Forbidden Planet (1956) Poster

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"Forbidden Knowledge"
Chris-18024 August 1999
I first saw this movie when it originally came out. I was about 9 yrs. old and found this movie both highly entertaining and very frightening and unlike any other movie I had seen up until that time.

BASIC PLOT: An expedition is sent out from Earth to the fourth planet of Altair, a great mainsequence star in constellation Aquilae to find out what happened to a colony of settlers which landed twenty years before and had not been heard from since.

THEME: An inferior civilization (namely ours) comes into contact with the remains of a greatly advanced alien civilization, the Krell-200,000 years removed. The "seed" of destruction from one civilization is being passed on to another, unknowingly at first. The theme of this movie is very much Good vs. Evil.

I first saw this movie with my brother when it came out originally. I was just a boy and the tiger scenes really did scare me as did the battle scenes with the unseen Creature-force. I was also amazed at just how real things looked in the movie.

What really captures my attention as an adult though is the truth of the movie "forbidden knowledge" and how relevant this will be when we do (if ever) come into contact with an advanced (alien) civilization far more developed than we ourselves are presently. Advanced technology and responsibility seem go hand in hand. We must do the work for ourselves to acquire the knowledge along with the wisdom of how to use advanced technology. This is, in my opinion, the great moral of the movie.

I learned in graduate school that "knowledge is power" is at best, in fact, not correct! Knowledge is "potential" power depending upon how it is applied (... if it is applied at all.) [It's not what you know, but how you use what you know!]

The overall impact of this movie may well be realized sometime in Mankind's own future. That is knowledge in and of itself is not enough, we must, MUST have the wisdom that knowledge depends on to truly control our own destiny OR we will end up like the Krell in the movie-just winked-out.

Many thanks to those who responded to earlier versions of this article with comments and corrections, they are all very much appreciated!! I hope you are as entertained by this story as much as I have been over the past 40+ years ....

Rating: 10 out 10 stars
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Thinking People's Science Fiction
Hitchcoc25 April 1999
Warning: Spoilers
I am always so frustrated that the majority of science fiction movies are really intergalactic westerns or war dramas. Even Star Wars which is visually brilliant, has one of its central images, a futuristic "gang that couldn't shoot straight." Imagine your coming upon about 600 people with conventional weapons, most of them having an open shot, and they miss.

I have read much science fiction, and wish there were more movies for the thinking person. Forbidden Planet, one of the earliest of the genre, is still one of the very best. The story is based on a long extinct civilization, the Krell, who created machines which could boost the intelligence of any being by quantum leaps. Unfortunately, what they hadn't bargained for, is that the brain is a center for other thoughts than intellectual. The primitive aspect of the brain, the Id, as Freud called it, is allowed to go unchecked. It is released in sleep, a bad dream come to corporeal existence. Walter Pigeon, Dr. Morbius, is the one who has jacked his brain to this level, and with it has built machines and defenses that keep him barely one step ahead of the horrors of the recesses of his own mind. His thoughts are creating horrors that he soon will not be able to defend. The Krell, a much superior species, could not stop it; it destroyed them. The landing party has never been of great interest to me. The rest of the actors are pretty interchangeable. Ann Francis is beautiful and naive, and certainly would have produced quite a reaction in the fifties adolescent male. Her father's ire is exacerbated by her innocence and the wolfy fifties' astronauts (for they are more like construction workers on the make than real astronauts). They are always trying to figure out "dames." The cook is a great character, with his obsession for hooch. Robbie the Robot has much more personality than most of the crew, and one wonders if Mr. Spock may not be a soulmate to the literal thinking of this artificial creature. The whole movie is very satisfying because the situation is the star. Morbius can't turn back and so he is destined to destroy himself and everything with him. There are few science fiction films that are worth seeing more than once; this is one that can coast right into the 21st century.
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Gets better as it gets older
Kingkitsch27 January 2002
While not re-treading the comments or plot summaries of other IMDB users, I thought I'd say that this particular film does get better as it gets older. While ground-breaking on it's release in 1956, the visual "look" of this film has grown over the 46 years since it first arrived.

