on November 13, 2006
There are now out *four* different versions of the 50th Anniversary edition of "Forbidden Planet": 2 standard (480i) DVD sets and 2 HD-DVD sets. Both formats are available as either a super-deluxe, Ultimate Collector's Edition set offered in a thick, green and red engraved hinged metal box, as well as a standard 2-disc sleeved set. Both come with lots extras, especially the metal Ultimate. I highly recommend them to everyone if you're so inclined toward lavish DVD sets. Being a longtime "Forbidden Planet" fan and collector, I'm planning on buying the other three variant sets, too, because, well, I'm obsessed with FP and by now have lost all sense of proportion when "collecting" this terrific film.
The Ultimate Collector's Edition metal box set is described on its' outer, partial card stock cover--and be careful when removing this as it's tricky and can be easily torn--as being made of a "unique metal alloy." (Hmm. Indestructible Krell metal perhaps???) Frankly, this deluxe set is everything I had hoped it would be, though I do have some quibble(see below). Overall, though, it's a beautiful package. One of the best super-deluxe DVD sets ever produced. It even includes a proper *gunmetal gray* 3.5" Robby (not black, as some supposed "film experts" have asserted for years) and a set of smallish FP lobby card reproductions in a printed sleeve. As an extra bonus for this release, you also get Robby's other 50s science fiction film "The Invisible Boy" and a set of smallish lobby card repros for it, too.
At last this science fiction masterpiece (classic just isn't good enough) has gotten the super-deluxe treatment--and complete digital restoration--it has long deserved. The digital picture and 5.1 sound are a marvel. FP has never looked or sounded this good--ever! I've seen FP on the big CinemaScope screen a half a dozen times in the last 50 years, including a very nice 50th Anniversary revival house print. Plus, I have all the earlier video/laserdisc/DVD releases. I went over to a neighbor's home the evening I purchased this set (11-9-06) and watched a portion of this new digital remastering in 480p (progressive scan) on a 1-year old, 50" plasma display home theatre set-up. It was to die for. *TILT!* Even on my standard ratio 480i home theatre it looks spectacular. I can't imagine that FP could be much better looking in the new HD-DVD format. Let's face it, you can only push the film stock of a 50-year old CinemaScope print just so far, even when reformatting from a fine-grain vault print.
While you can currently order these DVDs cheaper here, at least for the present, I decided to pay $10.00 more locally ($49.95, which included tax) for an early release just so I could have it *Right Now* and also so I could insure getting a pristine, undamaged, set. (I've had shipping/packing damage problems to the sides/edges when ordering other deluxe metal DVD sets through the mail, notably the 1933 "King Kong" and Disney "Tomorrowland" releases).
Of special note on this set are two new documentaries done especially for the 50th Anniversary release: "Amazing! Exploring the Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet" and "Robby the Robot: Engineering a Sci-Fi Icon." They're worth the price of this set alone, IMO. Very nicely done.
My only disappointment--and I consider it a major oversight that the material was left out--is that virtually all of the supplementary material originally included on Criterion's 1989 two-disc (CAV) laserdisc release is not here. Especially MGM's original "Fatal Planet" screen treatment that clearly showed that FP started out as just another B-grade, bottom-of-the-bill programmer and then evolved into to a first-rate A production. However, scenes (and partial scenes) originally edited out of FP (taken from Louis and Bebe Barron's surviving original film score work print) are included in this new set as an extra. In fact, to my eye, it looks like the Criterion masters were used for this DVD transfer. For most this will be the first time these "lost" scenes will be seen. So I'm now planning on having the rest of that important "Making of Forbidden Planet" laserdisc material burned on to a DVD-R and then simply include it my copy of this new release.
Frankly, I wouldn't have missed the extra "The Invisible Boy" feature that's also here, though it's obvious why it was offered in the set; or even the inaccurate 3.5" Robby miniature included--the shape of his head/carapace is wrong (too fat), among other detail problems. But that's just me. I have every confidence that this Ultimate Collector's Eition will receive high marks from both reviewers and fellow "Forbidden Planet" aficionados everywhere.
BTW, for those that might not have seen them, issues #97 and #98 (from 2003 and still available from the publisher) of the long-running film magazine FilmFax contain an authoritative two-part article: "The Making of Forbidden Planet." Both come highly recommended. This two-part article is similar in scope to the famous 20-year old "Forbidden Planet" double-issue of Cinefantastique (CFQ). While it duplicates some of the same material, there's enough new/different material in these two FilmFax issues to make acquiring them worthwhile. All three magazines taken together give an extremely thorough history of FP's creation and production. I would also refer you to another recent issue of FilmFax, #108 (#112 is the current issue out as I post this.) It contains an authoritative article on the restoration of the original Robby the Robot to his original form, done for his owner Bill Malone, by Fred Barton whose company makes a full-sized, fully articulated (and very $$$!) 1-to-1 Robby reproduction. (There's an ad flyer insert for Barton's Robby included with this new FP release.) Both Malone and Barton, with their Robbies, are seen throughout the two DVD documentaries mentioned above.