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Every time I watch this film I am reminded of its brilliance. It stands
apart from other sci-fi films, even contemporary ones, in that it
evokes cosmic wonder and amazement, an other-worldly sense of adventure
and exploration, far removed from Earth. Well conceived and written,
the intelligent script offers suspense, an intriguing plot, compelling
characters, and humor.
A human crew investigates a planet of the star Altair. They find the place lorded over by the brainy Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), a scientist who seeks to understand the technological wonders of the Krell, the planet's long-vanished civilization that built up a huge base of scientific knowledge far superior to that of humans. Dr. Morbius lives here alone, except for his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) and humorous Robby the Robot.
Dr. Morbius and Altaira represent Prospero and his daughter Miranda in Shakespeare's play "The Tempest". And The Krell's technology functions exactly like Prospero's magic. Indeed, one of the film's themes is that any super-advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
If the script is terrific, the visuals and sound effects may be even better. The whole look is that of an alien world, a moonscape appearance, and the unique underground ventilator shafts created by the Krell. And the electronic "tonalities", with the eerie, Theremin-like sound enhances the visuals, as does all those subtle echoes.
Unlike so many current sci-fi films wherein CGI substitutes for a non-existent plot, the special effects in "Forbidden Planet" enhance an already well-developed plot. We marvel at the film's set design, animation effects, and matte paintings, all of which combine to create an artistic look that augments and supports the intellectual script.
Similar to "The Tempest" in characters, plot, and theme, and aimed at an intelligent audience, "Forbidden Planet" is one of the three or four best sci-fi films ever made.
What strikes me about this movie is all the settings of the movie stirs imagination in us about things we subconsciously like to experience and see. In that sense this is a great movie in the same ranks as the "Jurassic Park". In the '50s when this was made, I'm sure it was more so than now. The romance of space travel to a remote planet, then seeing Dr. Mobius' very futuristic and oasis like home in middle of nowhere, having intelligent robot who can almost do miracles as a servant, the stunning scale and power of Krell's inventions, then the attack of "invisible" hostile enemy that only shows itself in the midst of electric fence and particle beam weapon, the way the "invisible" enemy approaches the house with its only indication being trees being torn down as it draws closer and closer. All of these visual scenery is what we sort of have in our mind but can only see in a movie like the "Forbidden Planet" ( and more recently in the likes of "Jurassic Park" ). The only difference are that Forbidden Planet deals with what we imagine our future to be and Jurassic Park with our desire to see prehistory come to life. In this sense this movie stirs and moves its audience by a transporting experience only a well made movie can give. I can't describe any better about what makes this movie so good, but there's lot going on about this movie that makes it not just a simple sci-fi movie. Many people who watch this movie attest to its many layered-ness from its plot to visual effects ( some which looks very much like a precursor to Star Trek series of the '60s ), choice of main characters ( A captain, doctor, and a first officer - Hmmm, didn't I see that somewhere else ? ), a robot that became seminal influence for the robot in "Lost in Space" etc. etc.. Because of the so many built in values in this movie, this movie ages gracefully and remains entertaining even after half a century (!). A true classic in its own right.
You have to remember that this film was released in 1956 - 10 years before
the Star Trek original series and the SFX are excellent. I can only say
that the film is brilliant and I've grown up watching this film when shown
on TV at the consequence of doing my homework! I now own it on DVD and rate
the film as being in my top 10 films of all time. I think the concept of
the space crew and their relationship to one another was carried over to
Star Trek and the transporter feature was taken or at least heavily inspired
by the opening of the film when the crew assume DC stations (deceleration).
We have a serious Leslie Nelson playing Commander Adams and a young 'Oscar Goldman' (Richard Anderson) for The Six Million Dollar Man fans. I can easily imagine other voyages for this crew would have created a series or even a sequel, but it wasn't to happen. At least Gene Roddenberry pushed his vision I'm glad to say.