True to the pulp sci-fi of its day, the art direction has mellowed into an archetype that has not been bettered to this date. MGM put a surprising amount of money into the production values (similar to, but better than Universal's "This Island Earth"). This is a living "cover art". The indelible images of the saucer passing through space, landing on Altair-4, Robby, and the disintegrating tiger linger long in collective memory.

This must be seen on the big screen if possible, and in the original Cinemascope format. I've been lucky enough to see it (it was re-released in the 70's on a double bill with George Pal's "The Time Machine"), and the power it carries in scenes such as the Krell machines and the attack of the Id Monster are truly impressive. Watching it on a television just doesn't come close, although the "letterboxed" version is better than nothing. I am a poster collector, and even the advertising material for this film is exceptional. I see the one-sheet for it every day in my living room, and have never grown tired of it. "AMAZING!" is what is says, and for once they got it right. A true classic of it's type.
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Yes, this IS the best sci-fi film ever made.
mfoley5 September 2004
Well, of course, "Star Wars" defined the genre, and "Alien" and "Blade Runner" perfected it; but "Forbidden Planet" created it. Argue, if you must, that movies like "The Day the Earth Stood Still", "Them" and "Five Million Years to Earth" are the cerebral grand-fathers of the film genre (and I won't disagree with you), but for "science-fiction-as-plot-driven-action-epic," this is it. This is the one.

It's so unerringly on target, in fact, that it still plays very well even today. The modern audience has to overcome the "Leslie Nielsen Factor" (and it is difficult to watch him in a totally straight role), but once you do, the movie is pure enjoyment. Forget about dated plots and special effect. Robbie the Robot is a guy in a suit, yes, but he is thoroughly believable. He even adheres nicely to Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, a trick that the digital robots in this summer's "I, Robot" had a great deal of difficulty with.

And the monster! I defy anyone to avoid getting the willies when the monster first shorts the security fence. Great special effect, then and now!

Finally, the universal theme of man's (and Krell's) individual flaws inserting themselves into an otherwise perfect system and TOTALLY gumming up the works is as relevant today as it was then. More so.
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A great sci-fi that rose above the 'reds are a-coming' level of its peers and delivered an intelligent script with some humour in an attractive film that has stood up well over the years
bob the moo10 July 2004
A space ship has carried out the year long journey from Earth to the remote planet Altair-5 with orders to check on a scientific posting there. They find only one small compound on the whole planet – home to scientist Dr Edward Morbius, his daughter Altaira and a fantastic robot called Robby. Learning of the deaths of the others of the original group, Commander Adams decides to stay until he can contact Earth for further orders. However 'something' else is on the planet with them and the ship is subject to sabotage of key equipment. Things escalate when members of the crew are attacked and the full extent of the dangers on the planet become more and more clear.

I have seen quite a few trashy sci-fi's from the 1950's because I rather enjoy their b-movie qualities but this is far from being a genre film because it stands out from the usual sci-fi's that act as an allegory for communism (whether deliberate or in hindsight) because this film is very intelligent – although I assume it was based on the fears of the period as well, or at least I'd like to think so. Certainly, at a time when nuclear war and technology was risking the Earth, it seems only fitting that the film send a message about the destructive power of technology that the Krell were not ready to use. The script is quite intelligent even if the plot has plenty of holes in it if you're looking for them. The idea of a destructive power within the subconscious is interesting and well delivered and it is certainly a lot more thought provoking than many other sci-fi's of the period. It also has a good mix of comedy in the form of the cook and, surprisingly, Robby the Robot (one of the most famous robots in cinema history) but mainly the film succeeds because of the interesting concept and good delivery.

It's not all perfect of course and some of the plot holes are a bit of a pain if you really want to pick at them and also the need for a 'happy' ending spoils what should have been a much darker conclusion – I don't understand why the script spent so much time warning only to offer an optimistic view of the self same things that it had warned against. However, it doesn't overdo this aspect and it still works well enough

The cast are roundly solid even if some of the performances are a little bit stiff and just what you'd expect from the genre. Certainly these actors are not as adept at interacting with special effects as those working with green screen lots are – they generally look clunky when they are firing lasers or interacting with the beast. It's hard to watch Nielsen in straight roles now that I've grown up with him in his Police Squad style material but he is good enough for his material here even if he is a little bit wooden at times. Pidgeon is also a bit wooden but it fits his character and the genre and his performance is good. Anne Francis is a little off but she is a little minx and she serves her purpose on the whole. I appear to be one of the few viewers who liked Holliman's work as the comic relief cook but I must admit to finding the rest of the crew (including Kelly and Stevens) to be quite workmanlike even if they weren't 'bad' per se.

