on April 27, 2004
4.5 stars. Nearly fifty years later it is truly amazing how fresh this movie still looks and feels. I have always believed the primary component of any lasting film is a great story. As a child I was as mesmerized by this film as much as I was with "Star Wars." The script is both highly intelligent and highly entertaining, with much more humor and believable horror than one would expect from a 1956 film. The direction is polished and inventive, with arcing tracking shots and clever editing techniques strewn throughout the picture. The acting here is very good, with a defining performance from Walter Pidgeon as Doctor Morbius, and a surprising dramatic turn from later-day comic actor Leslie Nielsen. The supporting cast all shine, each one containing more depth of character than is normally given to secondary roles. There is a tidy ending where a chain-reaction is started by merely turning a disc then throwing a switch, with irreversible effects. A Master Race of beings create a machine 20-miles-squared that can be destroyed that easily? Not likely. Regardless, this is still one of the best Sci-fi films from the 1950s. Thank you.
on February 14, 2004
This is one of those movies that I love to watch over and over again. There's just something about the movie that draws me to it. The acting, for the most part, is laughable. Leslie Nielsen--back when he was still doing serious roles (how old is that guy?)--is particularly funny when trying to look his most serious. Just check out the expression on Nielsen's face when Morbius tells Nielsen of his premonition of death. You also have a young Richard "The Six Million Dollar Man" Anderson as the chief engineer and an equally youthful Earl "Police Woman" Holliman as the burbon-guzzling cook.
Walter Pigeon, in the role of Dr. Edward Morbius, a marooned scientist who has developed a god complex, is probably the only actor who plays his character to a high level of credibility. Rounding out the major players is Anne Francis, who plays Altaira, Morbius's "come hither" daughter.
Francis, too, gave me cause to laugh in this movie. She starts out as a 20-something, naive nature lover who's never kissed a man and, in the space of a couple of days, turns into a deliberately passionate woman who throws herself into the arms of Neilsen and spouts off lines like: "I'm ready to go with you, darling." Pretty funny stuff.
Now, I don't want you to think I'm trying to trash the movie. The story is excellent, although it was regarded as being too cerebral at the time of its release (with it's talk of "the Id"). Mindful of their viewing audience at the drive-ins of the day, moviemakers eventually placed emphasis on Robbie the Robot--Morbius's mechanical helper who can balance ten tons of metal shielding in the palm of one hand (and not tip over or sink into the ground!).
The story isn't all that complicated. A ship is sent to check on another ship that landed on the planet Altair 4 years earlier. They arrive to find everybody dead except Morbius and his daughter. Nielsen wants to evacuate the two, but Morbius has found the remnants of an now-perished civilization called the Krell and doesn't want to leave. Using their technology, he is able to harness the power of the mind and create anything from the nothing with a mere thought. But there's one problem--everybody has dreams and nighmares when they sleep. Hence, the cause of the demise of the Krell.
I won't give away the ending--I've probably given away too much already. The movie's special effects were considered cutting-edge at the time and hold up surprisingly well. And Robbie was probably the forerunner of robot designs to come for the next decade or so. Amusingly, you can find set pieces, and even the uniforms the crew wears, being used in quite few other movies of the period.
Overall, highly recommended.
on January 27, 2004
A liberal interpretation of William Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST, with a wee bit of Freudian psychology thrown into the mix, the 1956 science-fiction classic FORBIDDEN PLANET follows the crew of a United Planets Cruiser on a mission to the distant planet Altair IV, home to a once-thriving scientific colony that has been mysteriously incommunicado for some time.
When the cruiser reaches Altair IV, Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen) and his crew make radio contact with a Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), one of the hitherto "missing" colonists. However, Morbius warns Adams to turn back, insisting that the crew will be in mortal danger if they touch down on the planet's surface. Adams orders his crew to land the ship anyway, of course, and they find that all the members of colony have perished save for three--Dr. Morbius, his curvaceous daughter Altaira (Anne Francis), and an intellectual robotic wunderkind named Robby.
Not satisfied with Morbius' explanation about what happened to the other colonists, Adams and his crew seek evidence that will either corroborate or discredit Morbius' story. What they find is the remnants of the advanced alien race that inhabited the Altair IV aeons ago. Could this hold the key that unlocks the mystery of the missing colonists?
