This is one of the greatest Science Fiction films ever made. At the time it was made this film was about as far away from a typical Science Fiction film as you could get. This film makes you think and has a nice blend of horror, action, and futuristic themes. Many Science Fiction films of the time looked very much like cheap B Pictures (nothing wrong with B Pictures)and the quality of the effects were usually not very good at all. This film changed all that.
The film also features some of the most unforgettable images in the history of the genre. The special effects in this were extremely impressive for the 1950’s, and I firmly believe that they still impress audiences when viewed today.
This is one that really makes you think about what should be feared more, unknown alien beings, ideas, and words? Or our own minds, and the terrible things that we’re capable of doing and creating with them?
The film entertains us certainly, but it also poses some very big questions to which there are no easy answers. Should our quest for improving ourselves be undertaken with extreme caution? In case we should ever grow beyond what we are now and lose what makes us human(compassion, rational thought etc)in the process? Or should we move beyond ourselves no matter what the cost in doing so could be?
Leslie Nielson plays the heroic, always ready for action, Commander Adams. Adams and his crew are sent out to the planet Altair-4 to investigate why there has been no contact with the human colonists who settled on this planet some years ago.
Once on the planet, Adams and his crew soon discover the only survivors from the colony, the highly intelligent scientist Dr. Morbius(Walter Pidgeon),his equally intelligent, mini-dress clad daughter Altaira(Anne Francis), and their loveable companion Robby the robot, part butler, cook, bodyguard and friend.
Altaira becomes fond of the crew, but Morbius is distrustful of them and openly hostile, he just wants them to be left alone in peace.Things get complicated when Altaira and Adams fall in love, and when the crew are attacked by the terrifying unseen creature responsible for the deaths of the other colonists.
I love this film so much. It is a groundbreaking film in the genre, and I think it would be fair to say this strongly influenced the creator of another Science Fiction favourite of mine, the Star Trek TV series. The device that the crew step into during the approach to the planet resemble the Star Trek transporters, and Adams is a very similar character to Captain Kirk.
The soundtrack in this film is truly one of a kind. Instead of music, we have an electronic soundtrack which gives the film an extremely otherworldly quality, and I think it really adds something special to the film.
My favourite scenes are the ship landing on the planet. The whirl of dust crossing the horizon which signals the approach of Robby. Adams protecting Altaira from a potential tiger attack. The attack on the ship and Altaira’s first meeting and flirting with Adams, Ostrow(Warren Stevens)and Farman(Jack Kelly).
I love how this one isn’t your typical alien monster film either. When you learn the identity of the monster, and where it actually comes from it’s pretty mind blowing stuff, and it really adds another layer of complexity and wonderment to what you’ve been watching. This is a film I never get tired of watching, and it always impresses no matter how many times I’ve seen it before.
Walter Pidgeon is excellent as the tragic Morbius. A strong and clever man who is unrelenting, and who is utterly powerless to resist what he has unleashed.
It’s nice to see Leslie Nielson in a serious role as the heroic lead character. He makes Adams heroic, and also someone who is calm and rational under pressure. For more serious Nielson performances, check him out in a guest appearance in The Streets of San Francisco as a boozing detective, and in the 1958 Western, The Sheepman. Nielson is one of my favourite screen comics, but I have really enjoyed seeing him in serious roles, I wish he had played more dramatic roles.
Warren Stevens is terrific as Doc Ostrow, Adams close friend. Stevens is an actor who I haven’t seen in very many other things, but I really like him here and think he had it in him to become a big star/character actor. If you like him here check him out in an episode of One Step Beyond called The Riddle.
Anne Francis is superb as the ethereal Altaira, perfectly conveying her characters trusting nature, and her growing desire to spend time with someone other than her father.
Robby the robot is one of the most instantly recognisable characters in film history, a loveable individual who is probably the first thing that springs to mind when someone mentions this film.
As ever please leave your thoughts below. If you’ve never seen this film you really should check it out.