Overall this is a great piece of sci-fi that has stood up really well over the past 50 or so years. The film may look rather quaint by today's standards but it is intelligent, funny and thought provoking – true, it's not really high art but it is certainly heads and shoulders above the standards set by the rest of the genre. Not as spectacular or as action-based as many of our modern sci-fi's but it just has different qualities and is a great film that I'm surprised is not more highly considered or even mentioned on the IMDb top 250!
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Brilliant: Undiluted Pulp Science Fiction on the big screen
adaml-23 May 2000
This is the Roman Empire of Science Fiction films. All films before lead into it, and all films since flow out of it. It captures the romance, the spirit, and the nifty look of 1950's pulp science fiction. This is one science fiction movie with a theme, not just eye candy. No matter how high humanity climbs on the evolutionary scale, no matter how advanced our technology becomes, we must never forget the primal instincts of our darker nature.

This film is a masterpiece.
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Sorry "Star Wars"--the greatest Science Fiction film ever
rlcsljo1 March 2000
Sure Star Wars (a movie I have seen at least fifty times) beats all the others in special effects, but this film has every thing else!

It has horror(non-graphical), romance, robots, witty repartee, intelligence, (surprisingly good) special effects, and drama.

I saw this film a couple of years ago in a revival with a newly struck print, and I was amazed at how well it held up today. I thought the old 40's style electronics would look hokey, but they somehow looked futuristic and moderne.

Ann Francis in here (mostly) short skirts and bare feet with a girlish innocence that is hard to beat still gets a rise out of me.

The Krell monster appearing in the ray beams still scares the bejebees out of me.

Of course we all know that the "Great Bird of the Galaxy" probably modeled much of "Star Trek" from this movie.

No one has yet to beat Robby, the Robot, in terms of personality

(sorry, R2D2 and C3PO).

This movie, overall, is the standard that all other Science Fiction films will have to measure up to!

Honorable mention for the haunting electronic score which kept us all on pins and needles.
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Sci-fi Classic
mermatt2 November 2000
Like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, this film helped make sci-fi respectable instead of the stuff for silly B-movies with cheap costumes and obviously faked sets. To help strengthen the thought-level of the story, the scriptwriters included elements of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST, the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and Freudian psychology to make an enlightening tale of other-worldly mystery.

Leslie Nielsen is in his serious mode here long before he became the comic madman of the NAKED GUN movies and POLICE SQUAD television series. It is easy to see the prototypes of much of STAR TREK in this movie. The electronic soundtrack becomes a bit repetitious, but it works well as it is used in the scenes.

The short skirt on the heroine is a bit much but of course "cheesecake" was one of the things the cigar-chomping studio suits always liked in the 1950s and still do. Robbie the Robot is thrown in for some comic-relief and appeared in many other movies and television shows including LOST IN SPACE.

The most interesting aspect of the story for me was Monsters from the Id. The point being made is that the serpent is still in the Garden of Eden because we carry evil around with us wherever we go.

This is an excellent entertainment.
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Still my favorite sci-fi film
artsal22 October 1998
A number of factors make it easy for me to state that I still think this is the most important science fiction film ever made, despite some of the acting, outdated dialogue etc.

First, there is the scale of imagination in describing the Krell, a humanoid race native to the planet, now all dead, who were 1 million years more advanced than Earth humans(us), and their technology, particularly the 8,000 cubic mile machine.

Second, there is the music and sound effects, which are inseparable from each other. It creates an eerie, unearthly feeling, unlike "2001", which had traditional classical music.

Third, its "monster" is not only the most powerful and deadly ever envisioned, it's also based on real science and doesn't break the laws of physics and biology.