Even after nearly half a century, FORBIDDEN PLANET remains both an interesting and thought-provoking film. Not only does it offer a clever space-age interpretation of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST, the special FX are still eye-poppingly cool, even when faced off against the CGI FX of contemporary fare. One of the best special FX in the film is, of course, Robby the Robot. A very expensive prop for MGM to build, Robby stands at a height of 7-and-a-half feet and weighs about 300 pounds. He has become one of the most popular robots in the history of films and television, and as such, he has made cameo appearances in such movies as 1984's GREMLINS and 2003's LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION and on television shows like THE TWILIGHT ZONE and LOST IN SPACE.
In addition to Robby, the three principal human actors in FORBIDDEN PLANET also contribute to the film's success. Leslie Nielsen is well known to film buffs as the comic star of such films as THE NAKED GUN: FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD (1988) and SPY HARD (1996). But here he does an excellent job in a serious role as John J. Adams, the commander of the spaceship, and for modern audiences, then, there is this added treat of seeing Nielson play one of the stodgy establishment types that he is now famous for parodying. The deep-voiced Walter Pidgeon is a masterful old-school thespian who is also a delight to watch. Here he makes his Dr. Morbius a devilishly pompous and pendantic patriarch, and the histrionics with which he does so are perfectly suited to the character. And finally, there's the lovely Anne Francis playing Dr. Morbius' daughter, Altaira. While Ms. Francis does not have the same range or depth as Nielsen or Pidgeon, she takes a role that was meant to be eye-candy and makes it more than a mere cardboard cut-out.
So the storytelling, the FX, and the acting all combine to make FORBIDDEN PLANET a compelling film that entertains but also makes you think. And to genre fans, that is science fiction at its best.
The MGM DVD is short on extras, basically offering only the theatrical trailer. But the disc does offer the film in an anamorphic widescreen format at the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it appears that the digital transfer was made from a copy of the print that was in excellent shape for a film so old! For SF fans who want to add this piece of classic American cinema to their collections, the reasonable amazon.com price makes it easy!
on January 9, 2004
Forbidden Planet is probably the best representative of science fiction's golden age at the movies. The 1950's and 60's saw a generation of writers produce a series of excellent, though-provoking films that were all the better because they were grounded in hard science and ideas. Movie like Planet of the Apes, Forbidden Planet and Day the Earth Stood Still. Today's deriviative unimaginative sci-fi garbage films don't hold a candle to them for all their cgi glory.
The Forbidden Planet deals with an Earth ship investigating a previous landing on a nearby planet. Only one man and his teenage daughter survive and the fate of the other crew -- and the nature of the planet itself -- is shrouded in mystery.
The plot is basically The Tempest in space. And those with a keen eye will see how this movie heavily influence the original Star Trek. But this is still a treat. Anne Farris and (talk about surprises) Leslie Nielson give good performances. The special effects stand up remarkably well after so long.
But again, what sets this movie apart are the ideas. See the detail when the crew take their ship apart to build an insterstellar communicator. Or how the crew carefully and systematically deals with the dangers they are presented with.
I can't recommend this film to everyone, since too many people will get caught up in the movie's age and that many of its original ideas have been copied so much as to now be cliche'. But if you like serious sci-fi, you will love this movie. Here's a quick litmus test. If you liked the recent flashy-but-pointless Planet of the Apes, you will not like this movie. But if you liked the original though-provoking Planet of the Apes, don't hesitate to add this to your colllection.
on January 4, 2004
Leslie Neilson leads his crew to the Forbidden Planet to relieve the watch from years before. Little does he know the entire crew was killed by an evil force. All that is left is a scientist and his daughter.
Leslie is not the bumbling Detective Drumand in this flick. No siriee bob. Want to dream? Expect 20 extra guard duties. Wanna kiss a pretty girl? Ooh you'll get it good. But on the other hand Robby the Robot will make you 60 gallons of Kansas City Bourbon.
OK OK an advanced race called the Krell develop technology without machinery (you just have to follow me here). All the stuff runs on mind power. However since man (and all species now for that matter) are basiclly evil in the subconscious, you can create monsters from your Id. You'll just have to watch the movie. If you dose a little while you're watching it you'll be going "huh?" and "what?"
