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Forbidden Planet, 1956 – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on February 13, 2010

Director: Fred M Wilcox
Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly, Robby the Robot

Score: 9/10

Reviewed by pjowens75

When it comes to FORBIDDEN PLANET, most science fiction enthusiasts bow their heads in reverence. It is considered by many to be the Holy Grail of early science fiction movies. Even John Clute, in his Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says it “remains one of the few masterpieces of sf cinema.” Most fans are aware that it is, loosely speaking, an updated version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and that it introduced Robby, the Robot, who actually went on to star in his own film, The Invisible Boy, and became the model for sci-fi robots for years to come. But what does all of that mean, in English, and is it even worth watching today?

FORBIDDEN PLANET begins with a starship crew’s arrival on planet Altaira to rescue the inhabitants of a colony that has been out of communication for years. After initially being warned to leave the planet alone, the crew (led by Leslie Nielsen, with Warren Stevens and Jack Kelly as ship’s doctor and first mate, respectively) lands to discover Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter, Alta (Anne Francis), as the sole surviving colonists. However, it seems that the two don’t want to be rescued at all. In fact, with the assistance of their faithful servant/robot, Robby, they have fashioned themselves quite the little paradise, and have no desire to be “rescued” from anything. But after a little investigating, Commander Adams (Nielsen) discovers that the rest of the original colonists were all killed by an invisible monster who is now attacking the crew of the starship. To make things worse, the monster seems to be a physical manifestation of Dr. Morbius’s “id” and is a result of his tapping into an unlimited power source left behind by an extinct, but incredibly advanced civilization, the knowledge of which he feels is not ready to be revealed to the rest of humanity.

Okay, let’s all stop for a second and catch our breath. That’s all pretty ambitious for a typical 1950s sci-fi flick. Fortunately, FORBIDDEN PLANET is NOT your typical sci-fi film. Instead of focusing on the monster, as would most 50s fare, writers Irving Block (story) and Cyril Hume (screenplay) have crafted a remarkably intelligent script that focuses more on the internal conflicts of Dr. Morbius as he deals with his guilt over the deaths of the other colonists, and his concerns about the well-being of his maturing daughter. Walter Pidgeon handles all of this quite well, with his usual furrowed brow and occasional raised eyebrow as he watches his daughter’s first contacts with young males of her species. Anne Francis has perhaps the most difficult role as the blossoming young woman who, since she was born after the other colonists had died, has known no other human being other than her father. In what has since become a staple of science fiction TV series (just how many young girls did Capt. James T. Kirk teach how to “kiss” correctly?), Alta enthusiastically approaches the new experience of “men” as eagerly as the all male crew approaches the first female they’ve seen in over a year. And while I usually have a problem with Anne Francis’s porcelain makeup and good looks, they work quite well here. And although I was a fan of Leslie Nielsen long before his career revival as a comic in Airplane! And The Naked Gun, I couldn’t help but imagine him ending an exchange with Morbius with “And don’t call me Shirley.”

Director Fred McLeod Wilcox, whose best known films to this point were Lassie Come Home and The Secret Garden, does a very good job of keeping the pace moving and not getting bogged down in the intellectual dialogues at the center of the story. With the exception of the crews’ spaceship (which looks exactly as you would imagine a 1950’s “flying saucer” to look like), the sets, matte paintings (especially those used in the interior of the alien technology), and special effects all hold up amazingly well, even by today’s standards, and don’t look “dated”. Most amazing, to me, was the unique “score” by composers Bebe and Louis Berron, which is entirely made up of “electronic tonalities” and is quite effectively used to set the mood and highlight the action throughout the film.

So to me, at least, FORBIDDEN PLANET is one of those few remarkable 50s science fiction films that is just as effective if watched today as it was 50 years ago. There are a few laughable moments, both intentional (the ship’s cook (Earl Holliman) conning Robby into replenishing his supply of whiskey) and not (the commander’s constant use of the loud speaker aboard ship when the entire crew of 18 is gathered around him), but overall it holds up quite nicely and is well deserving of its rank in the hierarchy of science fiction movies. Check it out…it’s worth it.

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Timeline of Sci-Fi movies

Posted by LiveFor on June 18, 2009

Dan Meth put together this brilliant chart putting futuristic films into their chronological order. He should have put Star Wars on A long time ago, but apart from that he seems to have got all the major movies.

Has he missed any classics?

Discuss in the forum or leave a comment below.


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Forbidden Planet news – Could be a trilogy and changes what we know about characters from the original

Posted by LiveFor on December 22, 2008

I mentioned a few days ago that James Cameron was interested in directing the Forbidden Planet film that had been written by J Michael Straczynski. Apparantly Cameron loves the script.

Latino Review have found out some more info about the film. Looks as if Straczynski’s script will definitely be a prequel to the 1956 original and he is planning to make it the beginning of a trilogy. It also looks as if his script keeps the original film in it’s place but changes the motivation of one of the main characters so gives us all a reason to re-watch the original under a whole new light which sounds pretty cool.