Finally, and most importantly, Forbidden Planet is the only movie ever made that attempts and, more incredibly, succeeds in making an honest, intelligent and mercilessly logical statement on the limits or ceiling of human (or any other biological entity's) development, no matter how long we survive as a species.

In other words, it predicts our inevitable destiny.
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The Best SF Film Of The 1950s
Theo Robertson10 June 2003
FORBIDDEN PLANET is the best SF film from the golden age of SF cinema and what makes it a great film is its sense of wonder . As soon as the spaceship lands the audience - via the ships human crew - travels through an intelligent and sometimes terrifying adventure . We meet the unforgetable Robbie , the mysterious Dr Morbuis , his beautiful and innocent daughter Altair and we learn about the former inhabitants of the planet - The Krell who died out overnight . Or did they ?

You can nitpick and say the planet is obviously filmed in a movie studio with painted backdrops but that adds to a sense of menace of claustraphobia I feel and Bebe and Louis Barron`s electronic music adds even more atmosphere

I`m shocked this film isn`t in the top 250 IMDB films .
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Classic 1950s Sci-Fi, The Best
joseph t15 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This is a film that has it all, the dashing hero, the beautiful damsel in distress, the noble figure with the tragic flaw, and a truly wonderful robot. Forbidden Planet has maintained that special magic over the years and doesn't lose its flavor with repeated viewings (although the sex appeal of the youthful Anne Francis helps considerably on that score).

Movie fans will recognize the youngish Leslie Nielsen portraying the handsome and heroic Commander Adams, although those of us who have grown fond of him in comedic roles will perhaps be a bit taken aback by his appearance in a serious role. The distinguished and noble-looking Walter Pidgeon is also a featured player as the scientist with a secret (Id). Other supporting cast deserve a nod, especially Warren Stevens as the brainy and resourceful "Doc", and of course the charms of Miss Francis, as noted above.

This film was an early pioneer in the use of electronic music, in the 1950s, no less. The credits call them "tonalities", but those of us who tried to tinker together early versions of the "Theremin" device will recognize the eerie and spooky whines and screeches sometimes used in the sound track. Still, it lends to the image of the exotic and alien landscape of the mysterious and forbidding world of the Krell.

The special effects are also quite arresting. I recall my fear as a youngster waiting for the next manifestation of the invisible "Id" monster, and when it is finally visualized in the one battle scene it literally shook me to my toes in wonder and awe. The magic of matte art is fully exploited in the dizzying scenes of the Krell scientific complex as the characters make their way through the various labyrinths and passageways, guided by the enigmatic Dr. Morbius.

I recall feeling some measure of jealously that Dr. Morbius would have such a cool toy in the form of Robby the Robot. The persona of Robby is quite charming and in some ways he seems more human than some of the other characters. Viewers of follow-on shows like Twilight Zone and Lost In Space will recognize the recycled Robby prop in some of those episodes, although I recall he never had the "personality" of the original Robby.

I must admit to not fully understanding the complexities of the plot until I was old enough to understand the various references to Freudian psychology and the danger of unleashing the hidden and normally contained fears and rage we carry within but have trained ourselves, through force of will, to submerge and control through adherence to societal codes. Although the key to the story seems obvious once revealed, it remains unknown (or perhaps deliberately overlooked) by Dr. Morbius until pointed out by the clear-thinking Commander Adams, who forces Dr. Morbius to confront the evil within himself. It still gives me goose bumps when Commander Adams pushes Dr. Morbius down before the Krell machine that endowed him with superior intellect, which opened the flood gates of his subconscious to the power of the Krell machine: "Here. Here is where your mind was artificially enlarged. Consciously it still lacked the power to operate the Great Machine. But your subconscious had been made strong enough." Zowee!

Forbidden Planet remains probably my favorite sci-fi film ever, and remains timeless and classic for its carefully crafted story and wonderful visualization and realization on the screen.
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"Prepare your minds for a scale of new scientific values gentlemen."
classicsoncall24 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The only thing I knew about this film prior to seeing it was Robby The Robot. My preconception was that it was another in a long line of cheesy sci-fi flicks that the 1950's was noted for. How wrong I was. Big studio, big budget and big production values make this a strong contender, at least visually, for the best sci-fi film coming out of the era. I qualify with the word visually, because "War Of The Worlds" is a lot darker and scarier than "Forbidden Planet", and probably fits the mold better as a foray into alien territory.

