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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all, this is the best science fiction movie ever made. Only Aliens comes close. I feel that the best and most interesting part of the movie was the description Dr. Morbius gave of the Krell race, particularly regarding how many shafts there were, their size, and the machines that self-survived to make the inner workings of the planet continue for centuries. The scariest part was when the red monster (alive only because of Morbius' thoughts) came down the valley to the electro-field and killed one of the crew members. That thing was terrifying, and the special effects were WAY ahead of their time. An absolutely terrific movie!
I first saw this one when it was initially released. I was in college
at the time, and was a heavy reader of science fiction. I liked the
film when I first saw it, and like it to this day. I even got a
widescreen DVD of it.
There have been many comments about the story's relationship to Shakespeare's The Tempest, so I won't beat that to death. I have heard that the "electronic tonalities" by Louis and Bebe Barron were developed to sidestep the need for Union musicians, but I've not been able to verify it.
The film was set far enough in the future so that it could be a true science fiction film. Unlike many of the more serious films of the time, the characters didn't spend a lot of time explaining phenomena to each other, which is a good touch: someone with a laser pointer today doesn't stop to explain the mechanics of lasing to an associate when making a presentation, in today's context.
IMHO, this is not the greatest film of its genre, though it's a good one. Certainly one worth viewing multiple times.
The 1956 movie, "Forbidden Planet", was the first science fiction film
produced for $1 million by a major studio, MGM. The film excels in many
aspects, particularly its exceptionally intelligent story. Its flaws
are minor. The film is based on a story/screen treatment, "Fatal
Planet", by special effects expert, Irving Block and his writing
partner, Allen Adler. The screenplay was written by Cyril Hume;
directed by Fred Wilcox. Filmed in CinemaScope and Eastmancolor.
"Forbidden Planet" boasts of great technical achievements in special
effects,set and art design for that time period: Art Lonergan's sets of
the spaceship, Morbius' home and the Krell laboratory were lavish,
massive and stunning. The planet Altair IV's strange but beautiful
atmosphere was achieved via a 10,000 ft cyclorama painting. The 6'11"
Robby The Robot was a superb effects design, as was the "Id Monster",
created by Disney Animator, Joshua Meador. The eerie, all-electronic
score by Louis and Bebe Barron, was a first, originally planned to be
only a special effects subpart of Harry Partch's traditional score.
Under the patronage of avant garde' composer, John Cage, the Barrons
created a score more experimental than compositional: modeled on
emotional reactions of human nervous systems through cybernetics. The
story, set in 2257 CE, involves Commander Adams and crew travelling
from Earth to Altair IV, some 17 light years away, to investigate the
whereabouts of an Earth expedition sent there 20 years earlier. They
find only Dr. Morbius, his daughter and their trusty robot, Robby.
Morbius tells Adams that the Belleraphon crew died at the hands of a
mysterious invisible monster. Morbius tries to discourage the
investigation, but to no avail; matters worsen when Adams and Altaira
become romantically involved. Suddenly, various members of Adams' crew
are mysteriously killed; it turns out that Morbius, having gained great
knowledge and power via technology of the Krell - a super-advanced
civilization who once inhabited Altair IV - is once again
subconsciously creating via telekinetic materialization, the very
monster he claimed to have killed the Earth colony. In the end, Morbius
is destroyed along with his Id Monster, while Adams, Altaira and
remaining crew return safely to Earth as Altair IV blows up via a
thermo-nuclear detonation device. FP's story,loosely based on
Shakespeare's "The Tempest", features Walter Pigeon(Dr.Morbius)as
similar to Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan; Anne Francis(Altaira) as
his beautiful daughter like Prospero's daughter, Miranda; Morbius'
Robby The Robot similar to Prospero's dutiful servant, the spirit
Ariel; Leslie Neilson(Commander Adams) analogous to Ferdinand, Prince
of Naples; and Morbius' subconscious "Id Monster" paralleling Caliban,
the Witch Child. Comparative Analysis: Similarities between "FP"
characters and those of "The Tempest": Morbius and Prospero both live
in remote locations, the first on a planet, latter on an island. Both
have sheltered daughters who have had little human contact and are to
be romantically involved with suitors from afar. Both men have acquired
great power and knowledge, Morbius via advanced alien technology and
Prospero by magic. Both have non-human faithful servants, Morbius has
Robby while Prospero has the airy spirit, Ariel. Commander Adams is the
suitor of Altaira and Ferdinand,Price of Naples is suitor of Miranda,
both men have honorable titles. Altaira and Miranda are similar young
women who have been raised solely by their fathers for many years and
know little of the world. Morbius' "Monster of the Id" and Caliban, the
Witch Child, are analogous insofar as they are evil, elemental, bestial
entities. Both are called "monsters" in respective dialogue.
Differences - Morbius is fatally flawed, while Prospero is not.
Morbius' possessiveness of both daughter and Krellian knowledge proves
to be his undoing. OTOH, Prospero uses his knowledge and power to
punish and discipline in a constructive way to benefit of all,
including his enemies. Morbius' "Id monster" and Caliban are different
in that former is an internally projected-outward materialization,
while latter is a true entity unto himself. Prospero always has Caliban
under control, even to the end, while this is not the case with
Morbius. It is interesting to note that in "The Tempest", Ariel
oscillates between visibility and invisibility, while in "FP" , it is
the "Id Monster". (The Id, a Freudian conception, denotes an
instinctual part of the psyche seeking constant gratification,
regardless of the consequences to others; e.g., Caliban attempting to
rape Miranda, in spite of previous kindness from her and her father.)
The film and play end differently due to character differences in
Morbius and Prospero: "Forbidden Planet" on a bittersweet note, and
"The Tempest" on one of a fairy tale.
