Forbidden Planet (1956)

Directed by Fred M. Wilcox
Cinematography George J. Folsey

Forbidden Planet is noted for pioneering several aspects of science fiction cinema. For instance, it was the first science fiction picture to depict humans traveling in a faster-than-light starship of their own creation. It was also the first to be set entirely on another planet in interstellar space, far away from Earth. Outside of science fiction, the film was groundbreaking as the first of any genre to use an entirely electronic musical score, courtesy of Bebe and Louis Barron.

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In the year 2257, a distant star has three inhabitants. Professor Morbius, his bewitching daughter, and Robby the Robot. When a space cruiser from Earth lands on the planet, the story develops into an adventure fantasy with romance. Special Edition pack with original cinema trailer and a set of illustrated cards.

Brilliant: Undiluted Pulp Science Fiction on the big screen

3 May 2000 | by adaml-2 (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

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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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

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
10 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Thinking People’s Science Fiction

10/10
Author: Hitchcoc from United States
25 April 1999
*** This review may contain 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.

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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.

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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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Incredible special effects and a somewhat compelling pulp plot

7/10
Author: mstomaso from Vulcan
28 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?

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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.

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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.

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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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