What impressed me immediately was the color rendition of the cinematography, followed by the intricacy and scope of detail involved in Dr. Morbius' (Walter Pidgeon) home and laboratory. But that was only the prelude to the icing on the cake, the labyrinthine underground that served as the Krell stronghold. It appeared that Krell technology was even more advanced than say, that of "Star Wars". Which made me consider, audiences for this movie back when it was released probably sat in the same kind of awe that theater goers experienced in 1977 with SW, or in 1986 with "Aliens". Watching it on a large screen TV in my living room offered me the same effect, and I'm fairly resistant to hyperbole.

It's not too much of a stretch to imagine "Forbidden Planet" as a direct antecedent of the 'Star Trek' TV series; Gene Roddenberry himself stated that the movie had a great impact on his vision for the show. Followers of that short lived series will readily recognize plot elements used here that turned up in 'Star Trek'. I had to do a double take when the men of United Planets Cruiser C57-V headed for a transporter room, while the conundrum presented to Robby that created an impossibility to respond was an element used at least two or three times in the ST series.

Where the movie definitely took a cerebral turn had to do with the whole idea of 'monsters from the Id'. That Morbius himself was using his subconscious mind to defend Altaire IV was certainly a unique concept for 1956, when every other sci-fi flick of the time was dealing with Martians or other grotesque space creatures. The film worked it's subtle magic on this viewer by helping me understand that Morbius was the protector of Altaire IV some time before Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen) explained it.

You know, looking at the calendar, the year 2200 isn't that far off. This movie may be the one that actually gets it right relative to exploring and living on other planets. I think though, that they'll have to come up with a sleeker looking version of Robby.
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The Granddaddy of many later sci-fi yarns
Poseidon-317 June 2005
Warning: 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.
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The seminal space movie
arbilab12 July 2004
If you like Star Wars/Trek, come see where they got all their ideas and cinematic devices. It's my top 2 favorite movies of all times, other-worldly-futuristic and psycho-thriller. The intensity of the root material (Shakespeare's "The Tempest") is not overshadowed by whizbang gimmickry (a la later Lucas). And just because it was made in 1956, don't assume you can 'see the strings' holding the flying saucer up. This was the first movie where you COULDN'T. Miracle it was made at "A-movie" scale, economics and tastes at the time were stacked heavily against it. And director Wilcox's previous 'hit' was "Lassie Come Home". Until I looked him up, I assumed 'Fred Wilcox' was a pseudonym for a director who was already or later became famous, but at the time didn't want to be associated with sci-fi, which was strictly a "B" genre back then. This was either a very VERY visionary production, or a very fortuitous 'mistake' on the part of the folks who bankroll Hollywood.

There are the massive-scale mattes with live action almost microscopically inserted that Lucas used extensively. There are intelligent machines that transcend the stereotypical 'user interface'; "computers", as they've come to be portrayed much less futuristically in later works. Star Trek's 'transporter' is there, visually, almost unaltered by Roddenberry 10 years later. And if the Trek/Wars technobabble turns you off, FP's scientific references are not overdone and are all accurate, even today. The "ship" set is comprehensive, sparklingly realistic, as good as anything you've seen since, and more convincing than anything 'Trek' has done, for TV or film. We didn't get to spend as much time there as I would have liked.

If you ever wondered how movies got into space so competently, watching FP will explain all that. It's definitely not 'Wagontrain to the Stars'.
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Incredible special effects and a somewhat compelling pulp plot
mstomaso28 February 2005
A flying saucer manned (literally) by a crew of about 20 male space explorers travels hundreds of millions of light years from earth to check in on a colony founded some 25 years ago on a 'forbidden planet.' What they find is a robot more advanced than anything imaginable on earth, a beautiful and totally socially inept young woman, and her father, a hermit philologist haunted by more than the demons of the ancient civilization he has immersed himself in.

On the surface, this story is a pulp scifi murder mystery. Some compare it to Shakespeare's Tempest, but this is a stretch, and, in some ways, an insult to the scifi genre. Stripped of what makes it a scifi film, sure, its The Tempest, but how many hundreds of films can you say something similar about?

