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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have loved this movie all of my life. It's such an intelligent story
also, with plenty of classical allusions. eg. The ship that went
missing decades earlier was called the Bellerophon. Well, in classical
mythology this was the man who slew the Chimera, a legendary beast
composed of two or more other creatures. In FP, Walter Pidgeon is
clearly the chimera- himself and his Id monster.
I like movies where the writers have clearly credited their audiences with a modicum of intelligence, unlike most modern blockbusters which spend $150m on special effects, but about $1.50 on a screenplay.
To those of us who grew up on science fiction of the 50's and 60's,
"Forbidden Planet" is, if not the "all-time" greatest sci-fi film, then
it's one of the top three (the other two are "The Day the Earth Stood
Still" and "War of the Worlds").
The actors are superb, the scenery and graphics are wonderful, and the special effects (though now quite dated) still hold their own today! This is the movie that I use as an example, when a younger person today, comments that Leslie Neilson is only an old comedian. I have them sit down and watch "Forbidden Planet". They are always surprised to find out how great he was and that he was also a very accomplished serious actor.
The movie is as marvelous today as it was 50 years ago. Sci-Fi movies come and go. Some I can take and some I can leave behind. But, whenever "Forbidden Planet" is playing, I'll drop everything and make the time to watch it again! It truly set the standards for all great science fiction to come after it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Legendary as one of the very first bigger-budget, elegantly-appointed and major studio-backed science fiction films, this holds up rather well today. Nielson plays the commander of a spaceship sent to the title location to check up on an expedition that was sent there nearly 20 years ago. Upon arrival, he is reticently welcomed by mysterious Pigeon, his lovely daughter Francis and a miraculous robot who is capable of creating virtually anything he is commanded to whip up. Before long, however, an unseen monster begins wreaking havoc among Nielson's crew, eventually slaughtering some of the men. It's up to Nielson to "rescue" a highly reluctant Pigeon from his rather lonesome, but autocratic existence. Despite all the "advances" of modern special effects technology, this film still looks fantastic, with unbelievable colors, striking art decoration and set design, brilliant use of animation and eye-popping matte work. An innovative and effective use of electronic sounds helps add to the environment of the film. Occasionally, a creaky effect shot will sneak in, but for the most part, this is beautifully done and must have been jaw-dropping at the time of the film's release. Pigeon doesn't always seem 100% comfortable with the sci-fi jargon and the setting, but he does a commanding and commendable job, adding the right amount of dramatic heft to the role. Nielson (who successfully turned to comedy when his hair turned prematurely grey) is a bit bland, but solid, as the leader of his crew. He is complimented by Stevens and Kelly as his fellow officers. Francis is quite attractive and appealing, wearing what had to be startlingly skimpy dresses for 1956. Holliman has an early role as the comic relief of the film. He plays the ship's whiskey-loving cook, complete with an apron and white hat! Folks not inclined towards sci-fi may find their minds wandering during some of the drier stretches of explanation about the technology of Pigeon's fortress, but at least the surroundings are interesting to the eye most of the time. The film's influence on countless later films and TV shows cannot be underestimated. It was an undeniable trend setter and forerunner. Sometimes profound, sometimes silly, sometimes dramatic, sometimes corny, it remains an important and mostly entertaining example of cinematic science fiction.
'Forbidden Planet' is truly high among the greatest Sci-Fi films ever
made, and later notable works such as 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars', etc.
would be heavily influenced by it. With a story that enthralls the
viewer with the wonders of Space, the VFX remain nothing less than
astounding and wholly effective; its moody early-Electronica score
further lends to the engrossing wonder, convincing the viewer on some
deeper level that they're hearing what might be the celestial
vibrations of our vast and infinite Universe.
Based on William Shakespeare's 'The Tempest', 'Forbidden Planet' is a genuine cinematic and Science-Fiction masterpiece, one that ever continues to convey a sense of amazement.
There's a good reason that Walter Pidgeon is warning off Leslie Nielson
and his crew from the relief ship, stuff he dare not dream about.
As Doctor Edward Morbius, Pidgeon is the last survivor of an expedition that came to this planet 20 years earlier. Since that time he married another member of the expedition and had a daughter, Anne Francis. They are the only humans left on this planet which was once the home world of an ancient civilization known as the Krell.
The records as deciphered by Pidgeon indicate the Krell came to a cataclysmic ending of unknown origin. The machinery they left behind is still functioning.
Maybe functioning too well as members of the relief party start dying and in a particular gruesome fashion.
I see all kinds of speculation about a remake and this is one film not to remake because it's as fresh as it was in 1956. The terms would change, we would now say warp speed instead of hyper drive, courtesy of the enduring popularity of Star Trek.
