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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.
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.
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.
As did others in this forum, when "Fobidden Planet" was offered in 1956, I rushed to see it. This story is an interesting phenomenon I suggest because young, old, male, female, sci-fi experts and people who find such fare 'way out" all can follow and enjoy this film's story and plot lines very well. This is the first movie set on a planet other than Earth in the 20th Century other than serials such as "Flash Gordon". Leslie Nielsen was vocally a bit weak for his role, at that time, but Walter Pigeon, Marvin Miller, Anne Francis, Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman and especially Warren Stevens all acquitted themselves very well. There are so many visual splendors in this one, it's hard to choose a favorite from the film's scenes. The approach to Altair-4, the starship itself, the landing on the planet's alien surface, the descent via extensor stairs, the first view of the landscape, the approach of the rocket-sled, Dr. Morbius's house seen from without and from within, the underground complex and its wonders, the setup of the weaponry, the battle with the monster, the final approach of the unseen destroyer,the escape from the doomed planet--all these scenes are etched into the viewer's mind because we discover them along with the participants. Veteran Cyril Hume's literate script was filmed intelligently by long-time director Fred McLeod Wilcox with clarity and imagination. it is a shock to realize there's no music at all; the film is carried by the words, the actors and the mystery-revelation storyline. It can be watched again and again with pleasure--I have been doing so for nearly fifty years. Until this famous and well-loved film was created, no film had tried to imagine a world beyond Earth; and for decades afterward, ships kept crashing back on the planet--as if the writers' imaginations were failing and causing the crashes. Still the best, many say. That says something negative about this nation's so-called intellectual leaders' imaginations--and something very positive indeed I suggest about those who made this gem.
"Anywhere in the galaxy this is a nightmare."
Forbidden Planet is a science fiction movie from the 50's, involving a spaceship crew that encounters danger after journeying to a far planet to search for an expedition that disappeared there twenty years ago.
It largely stays away from cheesiness that categorizes the 50's era of sci-fi (other than Robby the Robot and a hilarious looking "creature"). It's also lacking some of the charm that my favorite movies from that era have. It's very slow-paced at times, and there's a constant and unrelenting stream of exposition that only rarely is broken up by something actually happening.
Forbidden Planet is an impressive technical achievement for its time, but I can't really recommend it for its entertainment value. People who prefer serious efforts over the more (intentionally or unintentionally) comical movies that were made around this time, may enjoy Forbidden Planet more than I did.
The words intelligent and science fiction in regards to a film from the 50's
may seem like somewhat of an anachronism when one thinks about most of the
drive-in movie schlock of that era, but there are a few treasures to be
uncovered. It's a short list of course, but one that includes The Day the
Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Incredible Shrinking
Man, and Forbidden Planet. I don't know what audiences of that particular
decade originally thought of this film that was short on action and long on
dialog, but almost fifty years later it still holds up quite well despite
the seemingly endless advances film makers have made in the special effects
department. It's living proof that it's not just the special effects that
make a well done science fiction film, `it's the script and the story,
The plot at first glance seems relatively simple. A spaceship crew is sent to the planet Altair-4 (Altair being derived from a Greek word for star, clever isn't it?) to find out what happened to the Belerephon Expedition that had settled on the planet some twenty years earlier. As they approach the planet they are contacted by one of the settlers, Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), who warns them to make a U-turn and go pester some other planet. Of course being an upright and true blue kind of guy who always follows orders, Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen), lands his flying saucer space ship on the planet anyway to find out what exactly is going on and so that we can have the rest of the movie. They are soon greeted thereafter by a robot named Robbie who is piloting a land speeder that would probably make Luke Skywalker just as pea green with envy as the sky of Altair-4 is. Robbie quickly whisks away the Commander, the `Doc' (Warren Stevens) and Lt. Farman (Jack Kelly) to the home of Dr. Morbius who seems to be in a bit more of a congenial mood then he was during his earlier radio transmission. We soon find out that all the other members of the Belerephon Expedition met a horrid untimely death, and the only inhabitants left on the planet are Morbius, Robbie, and the daughter of Morbius, Altaira (Anne Francis). So who or what killed the other colonists? Why was Dr. Morbius the only original member of the expedition to survive? And which of the three bachelors will our dating game bachelorette Altaira choose: the commander, the doctor, or the playboy?