Underneath, this is a cautionary tale about progress and technology and the social evolution necessary for its appropriate and safe use. Yet the film still proceeds with all the hopefulness for our future that we have come to expect from shows like Star Trek.

Anne Francis is not the only reason why this film is best described as beautiful. The special effects, and even the aesthetics of the backdrops are powerful enough to make the uninspired directing and uneven acting almost unnoticeable. If it were not for the goofy retro-art-deco-ness of 1950s sci-fi props, you might think you were watching a 1960s piece.

This is a classic of that very special sub-genre of sci fi I like to call 1950s sci-fi, and, though not, in my opinion, the best it is certainly a must see for anybody interested in sci-fi film and special effects. The clever plot, now rendered trite by its reuse in six or seven episodes of Star Trek, Lost in Space, and even Farscape, is worth paying attention to, and will sustain the interest of most scifi fans. Trekkers will be particularly interested in the various aspects of the film which seem to have inspired themes of Star Trek's original series aired about 12 years later, though they may find themselves disappointed by the (relatively mild) 1950s sexism and the lack of any kind of racial integration. While I do not mean to nitpick, the lack of social progress manifest in this film was the one major problem I had with it.

Some will probably see this film simply to catch a glimpse of young, good-looking Leslie Nielsen in one of his first starring roles. Unfortunately, Nielsen's performance is only average, and at times down-right poor (especially at the climax of the film). Walter Pigeon, though quite excellent in other films, over-acts his role as well. Ms Francis, Earl Holliman, and the amazing Robby the Robot are the stand-out actors in this crowd, though on the whole the character actors filling in the ensemble do a good job. The problems with the featured performances, I think, are as much the fault of the director and the editor, as anything. Though they certainly got most of the film quite right.
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Truly Great...
philip-evans20 October 2005
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!
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Unusually thoughtful sci-fi for 1950's (and even for today)
sdlitvin31 December 2002
At a time when science fiction movies were invariably cheap rubber monsters attacking our cities and scaring our women, "Forbidden Planet" offered an usually thought-provoking plot that worked on a number of levels. Today, too many sci-fi movies are nothing but computer-generated special effects extravaganzas masking the lack of thoughtful plot and characterization. "Forbidden Planet" had awesome special effects for their time (many of which still hold up well today)--but these were used to effectively support the multifaceted plot and characterizations, not try to compensate for their lack.

The Shakespearean ("The Tempest") and Freudian ("Id-monster") elements have been noted by many critics. In the 1950's, with the atomic and hydrogen bombs so new and terrifying, other sci-fi movies had asked whether man had the wisdom to use all the new science for good rather than evil. But they usually dealt with that solely on a surface level, by just having some monster created with the new science that comes out and kills a bunch of people. Only "Forbidden Planet" dared to actually delve into the depths of human psychology to see what our baser instincts are capable of when given full rein. It directly refuted the notion that all that new science and technology was somehow civilizing humanity. The Krell, a far more advanced race than we, are never seen on screen (only their artifacts are shown, leaving you to imagine what they looked like). But their disappearance is a warning that even a far more advanced race like they, couldn't escape the baser instincts and subconscious drives deep within their own brains--so what of man?

One subplot that is less often discussed, but equally well thought out, is the scenes with Altaira and the tiger, an allusion to the myth of the virgin and the unicorn. Until Altaira meets the male crew of the C-57-D, she is virginal and the tiger is a tame beast in her presence. After she has her romantic interludes with Farman and the captain, the tiger attacks her. (Being the 1950's, the dialogue only subtly suggests what has happened.)

For "Star Trek" fans, it's worth seeing "Forbidden Planet" just to list all the parallels between "Forbidden Planet" and "Star Trek: The Original Series". The basic theme (a "United Planets" spaceship explores a strange new world), the characters and characterizations, the weapons, and even the special effects all seem to have unconsciously inspired Gene Roddenberry to create his own vision.
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Mid-Century Moderne as sci-fi
holly24 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Forbidden Planet rates as landmark in science fiction, carefully staying within "hard" aspects of the genre (science -- not fantasy, ergo nerds will love it) while still playing with imagery and ideas of contemporary 1950s values. Morbius's isolated house is a model of modern design with open spaces that step out into sculpted gardens, a swimming pool, and the ultimate home appliance: Robby the Robot. "A housewife's dream!" exclaims the Captain after lunch and a demonstration of the robot's abilities to synthesize food and disintegrate waste.