Here is an interesting anecdote about this movie. Former child star Frankie Darro was inside the Robby The Robot costume. Frankie had co-starred with Rin-Tin-Tin in the serial THE LIGHTNING WARRIOR (1931) and then with Rin-Tin-Tin Jr in THE WOLF DOG (1934). He also rode to the rescue with Gene Autry in the classic serial THE PHANTOM EMPIRE (1935). Alas, he never became a real "star". He was unseen, uncredited, and unheard in FORBIDDEN PLANET (Marvin Miller provided Robby's voice) but once he was the center of attention. One day after the lunch break while everyone was waiting for shooting to begin Robby felt over. The costume had to be taken apart to get Frankie out and it soon became apparent that Mr. Darro had drank his lunch; making it impossible for him to finish the days shooting. Apparently the life of a movie robot was not all fun. Ed Wolff, who played THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK (1957), would probably have agreed.
On the pretext of Shakespeare's Tempest, the screenplay by Cyril Hume
flips and moves light years ahead in time and space, so that at first
no one believed the film was a check, so free , Shakespeare's work.
Recognized as one of the classic science-fiction for adults, Forbidden Planet is one of the greatest films made during the fifties, along with others such as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers, "1956, "The incredible shrinking man" , 1957, and "The Day the Earth Stood stil"l, 1951. But its importance goes beyond that, as "Forbidden Planet" is also a seed upon which much of the science-fiction to the big screen and small would develop from the sixties. It is not difficult to see the crew of the spaceship future ancestors of the crew of the "Enterprise" on "Star Trek" and the robot to an ancestor of "C3PO" in "Star Wars".
The film is entertaining, naive, full of charm, and a very imaginative staging.
Judging this movie today is fraught with difficulty because since it's
production, the subject itself has grown up, moving from low-budget
B-movie hokum to A-movie cost-no-object blockbuster.
It is evident that the budget of 'Forbidden Planet' went way beyond anything that had gone before, or indeed would come for another 20 years. There are some truly sublime set-pieces, particularly those of the planet's interior that still stand firm against most presentations today. Anyone never having seen this movie before and being suddenly presented with those tiny humans wandering about inside the colossal Krell machine would never guess that they were watching something from over 50 years ago. At the time, on the big screen, it must have been an astounding spectacle - on a par with the opening battle scene from 'Star Wars'.
Panoramic landscape shots of the planet's surface also bear up pretty well under scrutiny. There's just a certain sense of 'studio' in the foreground that is reminiscent of early 'Star Trek'. That's still a very favourable comparison though - for an item dating from 1956! Certainly the star of the show is a robot called 'Robbie' that seems to take an age just to say anything. Even so, it is at least as believable as R2D2 or C3P0 - once again, creations from some 20 years later. Another commentator has suggested that it cost $10,000 to build. Factor-in inflation and that would probably translate to $250,000 dollars today. Serious Money for one piece of kit.
As to the human cast; I'm no particular fan of Walter Pidgeon, he always left me with the impression of someone who thought he was better than he was. But the part of 'Morbius' exactly suits this character and he plays it with adequate - if stuffy - conviction. As to Leslie Neilsen playing a straight leading man? Well; clearly times have changed. He and his B-movie cast just about get the job done, but no cigar.
And then there's the leading lady, who does what leading ladies were supposed to do in the 1950's. She provides a little interplanetary sexual dalliance. 'Ripley' she ain't. It might be science-fiction and set in the future, but all of the tiresome and sexist social mores of the 1950's appear time-proof. Ah-well; you can't have everything.
The plot itself is standard sci-fi fare. Some people go somewhere strange and find something unpleasant they're not sure how to deal with. 'Alien/Aliens', 'Pitch Black', and even 'The Thing' follow a broadly similar theme.
This time the beastie is human subconsciousness made manifest by Alien technology, and an excellent little chiller it proves to be. Though it does bear a passing resemblance to the 'Loonytunes' Tasmanian Devil. Perhaps, like me, Morbius has been watching too many old movies. There are some spooky moments when the entity's stealthy approach is detected by technology but yet unseen by the human characters (it's invisible, you see) a slowly-paced electronic booming-noise like an amplified heart-beat is matched by huge and bizarre footprints just appearing in the soft earth. An electric-field apparently shorts-out for no reason... That 'magic footprint' trick is also seen in 'Night Of The Demon', whilst electronic detection of the unseen is likewise reprised in Alien(s).