All the answers for these questions are contained in a forthright screenplay written by Cyril Hume, who based his tale on a reworking of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Hume must have firmly believed in the existence of intelligent life on the planet Earth (name origin unknown). There is a monster in Forbidden Planet, but it is not thrown on the screen just so we can have another 50's type monster on the loose and have it stomp everything in sight scenario. There are explanations, and even though you may find many of the special effects antiquated, you won't care. As we tour the underground workings of Altair-4 with Dr. Morbius as our guide, we become totally fascinated by the story of The Krell, the previous tenants of Altair-4 who thought they had achieved the ultimate possibilities of mind over matter.
This is not to say Forbidden Planet is perfect. There is a comedic subplot regarding the ships cook (Earl Holliman) thrown in at the insistence of the studio. While one can see the humor as Cook has Robby perform a little chore for him, it still seems out of place and unnecessary in this film. The romantic angle of the film seems mired knee deep in 50's sensibilities. I'll be the first to proclaim loudly that the beauty of Anne Francis could knock any man for a loop, but the reactions of the crew to her appearance seem more like the twittering one would expect from a prepubescent school boy than anything else. Yet in the end, when she finally does choose Bachelor number one, we see an underlying tension emanating from Morbius that is essential to the underlying themes of the story.
As for the cast, Walter Pidgeon is outstanding as Morbius. Leslie Nielsen does a good job as the Commander, reminding us that he was once able to play a straight role. Anne Francis has always been a favorite of mine, but she handles the chores of Altaira, who meets her first Earth men (other than her father), with a kind of wide eyed matter of fact innocence. The rest of the cast are okay with probably Warren Stevens as Doc being the best of the lot. Oh, and let's not forget the legendary Robbie the Robot, whose appearance in this film alone makes it worth seeing.
Forbidden Planet is a must see for any science fiction film, if for no other reason than that it answers the question in regards to whether or not there were any intelligent science fiction films made in the fifties. The answer is of course yes, and if I can answer that particular question in that manner, I have no choice but to give you my grade which for Forbidden Planet is a B+.
'Forbidden Planet' is one of the most famous science fiction movies of the 1950s, and a movie that has had a profound impact on SF cinema. Some of the best science fiction and horror movies of this period ('Invasion Of The Body Snatchers', 'The Incredible Shrinking Man') were set in contemporary America and strongly reflected the fears and concerns of the time. 'Forbidden Planet' is quite different, being set in the future, and being more of a Freudian fantasy, liberally inspired by Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'. It was by far the most sophisticated outer space tale up until that point, and the special effects, though of course dated today, were hot stuff for the time. There are a few bits of b-grade silliness e.g. Earl Holliman's comic relief Cookie, but overall this is a much more serious movie than one might expect. Future funnyman Leslie Nielsen is adequate as Commander Adams, far better is 1940s star Walter Pigeon ('Mrs. Miniver',etc.) as the mysterious Dr. Morbius, and his sexy daughter Altair (Anne Francis, later of 1960s cult series 'Honey West'). And of course there is also Robby, still one of the most recognizable robots in movie history. 'Forbidden Planet' is essential viewing for any sci-fi fan, but more than that, it is also one of the most imaginative and entertaining movies ever made, and a sheer joy to watch. Personally I think it's worth a dozen 'Star Wars' and then some.
MGM's big 50s sci-fi hit is what so many others would like to be but aren't. Interesting, with a stylish look and a brazenly over-the-top B-performance from all the principles and the supporting cast, who seem like refugees from a WWII buddy film (I guess if this was Warners we'd have Alan Hale in there). Nielsen is commanding and funny as the captain, and Anne Francis is stunning in her gorgeous costumes (leading the way for the producers of Star Trek, a show in many ways indebted to this film, to place a strong emphasis on the costumes of the lovely guest stars). The art design is a joy, and Robbie is a really great robot to watch with a real personality. Based on Shakespeare's Tempest, with Pidgeon as "Prospero" (you maybe could have hoped for Orson Welles, but this is MGM here, you get what you pay for). Disney animation on the "monsters from the Id" is the only serious letdown.
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