Also revealing to the 1950s: Fruedian psychology rears its head in the Id explanation, although Morbius dismisses it as an outdated concept. There is a touch of the Pacific war drama in the battle with the invisible monster and life aboard the saucer. Perhaps most timely is the post-atomic fear that Science is the enemy, and arrogant scientists will unwittingly bring down destruction in their blind quest for knowledge.

Yet the suburban drama presented by Forbidden Planet seems uniquely fresh in the sci-fi genre. They aren't swashbucklers or heroes, but ordinary sailors crossing the galaxy with a serviceman's crudeness and honesty. The good guys drive the flying saucer, and the aliens are so long gone we don't even know what they looked like -- although their music er-"atmospheric tonalities" by Bebe and Louis Barron are remarkably futuristic today. The views from Morbius' house are truly alien with jagged cliffs and pink bonsais. The interior of the saucer is just this side of Buck Rogers. There's a lot visually to like. Although we get fantastic monsters and robots for the kiddies, Forbidden Planet is a cerebral movie, slow paced and talky. It is working on many levels at once: hard sci-fi against space adventure, philosophical against domestic.

There are many suburban touches. In spite of all their space-talk, the soldiers are dressed for the golf course. Morbius' fatal discovery is a humble educational facility, a schoolhouse. The most interesting character is Morbius' daughter Altaira. Having never seen a man she is unashamedly forward to the crew. She's a post-Madonna teen who designs her own space-age clothes and takes every opportunity to change outfits -- imagine Christina Aguilera with a household replicator. Men watching the film might see her as a naive girl in a minidress, but every woman knows there is no such thing as a naive girl in a minidress. Anne Francis deserves better recognition for humiliating the Leut with kisses. Alas we'll never know if she was "working" him as he suspects, since the Captain interrupts and becomes a more interesting target for her attention. She is the character who makes the important change in the film. Shocked that her father compares the dead Doc to the other "embeciles" in his landing party, she turns away from her father, her home, to leave with the sailors for Earth. It's this act of defiance, of maturity, that sends Morbius' Id creature over the edge, allegorically destroying its creator just as it did thousands of centuries earlier to the Krell.

Maybe the Krell had teenage daughters too...?
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Awesome prologue to any future meta-technology
Oceans1714 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
***Major spoilers ahead***

Cheesy FX and a robot from the 50s may hide the most intellectually powerful sci fi movie before 2001, Tarkovski's Solaris, Planet of the Apes or Blade Runner. In fact, in terms of science fiction, it is impossible to surpass Forbidden Planet because its extrapolation of technology is complete: what happens if you have a fully accomplished technology, i.e., an immediate control of mind over matter? You must face the roar of your unconscious mind (the ID monsters) which of course you can not avoid because you (human, krell or whatever) are the product of a biological evolution and even your most sophisticated reflections are build upon the instinctive layers of the brain. All other great sci fi movies, or books, tell us the same: no matter how fast you run away from yourself riding the technological wave, you will ultimately clash with the limits of your self. Turn into the next step of evolution (2001), into an alien (Solaris), an ape (Planet of the Apes) or an android (Blade Runner): you still are somebody, and everybody has an ego.

Forbidden Planet is ultimate science fiction, and as such it hints that the only way out of the trap of our mind is self-knowledge.

The shots within the huge Krell machine are awesome, specially when you see three tiny men (Morbius, the captain and the doctor) on a catwalk in the middle of an extremely wide shaft. They appear to be real people walking, not animated FX (they even cast shadows on the catwalk), and the composite with the shaft background is perfect, even with the camera moving! I still wonder how they managed to do that in the 50s: visually and conceptually awesome. At least that FX shot is not, and will never be, dated.

Ten out of ten. A gem for those able to appreciate it.
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Stuff He Dare Not Dream About
bkoganbing21 November 2007
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.
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such an intelligent story
gordon elsey18 December 2007
Warning: 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.