We might not see the men in the relief expedition in a flying saucer like space ship. It might look a lot more like the Starship Enterprise or the Ship from 2001 A Space Odyssey. It's interesting to look at science fiction films from different generations and see how are conceptions of the future do change.
The story behind Forbidden Planet is a timeless one, about mortal beings trying to play God.
You can't write about Forbidden Planet without commenting on Robby the Robot. This mechanical marvel, put together by Pidgeon with the knowledge he gained from studying the Krell was quite the hit back in the day. He got a new lease on life in the sixties with the character of the Robot from Lost In Space. His scenes with Earl Holliman who plays the cook on the space ship and his complying with Earl's request for some home spirits are very funny.
Robby and the other special effects were nominated for an Oscar, but lost to The Ten Commandments and the parting of the Red Sea. Forbidden Planet's bad luck to run up against a Hollywood founder like Cecil B. DeMille.
Classicists among you will recognize Forbidden Planet as a futuristic reworking of The Tempest which when you think about it could have been Shakespeare's one venture into science fiction.
My favorite among the cast is Warren Stevens who's sacrifice enables Leslie Nielsen to learn exactly what he's dealing with.
Never miss this one whenever it's broadcast.
You would have to be a deeply cynical SF fan not to rate this as one of
best films of the genre. In a field with only a few unqualified
- Blade Runner, 2001, Planet of the Apes (1968), Stalker and La Jete among
them, Forbidden Planet is, as one other IMDB critic has noted, the source
for everything that followed. Star Trek's debt to this film is enormous,
you can see the culmination of high 50's SF literature making a rare
appearance in a Hollywood film.
Whereas most other SF films of the period were monster movies with a literal rather than metaphorical alien beast, Forbidden Planet makes the claim that we take the beast with us. Courtesy of a script that "borrows" from Shakespear's The Tempest, Forbidden Planet is a hokey yet sincere amalgam of dime-store Freudian psychobabble and Asimov/Clarke/Bester with a touch of Philip K Dick SF lit thrown in for good measure.
The film's other great strengths is its design, sets and art direction. From the shiny silver space saucer that takes the crew to Altair 4 and the "Frank Lloyd Wright on Venus" design of Morbius's house to Robby The Robot and the Krell underground city , Forbidden Planet is a visually gorgeous treat. With back drops and paintings by Chesley Bonestell and music by Bebe and Louis Baron, this is a magnificent B movie on an A movie budget.
The film also has what is perhaps one of the best lines ever delivered in an SF film: "A green sky? A man could get used to that."
And indeed you can.
This isn't going to be a long comment; others have already said enough
and my feelings on the film are very simplistic: it's a lot of fun.
This is a movie it is simply impossible to tire of watching. On a
technical level, the film is consistently impressive: it's well-shot,
the special effects are still impressive from a purely artistic
viewpoint, the painted backgrounds, while they look somewhat hokey by
today's standards, provide the film with an eerie, alien feel, enhanced
by the still impressive and under-appreciated score by Bebe and Louis
Barron. The art and set decoration is miles better than most 50's
I must comment on how this works as a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest". It does a wonderful job of recycling the play's events and characters. This is by no means a film that a high school student can watch to compensate for reading the play, but it's a fine adaptation, its only cinematic competition being the excellent Western "Yellow Sky".
At a time when science fiction was reduced to pulp, "Forbidden Planet" did a lot to advance intelligent, thoughtful genre films. I can't recommend this film enough.
Admittedly, there's a lot amiss with Forbidden Planet. Aside from
Pidgeon and Francis, the human cast is second string. Admittedly, they
don't have much to work with, for their characters are bland and dull.
There is also far too much uninteresting talk which occasionally clogs
up the narrative, causing it to lose pace and consistency.
Nonetheless, Forbidden Planet provides great entertainmentprovided you see it in a theatre on a CinemaScope screen. On TV, the movie's defects are magnified. On a cinema screen, they don't really amount to anything at all.
What do fans look for in a sci-fi film? In a word: effects. And these are really something to see in Forbidden Planet. The screenplay is ingeniously contrived to combine off-beat ideas with familiar themes that allow plenty of scope for dazzling effects and fascinatingly bizarre visuals: Lost Civilization Wiped Out in a Single Night by Unknown Catastrophe; Lone Survivor of Space Craft, a Robinson Crusoe in an Alien World; One Nubile Girl vs. X Number of Lonely Men.
Although Wilcox's direction is mostly unobtrusive (yet, unlike many of his contemporaries, he always makes good use of the full CinemaScope width), he rises to the occasion when need be, as in the thrilling footprints sequence when the camera moves with such dramatic effect.
