This 1956 pop adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest
is one of the best, most influential science fiction movies ever made. Its space explorers are the models for the crew of Star Trek
, and the film's robot is clearly the prototype for Robby in Lost in Space
. Walter Pidgeon is the Prospero figure, presiding over a paradisiacal world with his lovely young daughter and their servile droid. When the crew of a spaceship lands on the planet, they become aware of a sinister invisible force that threatens to destroy them. Great special effects and a bizarre electronic score help make this movie as fresh, imaginative, and fun as it was when first released. --Amazon.com
On the DVDs
On disc 1 of the colorfully designed 2-disc 50th Anniversary Edition of Forbidden Planet (also available in a collector's box), the movie is presented with a new digital transfer from restored picture and audio elements, with soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1, offering considerable improvement over the film's previous DVD release. A selection of deleted scenes were taken from a faded and scratchy 16-millimeter "work print" that had originally been viewed by composers Louis and Bebe Barron as they were creating the film's unique electronic score; they consist of full or partial scenes cut from the final film-- mostly for good reason, but collectors (and those who first saw this rare material on the original Criterion Collection laserdisc) will welcome their inclusion here. The "lost footage" is crude special-effects test footage, primarily of interest to sci-fi historians and aficionados. Given the fact that the original "Robby the Robot" cost over $100,000 to build in 1955, it's easy to see why MGM wanted to get their money's worth: An excerpt from the 1950s TV series "MGM Parade" shows Forbidden Planet star Walter Pigeon appearing briefly with Robby, and the popular robot gets even more attention as a guest star in "The Robot Client," an episode of the Thin Man TV series (starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk) that originally aired on Feb. 28, 1958. Disc 1 also includes a gallery of seven science-fiction movie trailers dating from 1953 (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms) to 1960's The Time Machine.
Disc 2 begins with 1957's The Invisible Boy, a still-enjoyable B-movie that served as Robby's post-Forbidden Planet showcase. Here, filmdom's favorite automaton plays sidekick to a young boy (Richard Eyer) who turns invisible when he gets caught up in a super-computer's scheme of global domination. Also included are three documentaries, ranging from very good to excellent: In addition to reuniting the surviving cast members of the '56 classic (including Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis, Richard Anderson, Warren Stevens, and Earl Holliman), "Amazing! Exploring the Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet" is an appreciative tribute to Forbidden Planet with some of Hollywood's foremost sci-fi fans including special effects masters Dennis Muren and Phil Tippett, SF movie expert Bill Warren, and others. "Robby the Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon" is a featurette about the robot's design, creation and pop-cultural history, featuring original "Robby" designer Robert Kinoshita, Bill Malone (current owner of the original Robby), and Fred "The Robot Man" Barton, a lifelong robot fanatic who now sells fully authorized, full-scale replicas of Robby for sci-fi fans with deep pockets. Closing out disc 2 is "Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us," a 2005 documentary from Turner Classic Movies, written and directed by Time magazine critic Richard Schickel. It's a thoroughly comprehensive survey of '50s sci-fi and its influence on the next generation of film directors, including engaging interviews with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Ridley Scott and James Cameron. --Jeff Shannon