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Digging below the surface of this sci-fi classic
Frenchda9920 August 2004
Many comments have been made about Forbidden Planet. It was the prototype for what later became a golden age of science fiction. It was an sci-fi epic based on Shakespeare's Tempest. It featured great acting from Walter Pigeon and Leslie Nielsen (most people are surprised that Nielsen was really a fine actor at one time), and an excellent supporting case, most of whom achieved later success, mostly on TV. It featured one of the great classic story lines from all of science fiction. It was visionary in combining classic Disney animation with live actors. It featured new concepts: electronic music, hyper-drive, Clystron relays, Freudian subconscious id monsters.

But apart from the last line of movie ("... will remind us that we are after all, not God"), very few comments has been made about the religious side of the movie's message. It was, after all, Commander Adams who opened up that part of the dialogue when he told Morbius, "All of us are part monsters in our subconscious. That's why we have laws and religion." That confluence of Freudian psychiatry and religion must have rankled people in the 1950s', who were trying to replace religious concepts with the teachings of Freud. But the movie went further than that. Morbius actually went through the process of repentance. At first, self-denial ("I'm not a monster"). Then realization of guilt ("Yes, I must be guilty"). Then confession ("My evil self is at that door, and I have no power to stop it"). Finally, giving up the sin and the self-created "monster" ("Stop, Don't come any further. I deny you. I give you up."), along with great sorrow and regret.

It was also the intent of the movie to claim that the tragic mistake of the Krell was in their attempt to link their subconscious minds and imaginations to their super-powerful matter generator in order to give themselves god-like powers. The attempt to transcend the limitations of mortality must have impressed on the Krell the need to reach beyond the merely human or finite and to somehow experience the infinite, through true creation. The horrible tragedy of this attempt echoes the Garden of Eden when Satan says to Eve, "if you eat of the apple you will not die but you will surely be like God".

The intellectual arrogance of the Krell and Morbius doomed them to extinction. One reason why this movie continues to draw our attention, even 50 years later, is its great moral lesson. As we use technology and become more and more dependent on it, the day will finally come when that technology will do the bidding of our very thoughts. Then we will have crawled to the point where the Krell stood in their moment of triumph, tragedy and annihilation.

At that moment we will need to heed the final line, once more, that we are after all, not God, or face our own imminent destruction.
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Consistently fun, entertaining, inventive, and smart
ametaphysicalshark9 March 2008
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 sci-fi.

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.

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One of a Kind
Uriah4316 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Having received no communication from a group of colonists on the planet Altair IV, the space craft C-57D is sent on a long distance voyage to investigate. Upon arrival they learn that only one person from the original colony, "Dr. Edward Morbius" (Walter Pidgeon) has managed to survive. However, he is fortunate to have a daughter named "Altaira" (Anne Francis) who was born before the rest of colonists died and she keeps him company along with a robot Dr. Morbius created called "Robby". Although Robby is certainly quite interesting it is Altaira who gets the most attention from the crew of the C-57D. Of course, the fact that it is an all male crew and they have been in space for a very long time has much to do with that. But possibly even more intriguing is the scientific equipment and knowledge left behind on the planet by a former alien species known as the Krell which is much more advanced than anything either Dr. Morbius or the captain of the C-57D, "Commander John J. Adams" (Leslie Nielsen) have ever seen. Unfortunately, despite all of the knowledge and beauty this planet has to offer there is an evil being who also lives there and it is intent on destroying everybody who gets in its way. Now rather than reveal any more of this movie and risk spoiling it for those who haven't seen it I will just say that this is an amazing science-fiction movie which still retains its charm despite being almost 60 years old. Obviously, the special effects aren't nearly as good when compared to today's standards--but even so they aren't that bad either. Likewise, the corny dialogue is equally a product of its time and in conjunction with the special effects causes the movie to seem quite dated. Yet despite all of these factors this particular film is still superior to many of the science-fiction movies made today. It is truly one of a kind. Having said that, I believe that this particular movie belongs in the collection of every serious science-fiction fan. Accordingly, I rate this movie as definitely above average.
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