Special effects are pretty good for 1956, as is the story itself. It's a little boring for me to consider a must have classic, but I can see how this film can appeal to people on different levels. I'm more of a Plan 9 from Outer Space guy myself. I was hoping and expecting this to be a B-grade hilarious clunker. It's far from it.
on December 27, 2003
The DVD version of this classic film is a joy to watch. Fans of classic SF films probably already have it by now -- but if you don't, then get it at once.
The film features an extremely pre-_Naked Gun_ Leslie Nielsen as Captain J.J. Adams and the great Walter Pidgeon as Dr. Morbius in what amounts to a space-age recasting of _The Tempest_. Any viewer of the original _Star Trek_ will recognize both the plot and the production values: the Mad Scientist and his Beautiful Daughter are the sole survivors of a human mission to Altair 4, where everybody else has been killed by a strange, alien power into which the Mad Scientist has managed to tap . . .
This film pretty much set the standard for what starship crews were supposed to look like. It also featured the very first all-electronic score in motion picture history. And of course there's Robby, the robot who was so obviously the model for the one in _Lost in Space_.
Don't miss this one. It's not just your typical 1950s SF thriller; for its time, its special effects were on the cutting edge and its plot was fairly ambitious.
on December 24, 2003
Commander J. J. Adams (Leslie Nielson) leads a crew of deep space explorers on a mission to Altair 4, to check on a colony there. Altair 4 is a psychedelic planet with a green sky. Upon arrival, Adams and company find only one man named Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis- one of the sexiest women in ANY galaxy) alive. Morbius explains that the others were killed by some strange, unseen force. Morbius is a solemn, mysterious sort of guy himself, and it's apparent that he's not telling the whole truth. He's built a virtual paradise in the middle of a wasteland, complete with a forest, deer, and a tiger. Morbius also has a robot named Robby, who does all of the menial labor around the stellar estate. Adams and his men soon learn that all is not well on Altair 4. An unstoppable, invisible entity is unleashed, tearing crewmembers to pieces, while absorbing their laser blasts into it's incredible mass. Adams and his first mate learn that Morbius has tapped into a vast computer network (about the size of Cleveland), left behind by a now extinct race of super-beings called "the Krell". Somehow, using this network, Morbius can release his "id" to do his insane bidding. Will anyone be going back to earth at all? Can the invisible horror be defeated? Will Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis live on to star together again in Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand? Watch and see. Highly recommended...
on November 16, 2003
Still the quintessential grand daddy of most of today's sci-fi features, Forbidden Planet has it all!
The DVD quality is great although I would have liked a few of the other 187 languages and sub-tongues Robby alludes to offered on the disk besides colloquial English and French.
However if you look at a classic Sci-Fi T.V series like the original Star Trek you can see where Jean Roddenberry might have gotten some of his inspiration.
The Earth cruiser is a disk, used Hyper Drive (Warp Drive), has a chief engineer that wears a suspiciously similar earpiece to the one Spock wore to listen to radio transmissions. The captain has an executive officer, and a doctor on board ala number one and Dr. McCoy, the list of similarities with Trek goes on and on.
My suggestion is to watch the wide screen version, on the opposite side of the disk, turn off the lights and watch it on a large screen if you can. It is well worth it!
The actors are great; Walter Pidgeon offers a great performance as Dr. Morbius. Anne Francis and Leslie Nielsen are great together and the Cinemascope does the rest.
This one's a must for the collection.
on May 1, 2003
This is classic 1950's science fiction at its best. The plot plays a lot like an old Star Trek episode -- the crew journeys to a seemingly safe planet; they encounter trouble and have to figure out the problem in order to get away with their lives.
Leslie Nielson, Walter Pigeon and Anne Francis put in great performances. Seeing a much younger Leslie Nielson in a more serious role is refreshing. Forbidden Planet was nominated for an Academy Award in 1957 for Best Special Effects but lost out to the other film nominated in the category, The Ten Commandments. The electronic score is truly out-of-this-world and really makes the movie.
I particularly enjoyed the painted scenery/backdrops and the laser fire drawn onto the film (sometimes not lined up quite right) as well as the movie poster (DVD cover) not being quite true to the story line. After you've seen the movie, check it out and you'll see what I mean.
The story was fun, though definitely dated. If you enjoy old science fiction, then this is a good movie for you. Don't expect the plot to be too deep or thought-provoking, though the premise of the movie does give something to think about. This is a fun, entertaining movie from the 50'.
