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This is the "2001" of the 1950s. An intelligent (downright cerebral),
witty, beautifully done film with issues very relevant today - could we
wipe ourselves out overnight with super-technology?
Walt Disney's Academy Award winning special effects stand up to computer graphics magic today.
The endearing Robby the Robot, clattering with mechanical relays, is a movie icon. Robby's a lot more fun to be around its distant cousin from the 60s TV series "Lost in Space"
Gene Rodenberry studied every frame of this film and ripped it off wholesale for his Star Trek TV series in the 1960s -- the best form of flattery.
The militaristic, all-male, horny crew dates the film, but hey it's the 1950s! It's also a delight seeing a young & swashbuckling Leslie Neisle playing it straight!
Wish they could make sci-fi movies as intelligent and insightful as this again. Maybe someday.
A classic 1950's Sci-Fi film, Forbidden Planet will also appeal to movie fans who do not like science fiction. Produced in a day before massive special effects budgets, it was created with more emphasis on dialogue, character development, suspense, and drama - quite a difference from today's typical sci-fi productions. This is definitely one of my all-time favorite films.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I should say at the outset there are many, many things I love about 'Forbidden Planet' and yes, I certainly consider it a 'classic' science-fiction film for many reasons. But the adulation it has received over the years goes a bit over the top in my opinion. No less an authority than Leonard Maltin says 'Forbidden Planet' "...is one of the most ambitious and intelligent movies of its genre." Ambitious? Without a doubt. Intelligent? Depends on what part of the film you're talking about. It certainly was the most prestigious and highly-budgeted science-fiction flick to that point. At a cost of nearly $2 million (this was 1956, remember), MGM pulled out all the stops to produce a dazzling, eye-popping outer space adventure unlike anything seen on the big screen before, even employing artists from the Disney studio for some of the more elaborate special effects. 'Charming' is not usually a word used to describe special effects in sci-fi movies, yet that is the one that seems most appropriate here. Even the dreaded 'Monster from the Id' is only a well-rendered cartoon figure by the Disney people, unlikely to frighten anyone over the age of 8. When I see the various sets and take note of the art design, models, costumes, etc., I am reminded of nothing so much as 'The Wizard of Oz,' with its gorgeously saturated colors and elaborate if not always convincing effects. So much work has gone into these films that one is inclined to smile in admiration at the effort regardless. 'Forbidden Planet' is wonderful to look at. The scenes take place on obvious stage sets that are fabulously decorated, matte paintings of planets and space in the background, and intricately designed miniature sand dunes and so forth to give the illusion of depth. It's a bit like watching the most elaborately-produced stage play you'd ever see. The most believable and convincing scenes are probably the ones inside the massive Krell complex, where shots showing the vast depth and width of this inner space are well-done and credible. But then we get to the actors, darn it. The performances are almost uniformly awful, though in fairness one has to say the dialogue hardly ever transcends the level of adolescent locker-room humor, except for some passages of barely adequate scientific technobabble. Even the great actor Walter Pidgeon is reduced to giving such a hammy performance, it's lugubrious at times. A very young Leslie Nielsen stars as the spaceship commander J.J. Adams, and doesn't convey an ounce of believability or conviction in the entire film. He seems to instinctively know, thirty years ahead of time, that his true forte' lay in comedy, as there are times he seems barely able to keep a straight face reciting his lines. Every forced reaction, whether it is anger or passion or solemn meditation, looks right out of a high school play. Anne Francis, also very young, fares a little better as the supposedly innocent Alta, whom we are to believe has never seen a human male other than her father until the crew of the spaceship shows up. (Alta Morbius, now there's a name for you.) Unfortunately, even at this early age, Anne Francis seems about as virginal and naive as Elizabeth Taylor in 'Butterfield 8.' There is a good story here, buried somewhere beneath the crew-mates' leering comments about Alta and yet another juvenile subplot concerning Earl Holliman's 'Cookie,' ship's cook. (Holliman turns in a horrendous performance too. I'm guessing all these actors went straight from this movie to acting school.) Based on Shakespeare's 'The Tempest,' the story of a dead race, the Krell, and the fantastic world of machines they left behind is what most people tend to remember about 'Forbidden Planet,' and for good reason. For a few minutes here and there, you can forget about the rest of the movie and be dazzled by the Disney artists' conception of the Krell underground complex. Is it enough to make up for the rest of the film's shortcomings? You'll have to decide that on your own. Oh, and of course there's Robby the Robot, every 1950's ten-year-old's idea of what a robot should look and talk like. He's funny. In places. So, 'Forbidden Planet' to me is a very, VERY mixed bag. It deserves credit for being the inspiration for a whole wave of sci-fi films and TV shows that followed, not least of which was 'Star Trek.' But I would suggest that anyone who thinks it's more than well-staged comic book sci-fi go back and watch it again.
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 science fiction 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 that 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 since 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
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As science prediction, Forbidden Planet was way off. It opens with a
narrator explaining that people landed in the moon at the end of the
21st century, and a few years later figured out how to travel faster
than the speed of light.
The movie was released in 1956; one year later Sputnik was launched, our first satellite in orbit, and, of course, we landed on the moon 13 years later.
In retrospect, it's odd that the writers would be so clueless about the actual prospects for space travel. But science fiction in the 1950s was more about fantasy, and a platform for statements about human nature and spirituality, hence Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, and early Kurt Vonnegut fare like Sirens of Titan. And I remember the science fiction books of the 1950s with illustrations of finned rockets landing on a cratered moonscape.
The context of science fiction back then was other science fiction, not science. This continued with the first Star Trek series, which obviously was influenced by Forbidden Planet, including the Freudian psychological motif, as well as the stinker, Lost in Space.