Pidgeon creams the rest of the cast, though Francis looks very fetching in her abbreviated Helen Rose costumes. And of course Robby, the Robot, is a marvelous creation, a truly admirable Crichton whom the writers have provided with such wonderfully amusing dialogue. He distills a sort of naïve one-upmanship that's very appealing.
The movie has also one other truly memorable featureits groundbreaking, electronic music score by Louis and Bebe Barron (who had previously scored only an experimental short called Bells of Atlantis in 1952).
Yes, weird, fascinating, off-beat Forbidden Planet fully deserves its cult status. We all have our favorite scenes. For me, the stand-out footage is the visit to the Krell labyrinths in which the camera is almost stationary, showing Pidgeon and his companions utterly dwarfed by alien machinery.
I've seen this sci-fi classic many times over the years but never in it's original big screen Cinemascope glory which I'm sure would add to the value of this film. This was a big budget film for a sci-fi flick in it's day and it's production influenced many filmmakers in the years decades that followed. Fred Wilcox was given the job to direct by the MGM studio. He had s relatively short directorial career but previous to Forbidden Planet was most noted for directing family films like Lassie Come home with Liz Taylor and it's sequels Courage of Lassie, again with Taylor and Hills of Home with Janet Leigh. He had also directed another juvenile actor genre film with Margaret O'Brien in Secret Garden. Respected veteran Cinematographer George Folsey photographed this film. He had his start in the silent era and went on to make such classics through the years as Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Meet Me in St. Louis, Adam's Rib and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Another film veteran Cyril Hume wrote the screenplay adapted from story by Irving Block and Allen Adler base on block's favorite play The Tempest. Hume had a long career in screenplays going back to the thirties including three Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies. The MGM special effects team of Arnold Gillispie, Irving G. Ries and Wesley C. Miller were nominated for an Academy Award for 1956 but lost out to the blockbuster epic The Ten Commandments. The story is set 300 years in the future where a space expedition to a far flung planet has not been heard from so another had been dispatched to find out what happened. Walter Pigeon head ups the large cast that includes Anne Francis, Leslie Nielson, Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman, James Drury, Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly and James Best. Robby the Robot provides the film's futuristic interpretation of the robotic aid to the exploration of space and a comic relief to the films storyline as well. Robert Kinoshita who was an art director on the popular Science fiction Theater television series was given the assignment to design the robot. He would go on to also create the robot used in the Lost In space television series a decade later. The electronic music in the film's score was created by the husband and wife team of Louis and Bebe Barron from the avant-garde music scene of New York and engineers for John Cage. Their space-age music was as important to electronic music as the film itself was to science fiction. This is a very good film and one of the best from the golden age of sci-fi movies and for it's influence on the science fiction film genre it deserves a 10.
In 2200 A.D., the United Planets Cruiser C57-D commanded by Commander
J. J. Adams Leslie Nielsen) travels to Altair IV to seek out survivors
from the expedition that was sent in the spacecraft Belerephon twenty
years ago to settle a colony in the planet.
While they are landing, they contact Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) that advises them to return to Earth without landing since the planet is very dangerous. However, the skipper requests a coordinate for landing since he must accomplish with his assignment. Dr. Morbius sends Robby the Robot to bring Commander Adams, Doctor Ostrow (Warren Stevens) and Lieutenant Jerry Farman (Jack Kelly) to his house. The militaries learn that all the settlers had died after deciding to return to Earth, and only Dr. Morbius and his deceased wife had survived. Further, they meet his gorgeous teenage daughter, Altaira 'Alta' Morbius (Anne Francis), who has never seen another human being. Dr. Morbius tells that he fears that Commander Adams and his crew might have the same fate of the emigrants.
Commander Adams tells Dr. Morbius that he must contact Earth to receive instructions and the scientist sends Robby to help the militaries to build a facility. Later Dr. Morbius discloses to Adams and Ostrow the laboratory of the Krells, an ancient and developed civilization that lived in Altair IV, and shows a piece of equipment that has increased his intellect. Sooner the C57-D is sabotaged and Adams prepares a field fence to protect the spacecraft and the crew. However, when they are attacked by a powerful invisible monster, Adams and Ostrow decide to return to Dr. Morbius laboratory and use the machine to increase their intellectual capacity to fight against the monster. But they discover the dark secret of the Id monster.
"Forbidden Planet" is a great sci-fi from the 50's and source of inspiration of "Star Trek". I believe that this film has probably inspired the sexy Paco Rabanne's clothing of "Barbarella"; Robby the Robot probably has influenced the robot of "Lost in Space"; and the "Time Tunnel" facility is very similar to the Krell's one. The complex Freudian story is entertaining and Anne Francis is extremely beautiful and sexy in her costumes. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): Not available on DVD or Blu-Ray
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