Forbidden Planet (1956)

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Forbidden Planet 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 is one which really makes you think, and it also has a nice blend of horror, action and romance to enjoy alongside the Sci-Fi. I love the set design and futuristic look of the film too. 

Forbidden Planet changed the look of Science Fiction films forever. It also showed filmmakers and audiences that Science Fiction could be more thought provoking than they may have previously imagined. Before this film came along many Science Fiction films of the time were cheap B Pictures (not saying that there is anything wrong with B Pictures)and it has to be said that the quality of the effects were usually not very good at all. This film changed all that. The effects and ship in this film looked more realistic.

I also love the sound effects in this film. There isn’t a traditional music score, instead we have the otherworldly electronic music score by Bebe and Louis Barron. Their sound work adds a great deal of atmosphere to the film. Their work makes the film unsettling at times and mystical and exciting at others.  Their sound effects are really quite unlike anything heard before or since. 

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 and increasing our abilities be undertaken with extreme caution? In case we should ever grow beyond what we are now, and end up losing 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?

Fred M. Wilcox directed the film. It was based on a screenplay by Cyril Hume. Some viewers have said that the plot of the film reminds them of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.

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Leslie Nielson as Commander Adams. Image source IMDb. 

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). Morbius’s equally intelligent, mini-dress clad daughter Altaira(Anne Francis), and their loveable companion Robby the robot – part butler, cook, bodyguard and friend.

Altaira becomes very fond of the crew, but Morbius is distrustful of them and he is openly hostile towards them. Morbius just wants himself and his daughter 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.

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Anne Francis as the ethereal Altaira. Image source IMDb. 

I love this film so much. It is a groundbreaking film in the genre, and I think it would be fair to say that this must have 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. I also think that Adams is a very similar character to Captain Kirk.

I also 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 is pretty mind blowing stuff. That reveal  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 me no matter how many times I’ve seen it before.

The only thing about this film I don’t really like that much is the romance between Adams and Altaira. She is basically a child in a woman’s body. She is very trusting and innocent and within a couple of days of meeting these two have supposedly fallen in love. If their growing romance had taken place over a longer period, then I think I would believe it more. It just comes across as being very rushed to me.

I also found it a bit creepy when Altaira meets the three crewmen for the first time and they flirt with her and stare at her like they’ve never seen a woman before. Considering she has never been to earth, or been around young men, it’s a bit unfair for them to be so sexual with her when she clearly has no idea what they are doing. If that had happened later in the film when she is getting curious about them and wanting to be with them I would have been fine with it and think that would have worked, having it happen right away though just comes off as lecherous. 

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Walter Pidgeon as Morbius. With Robby The Robot. Image source IMDb.

Walter Pidgeon is excellent as the tragic Morbius. A strong and clever man who is unrelenting, and who is also utterly powerless to resist what he has unleashed. Pidgeon was always a likeable actor and I love that here he gets to show he could play more complex and unlikeable characters too. I like how he conveys Morbius’s desire to keep his daughter with him at all costs. This man doesn’t like the idea of strangers taking her away from all she has ever known.
It’s also 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. 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. Anne perfectly conveys her characters innocent, pure and trusting nature, and also 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. He’s a loveable individual who is probably the first thing that springs to mind when someone mentions this film. He has become one of the most recognisable characters and creations in Science Fiction history.

My favourite scenes are the ship landing on the planet. The whirl of dust crossing the horizon which signals the approach of Robby. Meeting Morbius. Adams protecting Altaira from a potential tiger attack. The attack on the ship. Altaira’s first meeting and flirting with Adams, Ostrow(Warren Stevens)and Farman(Jack Kelly).

What do you think of this film?

 

9 thoughts on “Forbidden Planet (1956)

  1. thane62

    “The fool! The meddling idiot! Did he really think his apes brain could contain the secrets of the Krell?” Notice how in 50s sci-fi, on Earth the scientists daughters/lady biochemists/girl reporters/et.al all look prim, wear boxy hats and faint? Yet the Women of Outer Space go in for mini-skirts, midriff optional cleavage and being either vixens or wide-eyed “What is this thing you call kissing?” innocents, which leads me to think perhaps the French beat the USA into space. (yes, I know, the Russians did, but whose flag waves on the Moon?—well, unless count the one left by the intrepid Brit trio of “First Men in The Moon”. One digresses. Great review of a cool movie; I agree in all your observations. While most people now think of Leslie Neilsen in comedies, my first exposure to him (granted, that sounds odd) was as “The Swamp Fox”, an American Revolution hero, in episodes he did for Disney’s TV show in the late 50s (sorry to say in that he was shooting ‘Redcoats’, but we eventually patched things up in time to fight someone else). He was always a serious-type actor until finding a new path via “Airplane” and really hitting the big-time. He was also, by all accounts, a great guy. I like how in your affectionate reviews you include a list of your favourite scenes or moments. From the Id,Mark

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    1. maddylovesherclassicfilms Post author

      I can see you’re a major fan of this film. 🙂 You are right in what you say about space women being depicted as being more sexy than earth women were in films made in this decade. I also enjoyed your review of the film.

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  2. thane62

    Gallantry called for a reply https://thane62.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/forbidden-planet/

    On Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 3:41 AM, Maddy Loves Her Classic Films wrote:

    > maddylovesherclassicfilms posted: ” 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 it has a nice blend of horror, action, and romance t” >

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  3. Wolfman's Cult Film Club

    Oh I love this film so much Maddy. Watched it so many times.
    The electronic soundtrack by Bebe and Louis Barron is so ahead of it time isn’t it.
    And those effects on the electric fence are brilliant and the size of the underground complex is just incredible.
    Always weird watching Leslie Nielsen not pulling deadpan facial expressions though. Anne Francis is wonderfully innocent in contrast to the mysterious Dr Morbius. And of course Robby The Robot is just delightful.
    Great post, A big wolfie favourite.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. Paul S

    I had a wonderful first watch of Forbidden Planet a couple of years ago and remember it so fondly I’ve been hesitant to revisit it, but now I’m not so scared. Great stuff Maddy!

    Liked by 1 person

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