams' crew and whom Morbius himself has psycho-sexual longings for.
Interestingly, Morbius is unaware that he has been slaughtering people. So blind is Morbius, that Adams must spell things out for him: "The machine instantaneously projects solid matter to any point on the planet, for any purpose!" Adams explains. "But like you, the Krell forgot one deadly danger their own subconscious lust for hate and destruction! And so those mindless beasts of their subconscious had access to a machine that could never be shut down! The secret devil of every soul on the planet all set free at once to loot and maim! And take revenge, Morbius, and kill!"
Morbius, a man of science, has thus become warped by his own ego, his own unconscious, his own desire to play God. This kind of science bashing was typical of 1950s science fiction films, which tended to associate war and murder with technological advancements, scientists and an "insurmountable human nature", rather than politics, class and economics. Where "Forbidden" differs from these films is its thick Freudian subtext ("The ego is not the master of its own house," Freud once wrote, "and the mind is like an iceberg, with only one seventh of its bulk visible!"). In Wilcox's hands, man dare not risk exploring outer space unless he first confront the forbidden planets lurking between the ears.
Along with "The Thing", "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "Invaders From Mars", "Forbidden Planet" remains one of the best science fiction films of the 1950s. Produced by MGM studios, it was also one of the first attempts at a big-budget, "serious" science fiction film, utilising glossy Deluxe Color, expansive CinemaScope and a script (loosely based on Shakespeare's "The Tempest") with high-brow pretensions. In keeping with producer Nicholas Nayfack's desire for cutting-edge spectacle, the film also utilised meticulous rotor-scoping by Walt Disney animators, and an innovative, entirely electronic film score. The first of its kind, "Forbidden Planet's" score predated the invention of music synthesisers by about eight years.
Modern audiences will no doubt scoff at "Forbidden Planet". But to those interested in early 20th century science fiction, the film offers many pleasures. Today it resembles a kind of meticulously constructed, retro artifact, filled with charming gadgets, robots, lasers, eye-popping colours, giant matte paintings and sets zanier than Frank Sinatra's living room. Sculpted by the finest craftsmen of its era, the film seems simultaneously modernist and unaware of its impending obsolescence; the world of tomorrow according to the world of yesterday.
Despite its age, "Forbidden Planet" still boasts a palpable sense of menace. The film contains one famous sequence in which a "Monsters of the Id" attacks our heroes, a sequence which scared the hell out of 1950s audiences, and which would influenced a number of subsequent film directors. This monster is handled cleverly throughout the picture, Wilcox hinting at its presence with foot prints, casts of its claws and the ripples of energy which momentarily illuminate its invisible body. Elsewhere the film contains cinema's best aliens outside "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Solaris", which Wilcox never shows, but hints at, alludes to and keeps resolutely alien.
In a 1970s interview, Gene Roddenberry would claim that "Forbidden Planet" didn't influence his "Star Trek" franchise. Most film historians, however, cite "Forbidden Planet" (along with the 1950 novel, "The Voyage of the Space Beagle") as a large influence on "Star Trek". Within Wilcox's films we thus find precursors to "Star Trek's" transporter devices, along with Roddenberry's fondness for abandoned outposts, mad scientists, saucer-shaped spaceships, crews modelled on the US navy, and lots of chauvinists, gratuitous flirting, short skirts and bosomy young women. In 1950s science fiction, the girl next door is never more than a light-year away.
8.5/10 - See "World on a Wire" (1973).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As this 1956 science fiction classic opens the spaceship C-57D is
speeding through hyperspace towards the planet Altair IV to investigate
the fate of a previous mission that went there twenty years previously.