Concluding Comments: Dr. Morbius called the Krell, "A mighty and noble race", yet they vanished thousands of years earlier, leaving one to presume that they had psyches similar to Earthians, and like Morbius to come, succumbed to powerful subconscious "Id Monsters", i.e., the dark sides of themselves. Seen thusly, "Forbidden Planet" is a cautionary tale about various civilizations and individuals limited capacities to control immense power. "Forbidden Planet" always seems to inspire awe and wonder,as well as intelligent discussion and rightfully deserves a place alongside other enduring sci-fi classics as "Metropolis", "War of the Worlds" and "2001: A Space Odyssey".
As a member of the FX crew, I never thought at the time that we were
creating a film classic. This was "Metro's first attempt at SciFi and
departments were given some leverage on budget. One problem that caused
serious consideration to shelving the project was the Musician's strike.
Our music department was the greatest in the industry and we looked
to a breathtaking score. But it was not to happen. The film was
and a husband & wife team was retained to create the score using a (I may
mis-spell it) Ferimin electronic synth. Some of us were very
with the results thinking the production was
less than what we wanted. Who knew the public would love it. And who
to disagree. It's wonderful that so many of you love our picture after
years. It's good to be alive.
"Forbidden Planet" is a landmark genre film. For starters, it's one of the rare sci-fi films of the 50s that received (except for the cast, outside of Walter Pidgeon, though some went on to become marquee names) A-list treatment. It's a lavish cinemascope production from the sets and costumes to special effects. As a measure of its influence down through the years, "The Twilight Zone" tv show often borrowed its props, "Star Trek" used it as a conceptual template, Robbie the Robot is still a sci-fi icon, and even its theme--that men despite technical advancements are unfit to be gods--is repeated in the movie "Sphere." Although the narrative and camera techniques are showing their age more and more as time passes, "Forbidden Planet" can still be enjoyed today on the level of exploring ideas.
I had always loved this movie as a child and when I was 16 I begged my mom to make me an outfit like Anne Francis wore for my Halloween costume. Surprisingly she and my grandmother worked together and had it done in one day! That Halloween I wore a shoulder length blonde wig and a white mini-dress with gold trim and a gold chain belt. I was a hit at the high school Halloween party and later that year I wore the same outfit again when I played The Ghost Of Christmas Past in the drama club version of "A Christmas Carol". Many thanks Anne Francis (if you ever read this) you helped me through adolescence!
There were a lot of 50's sci-fi movies. They were big draws for the Drive-in theaters. A lot of them were crappy even back then. This movie and 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' stand out, and both have aged well in their own way. From the very beginning with its eerie theremin musical score (which still sounds weird since theremins are hardly ever used) Forbidden Planet takes you where no man has gone before. Speaking of Star Trek there's so much material in this film that got into Star Trek TOS its like a pilot for the series; from the interactive captain/first mate/doctor, the mad scientist, alien beings, babe in short skirt, computer intelligence; it is all de rigeur now but this was the first of its kind. Besides, it has good acting and well-done artwork which even today evokes a certain awe at the imagery. Consider how the huge Krell machine is successfully depicted with some real depth. I saw this as a kid (at a drive-in :0)when it was a new movie and it scared me. Of course every movie that was even vaguely scary did back then but I remember being real worried about the invisible monster. Forbidden Planet is a movie a sci-fi fan can watch several times and find something new with each viewing.
If you want to see a true classic of the scifi genre, go for Forbidden Planet. While its 1956 tag may make you think it sucks big time, you sure won´t be disappointed. There is absolutely NOTHING CHEESY about this movie, as we could expect. The FX (graphic as well as sound) are brilliant, as good as those of 20 years younger Star Wars (okay, the synth sound fx are cheesy, but what the hell. it contributes to the atmosphere), cinematography is awesome and the plot is very clever. Yes, indeed, we have seen such plot a hundred times since, but remember this movie is from 1956. You will find lots of resemblances in there, such as the Star Trek-like captain-doctor relationship or Star Wars-like mega-storeys ventilation shaft. I wonder why this film has so little attention nowadays, it certainly deserves more.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
******Spoiler or Two*******
Forbidden Planet was perhaps the most intelligent sci-fi movie of the fifties, taking title with War of the Worlds and The Thing as best of the era. The ambience and plot seem almost like an episode of Star Trek, albeit with a flying saucer instead of the Enterprise.
The plot was far reaching for the day, talking about aliens hundreds of thousands of years old, and the special effects were marvels of originality, trying to encompass the huge underground world of the lost alien race. The scene of the beast trying to break through the electric fence is still good today, although Robbie the Robot is a square throwback to another time. The musical score was probably the first ever made on a computer, back in an era when most people would never even see never mind use a computer, but although it took over year to make it just sounds weird and further dates the film.
The science was well thought out for the time, but still has a few blips, such as atomic power and radiation being key to everything. It's partly understandable, as the fifties was a time when people thought we would be colonizing the galaxy by the twenty-first century, and the recently discovered atomic energy would do it for us. It's kind of like how modern movies tie DNA into all kinds of ridiculous things, such as bringing people back with all their memories from a few cells.
It may be dated, and not show the sophistication we have with today's technology, but Forbidden Planet is still a thinking movie worth seeing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although the special effects and acting will seem somewhat dated today this film was far ahead of its time. Imagine a dead alien race who had created a machine that could make all of their dreams come true. Thats what the interplanetary explorers discover on Altair 4 a planet inhabited by only two survivors, a scientist and his daugher plus their very own robot. Our new arrivals keep losing crewman until they discover that whoever or whatever had destroyed the alien Krell is now trying to destroy them. We discover that the Monsters are from the ID. Great ending ties it all together if you haven't guessed.
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