And naturally there are some ray guns - at least as good as 'Star Trek's' 'Phasers'.
Rather experimentally, there is no theme or incidental music to this movie. All of the audio 'infil' is provided by a seemingly endless and random electronic noise. You may or may not like the effect, but it's a brave effort nonetheless. Its variety almost has the abstract presence of birdsong. I am reminded of Sergio Leone's westerns, where odd moods and punctuations are created by twangs of a Jew's harp or brief pipe and vocal sounds. Vangelis employed a similarly abstract approach to 'Blade Runner'
I have to say I love this movie and would equally recommend it because of its age, as in spite of it. This was the Star Wars of its day. And just think; 'Forbidden Planet' actually predated our very first space flight. The USSR's little, bleeping 'Spitnik 1' went into orbit in 1957. If you can remember those times, you will understand why fans of this production insist upon its classic status.
"Forbidden Planet" is a sci-fi film from the '50s, which also brought
you "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and other great films of the genre.
A couple of things set me apart from the rest of the reviewers. First
of all, I'm not a particular fan of science fiction and secondly, I
don't have a problem watching Leslie Nielsen in a straight role - I
grew up with him being serious! This is a very entertaining film on
many levels, not the least of which is its cast of up and coming TV
stars - Nielsen, Jack Kelly, Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman, and Anne
Francis. Walter Pigeon plays the mysterious Dr. Morbius. And let's not
forget the sonorous voice of Marvin Miller as Robbie the Robot -
Michael Anthony of "The Millionaire"! This movie is fantastic for baby
boomers. Robbie, by the way, gives a great performance and has some of
the best lines in the movie.
Pre-Star Wars movies are always to be admired for their special effects - before computers really took over. The effects in "Forbidden Planet" are tremendous and it's a neat story, too, about a spaceship that lands on a planet inhabited by only two people and a robot. They learn that all of the members of a previous expedition were killed by an unknown entity, to which Dr. Marbius and his daughter seem to be immune.
This is a very talky movie, as in those days, scripts were wordier. Nevertheless, it is highly entertaining. One of the most interesting things in the movie is the "music" - all done with electronic instruments. It really adds to the other-wordly atmosphere and suspense. And don't we wish we all had a Robbie!
I don't know this for a fact, but I can imagine that "Forbidden Planet" inspired Gene Roddenberry to create "Star Trek". Just look at all the elements this revolutionary film contained that we later take for granted in "Star Trek". Beaming (of sorts) right down to the same look of the transporter cells. The effect is similar, too. The "threesome" of officers including Capt. and Doctor. Robby the Robot is Spock/Data without emotions but with a mind like a computer and the strength of many men. The entire motion picture reminds one of the debut episode of "Star Trek", The Cage. Illusions, figments of the imagination, the works. That's why I say: "Forbidden Planet is the first real Star Trek episode!" - ten years before this was first aired! Try watching "Forbidden Planet" again with this angle in mind, and by all means tell us what you think!
...sci-fi film ever. I was age 9 when it was released, and I begged, borrowed and stole to get more money to see it over and over and over...much the same as with some kids of the Star Wars generation. It is simply an elegant, thrilling and stunning production all around, with special effects that were mind-boggling in 1956 and are still damned impressive. The exciting, suspenseful script is intelligently adapted from Shakespeare and Walter Pidgeon is magisterial among a well-chosen cast. The lethal, unstoppable and invisible Id is the most terrifying monster ever. Most of all, Forbidden Planet radiates a majestic sense of magic made real that is most unforgettable. A Very Beautiful Movie!
Simply put, this film has stood the test of time as one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever. So many films owe so much to this classic. The script isn't cheesy like many other sci fi from the '50s, but rather, intelligent and articulate. One thing I love about this film is how it covers its bases. Why are there animals on the planet? How does the Doctor have the ability to do what he has done? Details are covered in this film, obviously written by true sci fi writers who made sure this film would entertain kids who just want to see ships and monsters, but educated adults who don't want to be insulted. Great cinematography, sets and a superb script make this worth repeated viewings. If you don't have a DVD player yet, get one. Then buy Forbidden Planet.
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