As they reach the planet they make contact with Dr Morbius who warns
them not to land
is he warning them of a danger, threatening them or
merely being unfriendly? Whatever the case Commander John Adams ignores
him and lands. Once down the ship is met by 'Robbie the Robot'; a
creation of Morbius. He takes the commander and two of his crew to meet
Morbius. We then learn that and his beautiful daughter Altaira are the
sole survivors of the original mission; strangely the others were
killed when they decided to leave the planet whereas Morbius and his
family were spared
his wife died later. Morbius also explains how the
original population; the Krell, were highly advanced and created
amazing machines before their extinction millennia ago. The crew are
somewhat smitten by Altaira which leads to some conflict although that
is quickly forgotten when they are attacked by a fearsome invisible
creature like that which killed those on the original mission.
This is rightly considered a classic; it is certainly one of the most important science fiction films; without it the entire genre may have been quite different. It was certainly ahead of its time; for the first time a film is set entirely in space or on another world. The plot, inspired by 'The Tempest' feels like it could have been taken from an episode of the original series of 'Star Trek' but that wouldn't be made for another decade or so.
Inevitably the special effects have dated but they are still okay and the 'monster' is genuinely scary especially when we learn its true nature. The cast do a solid job; Walter Pidgeon gives a nicely ambiguous performance as Morbius which leads us to wonder if he is to be trusted; Anne Francis is delightful as Altaira of course it helps that she looks great in a very short dress and Leslie Nielsen is fine as the Commander; long before he would become better known for his comic roles. If you are a fan of classic films or science fiction in general this is a must-see.
Best sci-fi I've seen for anyone who is introspective and/or curious
about the implications of instant learning; conceivably the next great
leap after the world wide web. Interesting to me how it was made long
before personal computers even
I think the above makes my point. I'm filling lines here to meet the 10 line minimum. What else is there to say, hmm... OK, I liked seeing Earl Holliman without Angie Dickinson.
I'm glad to see an apparent remake of this in in production now that better special effects are available.
I think it will be tough to improve much on Robbie, I think he was perfect although not as animated as I'm sure his reincarnation will be.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Forbidden Planet is pure science-fiction. It is not the cliché
cowboys-in-space or (despite the "monsters from the id" tag line)
gratuitous monster aliens. Star Wars? Alien? That's too easy, too
trite, the same old same old in a future setting. Despite comparisons
with Shakespeare's The Tempest, the story of Forbidden Planet stands on
its own. And its soundtrack has never been equaled.
A machine that materializes thought "without instrumentalities". Instrumentalities -- when I heard that word I realized this movie is speaking to adults, not adolescents.
Pure science fiction is about the future itself. Forbidden Planet and Blade Runner come to mind. Some Star Trek episodes achieve this. For my money, though, Forbidden Planet is the benchmark against which all other science fiction movies should be measured.
Yes, there is a little dating. Earl Holliman's comic relief character isn't necessary (neither was R2-D2's prissiness). And there was a lapse in the otherwise cool f/x, when the spaceship landed on Altair: The powder puffing though holes in the ground was pretty cheesy. But these are minor quibbles which don't detract from the overpowering story.
7.7 IMDb score Forbidden Planet gets is insulting, a comment on the audiences not the movie. 8.7, which the slicker but inferior Star Wars and the Matrix get, would be far more fitting.
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.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For it's time, it was something special...a science fiction movie with
a lavish MGM budget. The technical stuff is great and the composition
of the landscape scenes are very good. I heard that preview audiences
laughed at the final scenes where the "monster" was shown. They didn't
change anything, evidently after the previews. It's a disappointment to
see the evil monster as cartoon animation...even for audiences of the
time. It's important to understand its place in the evolution of
science fiction films as the next step was the far superior 2001: A
I really think this movie is overrated. It has an interesting set design, the "music" gets on your nerves after a while, the plot plods along. The men lust after the woman, the woman lusts after the men...it's kind of a low budget story with a high budget for technical effects and sets. Think Queen of Outer Space or World Without End with a bigger budget. Yes, there's the whole ID part of the story and that makes it more "heady" but this film is really dull in many places.
It isn't in the same league as Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Day the Earth Stood Still for 50s science fiction.
The movie is worth seeing but I look forward to the remake.
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.
"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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