The 1956 classic that wires Shakespeare to Sci-Fi pulp, serves as Star Trek’s unofficial pilot, introduced the electronic score to SF films and Robbie the Robot to pop culture, and gets referenced in the Rocky Horror theme chorus finally receives its Bureau review.
Title: Forbidden Planet
Available from Amazon.com
Cast, Crew, and Other Info:
Directed by Fred M. Wilcox.
Leslie Neilsen as Commander John J. Adams
Walter Pidgeon as Dr. Edward Morbius
Anne Francis as Altaira Morbius
Warren Stevens as “Doc” Ostrow
Jack Kelly as Jerry Farman
Richard Anderson as Chief Engineer Quinn
Earl Holliman as James “Cookie” Dirocco
Robbie the Robot as itself
In 2200, an Earth ship heads to Altair Four to learn the fate of a lost colony. They find a mysterious scientist, his beautiful, naïve daughter, a helpful robot– and a mystery that threatens their lives.
Beyond its hokiness, comic-book colors, and charmingly dated design, Forbidden Planet has a strong concept. Every big-screen SF film of the era had a monster, but this monster serves an intelligent plot purpose. Without Forbidden Planet, pop Sci-Fi would have been a very different beast. The original Star Trek, especially in its first season, begs to be compared with this movie.
I recognize that one cannot judge a 1956 SF film by contemporary standards. The artificial dialogue was commonplace at the time, for example. Nevertheless, certain aspects of the special effects really don’t work. The animation looks like animation. While this works with lasers, it becomes a problem when we’re faced with the animated monster at the end. Even if the nature of that monster explains why it might look as it does, it still seems more comical than scary. It’s a nit, but I wish they’d used some sort of physical effect.
Originality: 4/6. The basic plot has been lifted from The Tempest. However, turning Shakespeare into a pulp SF adventure rooted in Freudian psychology amounts to an original concept.
The Tempest itself, however, has often been subject to revision and reinterpretation.
Story: 4/6. The ending requires that we accept some pretty unbelievable technological twists, but overall, the tale holds up.
Effects: 4/6. I’m trying to make a fair assessment. I’ve identified one problem under “Low Points” that could have been addressed at the time. Otherwise, for 1956, the effects are impressive. From the perspective of 2007, painted backdrops, however impressively conceived, look like painted backdrops, especially when filmed in glorious MetrocolorTM.
Production: 5/6. The production values are far superior to most SF of the era. If you’re familiar with postwar illustrations of the coming Space Age or Disney’s Tomorrowland before Lucas took over, you have some idea of the look of this film. Conceptually, the designers did an excellent job.
Emotional Response: 5/6.
Overall: 5/6. Many films and tv shows took their influence from Forbidden Planet, and Robbie the Robot has become a star in his own right, with more than twenty credits.
In total, Forbidden Planet receives a score of 32/42.