The DVD doesn't have much in the way of extras. There's just a theatrical trailer that gives away too much of the film.
This is a classic science fiction movie that I could easily watch again (several times).
Watch again: Yes
on March 5, 2003
So spoke Lt. 'Doc' Ostrow (Warren Stevens) of the United Planets Cruiser C-57-D after it arrived at the planet Altair IV. The C-57-D, commanded by Commander John F. Adams (Leslie Nielsen), was sent to Altair IV from Earth to rescue a colony sent there two decades earlier on the spaceship Belleraphon because all contact was lost shortly thereafter. When the C-57-D arrived at Altair IV, they received a warning from philologist Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pigeon) that they should not land. He also claimed to be the lone survivor of the doomed Belleraphon. However, Commander Adams had his orders and the C-57-D landed on Altair IV in spite of Dr. Morbius' objections. After landing, Dr. Morbius and his robotic companion Robby (Robot the Robot) greeted the C-57-D crew, but Dr. Morbius continued to insist that they should leave immediately. Unexpectedly, a beautiful woman, Altaira (Anne Francis), appears. She is Dr. Morbius' daughter, whom he had ordered not to be seen while the C-57-D crew was on the surface. The crew is delighted to meet Altaira, who have not seen a woman for 378 days while en route to Altair IV, but they were also surprised because she was not listed on the Belleraphon's passenger manifest. Dr. Morbius explained that he was married by the Belleraphon captain, but that his wife died on the planet shortly after giving birth to Altaira.
Altaira was not the only thing that Dr. Morbius planned to hide from the spaceship visiting from Earth: he also had no intention of revealing Altair IV's biggest secret, but Commander Adams and Doc Ostrow forced the issue. Reluctantly, Dr. Morbius explained that a race far more intellectually and techonologically advance than mankind, the Krell, once inhabited Altair IV. Sadly, for hitherto unknown reasons, the Krell became extinct virtually over night as well as all other life on the planet 200,000 years earlier; but not all of the Krell's secrets had been lost. As foretold by Dr. Morbius, strange things begin to happen to the visiting spaceship and crew similar to what ultimately destroyed the Belleraphon; and the isolated peace that Dr. Morbius and Altaira knew on the dead planet before the spaceship's arrival evaporates.
Taking inspiration from William Shakespeare's play "The Tempest", writers Irving Block and Allen Adler created a brilliant story for "Forbidden Planet". The Duke Prospero in "The Tempest" became Dr. Morbius, his daughter Miranda became Altaira, the enslaved spirit Ariel became Robby the Robot, Ferdinand became Commander Adams, the island of exile became the planet Altair IV and Caliban became a monster bent on destruction.
Under the direction of Fred M. Wilcox, the acting, dialog and special effects for "Forbidden Planet" greatly surpasses nearly all other sci-fi films produced in the 1950's and 1960's. Having been twice previously nominated for Best Actor in 1942 for "Mrs. Miniver" and in 1943 for "Madame Curie", Walter Pigeon's portrayal of Dr. Morbius was exceptional. "Forbidden Planet" received a 1956 Oscar nomination for Best Special Effects, but lost to the only other nominated film, Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments". It was not until Stanley Kubrick filmed "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 1968 that a sci-fi film surpassed "Forbidden Planet" in quality and achievement. The few films comparable to "Forbidden Planet" from the 1950's include "The Day The Earth Stood Still" (1951) and "War of the Worlds" (1953).
Time has not caused "Forbidden Planet" to lose any of its excellence. Sci-fi fans more accustomed to modern computer-enhanced special effects may regard the effects used in "Forbidden Planet" to be dated, but most will more than likely come to appreciate what Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was able to achieve with 1950's film technology. For example, some may be surprised to see that George Lucas (in his 1977 film "Star Wars") was not the first to show what a holographic image could look like, as demonstrated in "Forbidden Planet". Some may also be surprised to see Leslie Nielsen portray a serious character, instead of his more recent, bumbling comedic characters in films such as "Airplane!" (1980) and "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!" (1988). Overall, I give "Forbidden Planet" a highly deserved 5 out of 5 stars, as it will always be a timeless, landmark sci-fi film warning us to always beware of monsters from the id!