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A dutiful robot named Robby speaks 188 languages. An underground lair provides astonishing evidence of a populace a million years more advanced than Earthlings. There are many wonders on Altair-4, but none is greater or more deadly than the human mind. Forbidden Planet is the granddaddy of tomorrow, a pioneering work whose ideas and style would be reverse-engineered into many cinematic space voyages to come. Leslie Nielsen portrays the commander who brings his spacecruiser crew to the green-skied Altair-4 world that's home to Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), his daughter (Anne Francis), the remarkable Robby...and to a mysterious terror. Featuring sets of extraordinary scale and the first all-electronic musical soundscape in film history, Forbidden Planet is in a movie orbit all its own.
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's Enterprise, 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.
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Also in 1956, MGM decided to make an A-list movie with unprecedented cinematography with a strong, cerebral theme more befitting the best of SF literature of the time; and this is it. "Forbidden Planet" is the grandfather of all serious science fiction movies. It broke the ground for all the serious SF films to come, inspiring budding film makers around the globe. Without it, it's likely that we never would have seen Star Trek, Star Wars, ET, Close Encounters, or any of the other space-themed tales that we have enjoyed over the past 60 years.
Amazingly, there's very little about "Forbidden Planet" that seems dated, even today. This Blu-Ray release makes it available for a whole new generation of SF fans to enjoy! The cook is pretty corny; every Hollywood movie had some sort of comic-relief character in those days. The interior of the space ship is rather roomy and devoid of the scratches, dust, and wear we'd seen in a well-done set today.
This version comes packaged with some incredible bonus material, including the oddly named movie, "The Invisible Boy," which is kind of a sequel to "Forbidden Planet." The setting for "The Invisible Boy" is about 300 years before C57D space cruiser landed on Altair 4, but they get Robby the Robot into the story with a bit of off-screen time-travel hand-waving. It's really a story about a scary computer that wants to take over the world and how Robby saves the day. There's a boy who does turn invisible, but the film would have been much better without the boy in it at all.
The disc also includes an episode of "The Thin Man" where Robby once again steals every scene he's in, along with some great commentaries on "Forbidden Planet" featuring several of today's leading film directors. Wonderful stuff; nicely packaged.
By the time Forbidden Planet came along in 1956, there were easily twenty or more sci-fi releases per year, many of them of the attack by space invaders or giant mutated creatures variety. 1956 also saw The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Earth vs Flying Saucers, 20 Million Miles to Earth and Godzilla King of Monsters. Forbidden Planet took a different tack: the Earth isn't in the film at all and the "creatures" are not the usual atomic mutation. it has become in retrospect one of the most famous and beloved of science fiction films. The good news is that it still holds up, as fascinating and intense as ever.
The film was given quite a big budget and boasts a cast of solid actors, glorious if obviously man-made sets and animated special effects and an innovative electronic score. Oh yes, and Robbie the Robot's premiere, too. the acting mostly focuses on a stentorian-voiced Walter Pigeon as the intense Dr. Morbius who seems to be hiding something and a young, up and coming Leslie Nielsen, in those days a leading man, as Commander Adams, leader of a mission to find out what happened to the crew who were exploring the fourth planet of the star Altair. Anne Francis provides a love interest for the Commander and Earl Holliman, who became a fixture in Westerns, is the mission's cook and provider of comic relief.
The film divides itself into three parts. In the first part the crew ignores Dr. Morbius's plea not to land, and their encounters with Dr. Morbius, his daughter Altaira and their faithful robot, Robbie. Viewers with today's heightened sensitivities to various cultural and political issues need to be advised that the first part is full of 50's attitudes that would be considered sexist today. One needs to notice that all of this was intended as a basically humorous setup and that there is no usu in criticizing the mores of past times from a future standpoint. The second section is the heart and soul of the film, where Dr. Morbius takes the Commander and ship's Doctor Ostrow on a tour of the immense underground machine left by the Krell, the previous occupants of the planet who died out eons ago. Morbius explains the entire history of the Krell as they wander through an animated set that retains its awesomeness today. It's an enthralling scene. The third section begins with a series of attacks on the crew and their ship and the resolution of everything.
Forbidden Planet was far more than the usual attack by giant bugs or saucers (in fact, the crew's ship is a saucer and not a rocket). It ultimately leads to thoughts about the fragility of life on any planet and the fitness of beings who claim to be its rulers or stewards. it neatly takes on the underlying anxieties of the Fifties, the Atom Bomb and Cold War, and questions whether mankind is ready for power of this destructive capacity. A very fine and worthwhile film.
Despite being science fiction, there's a strong patriarchal streak in this film that firmly dates it in the 1950s, but it is still enjoyable as a product of its time. Nielsen plays a leading man character, much unlike his later comic roles. It would be easy to see this as a precursor to the "Star Trek" pilot, "The Cage," with its highbrow science-fiction elements and use of literary motifs. Interestingly, "Star Trek" would itself adapt "The Tempest" in the 1969 episode "Requiem for Methuselah." This is a must-watch for fans of classic science fiction and the effects are still enjoyable and well-done.