And then there is the computer connection. There is a Star Trek episode, Amok Time, that also features Altair, presumably as a nod to Forbidden Planet. And it was this episode that provided the name for the first personal microcomputer, the Altair 8800, sold in 1975. It was for this computer that Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote their first commercial computer program, laying the foundation for what would become a software company called "Microsoft."
Remember Robbie, the Robot? The inventor of the Altair was named Ed Roberts. Perhaps he should have named the Altair, "Robbie."
As to the movie, the acting is not much to write home about. Walter Pidgeon provides its main credibility. Anne Francis tries, but how do you play the part of a young woman who has never met a young man before, in the 1950s? (To see her really act, see Bad Day at Black Rock.) Leslie Nielsen plays it straight, with the dark hair of youth.
But back to the 1950s, it was a time when UFOs were very much on people's minds, and even occasionally in newspapers, though people might not have talked about it much. Here, comfortingly, we were the ones flying the flying saucers.
But the take was very different in "The Day the Earth Stood Still," 1951, where the UFO threatened to destroy Earth if we could not learn to live in peace, or in "Invaders from Mars," 1953, where aliens were dragging people underground and sticking implants in the back of their necks, turning them into zombies. Those are far better examples of 1950s science fiction movies than Forbidden Planet.
A big part of the effectiveness of Invaders from Mars is due to William Cameron Menzies, who was the production designer of Gone With the Wind.
If you do watch Forbidden Planet, make yourself an extra large bowl of popcorn to help keep you entertained.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fellow movie-goers, Like the subject line says. The animated effects
were just beautiful, Robby is one of the coolest robots ever, some of
the set pieces look great even to my jaded 21st-century eye, the
planet's lone woman wore a breathtakingly short skirt, and the idea of
a man unconsciously projecting the foulest impulses of his id into
reality, creating a terrible invisible monster, was really cool.
But the script ... oh, dear God.
Turgid. Florid. Overly expository, and full of unconvincing pseudo-scientific jibber-jabber. And I know this was released in 1956, but the crew's boorish, panting overtures to the planet's lone woman were just embarrassing. And for no good reason, there were Earth animals running around the planet. All I can figure is that the producer pulled the director aside one day and said, "My little girl loves deer and tigers. Put some deer and tigers in there somewhere." They could have cut this down from ~100 minutes down to about 80, easily. Felt like a good (original-series) Trek episode, but deliberately, clumsily padded out to feature length.
Maybe this is when Leslie Nielsen, who plays the ship's captain, decided to get into spoofing. If you're going to make movies that are sort of goofy, why not do ones that are *deliberately* goofy? Sort of like "The Andromeda Strain," this movie was more about sci-fi gee-whizzery than about effective storytelling.
If you haven't seen it, rent it some afternoon, enjoy this little bit of "the history of the future," but get ready to roll your eyes a few times.
Wow... this movie only rates a 7.7 on IMDb? How many movies are better
then Blade Runner, Star Wars, Alien, The Terminator, and all 15 Star
Trek movies..? Only one, and this is it.
Yes, there's a bit of silliness, but otherwise this movie has it all: good actors, great special effects (especially for the 1950s), a robot, an alien race, a monster, and most importantly, a fantastic science fiction story, based loosely on Shakespeare's The Tempest.
The special effects are unique and stand up well even today, 60 years later. The original Star Trek series was inspired by this movie, as were many other sci-fi movies and animated features over the past 50+ years.
Hopefully the "Forbidden Planet" that's in development won't have anything to do with this except for the title.
This is almost a pilot, a very corny pilot, but corny in a nice way,
for the Star Trek series of 1966.
Since my 1970s childhood, science fiction has always been one of my very top interests and it was movies like this (and Irwin Allen TV) that turned me into a sc- fi nut.
Yes, Star Trek (1966) got a lot of ideas from this, but so did Lost In Space (1965)...look at Robby The Robot and the LIS robot...almost brothers!
If watching this movie for the first time today, a lot of the impact might be gone as everything in it has been re-used in other productions, but as they say...thanks for the memories!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Favorite movie-quote: "That does not compute."
In my opinion - Robby The Robot was, by far, the most all-round interesting "character"' in this entire flick. He was so logical, so matter-of-fact, so brilliant, and so much a total Road Demon when he got behind the wheel of that spaced-out Land Rover. The way Robby tore across Planet Altair-4's dusty terrain at break-neck speed, well, I figured that he rated being the Star of his very own show just for that performance, alone. I mean it.
C'mon - Let's face it - Without Robby's fantastic resourcefulness and astounding ingenuity none of the inferior humans would've ever been able to survive for even 5 minutes on the uninhabitable terrain of Planet Altair-4.
Robby was everyone's ticket to home-style comfort and high-end survival. And, yet, in typical human fashion, Robby was taken for granted, by one, and all, and, generally, used and treated like a common servant.
I couldn't believe it - The idle, "do-nothing" humans actually had Robby carrying out really base and menial chores like - Washing the dishes, scrubbing out the toilets, and churning out dresses. And if that wasn't degrading enough, while Robby performed these household drudgeries he was decked out, wearing, of all things, an apron, no less. And it was a goddamn frilly one, to boot.
Humiliation of all humiliations - It's a darn good thing for those lazy-bum humans that Robby was a rather naive robot in some ways and not hip to matters along the lines of degradation, otherwise it would've served everyone right if Robby had just blasted every single one of them to smithereens, along with their crusty, old toilet bowls and tuity-fruity aprons. I'm not kidding.
Anyway- With that all said - I still think that Robby The Robot was the greatest.
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