Here’s more from Latino Review about the set up to the prequel and the trilogy. Sounds amazing.  

According to sources, the prologue to the script contains the following: Two ships traveled to Altair 4, a planet orbiting a star 16.7 light years from Earth. The first ship, the Bellerophon, came to explore that world. The humans on board encountered the relics of the Krell civilization for the first time and exhumed their dangerous past. The Bellerophon was never heard from again. Twenty years later, a second ship, a C-57D Starcruiser, came to investigate the dissapearance of the Bellerophon and her crew.

The original 1956 Forbidden Planet told the tale of the second ship. What Straczynski’s draft is about is the never-before revealed tale of the first ship, the Bellerophon.

Sources also tell me the last page contains a epilogue where depending on the financial reaction to Forbidden Planet, Straczynski could create the following three film franchise.

Movie One tells the story of the original ship that came to Altair 4.

Movie Two tells the story of the search for the Krell by the captain of the Bellerophon and his crew…as Diana continues to grow into something profoundly other-wordly. The search takes them beyond the limits of known space into other dimensions, passing from what’s known into what’s not.

Movie Three tells the story of the second ship to arrive at Altair 4 to investigate what happened to the Bellerophon. They discover Morbius and his “daughter,” who is desperate to get off the planet and out into the rest of the universe, where her power would nearly be god-like…a fate we are spared when Morbius sacrifices his life to keep her there and eliminate the Krell homeworld once and for all.

Straczynski personally states in the last paragraph that what is cool about this new movie is that events shown completely change the meaning of the original Forbidden Planet without changing a frame of film. Altaira’s attempt to seduce or inveigle the crew comes across as manipulative, using them to get off the planet. Straczynski also states that this has value to geeks of which he is one.

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The Random – James Cameron to direct Forbidden Planet, The Champions, Chef

Posted by LiveFor on December 20, 2008

IESB has news that the in-development Forbidden Planet remake has caught the interest of James Cameron who has been looking at directing the remake.

Tom Cruise may be starring in Guillermo del Toro’s film of The Champions based on the old UK TV show. Written by Christopher McQuarrie.

MTV finally caught up with Fincher and made sure to bring up Chef (starring eanu Reeves) and actually got a quirky answer our of him. “It’s good and chewy,” Fincher says. “It’s like a celibate sex comedy if that means anything. It’s really about the creative process. It’s truly an aromatic art-form, making food. I love that idea. And I love Keanu’s passion for that world.”

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Staczynski talks about the Forbidden Planet sequel / prequel / remake and wants to make sure he gets the Krell right

Posted by LiveFor on December 1, 2008

MTV have this – “It’s my favorite science-fiction film of all time. I’ve watched the rights go from one company to the next. I heard that the rights at Dreamworks were about to expire and I went to Joel Silver and said I think if you move quickly you can grab it and I can write it. And he did. It’s the dream of a lifetime to play in that universe.”

Straczynski — whose stock in Hollywood as a scriptwriter just enjoyed a major bump thanks to the success of director Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling” — was happy to hint at what fans of the original “Forbidden Planet” can expect from his take.

“I told [producer] Joel [Silver] this is how you do ‘Forbidden Planet’ without pissing on the original that no one has ever thought of,” said Straczynski. “When I told [the idea] to him, his eyes lit up. It’s not a remake. It’s not a reimagining. It’s not exactly a prequel. You’ll have to see it. It’s something that no one has thought of when it comes to this storyline.”

Straczynski will be paying close attention to detail, with the writer revealing conversations he’s had to ensure the film is as scientifically attuned as possible. “[When coming] up with the Krell backstory and who they are, I sat down with some of the nation’s best minds in astrophysics and planetary geology and A.I. and asked them — based on what we know now — what will a million years from now look like? The goal is to put things in there you’ve never seen before.”

As for the 1954 film’s retro look, audiences can expect an updated vision that keeps the original’s iconic nature in mind. “At the time it was made it was cutting edge,” Straczynski explained. “They weren’t trying to be ‘retro’ — they thought they were right on the cutting edge. People that went to see that film saw things they had never seen before. What we have to do now is have this one be as innovative now as the original was then. It doesn’t mean we should look backwards.”

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Forbidden Planet to be remade. ID better be good (See what I did there?)

Posted by LiveFor on October 31, 2008

Following the recent Hollywood trend to take a classic and remake it for today’s audience (The Day the Earth Stood Still) it looks as if Forbidden Planet is next.
Warner Bros have hired J. Michael Straczynski to write the remake of Forbidden Planet. The original saw a group of Earth scientists who are sent some 17 light years away to investigate what happened to a colony of settlers on Altair-4. They find a man with a secret and his daughter who somehow survived a hideous monster attack on their planet.

Loosely based on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the movie was nominated for best special effects Oscar, and was noted for its groundbreaking use of an all-electronic score, and the first appearances of Robby the Robot and the C-57D starship. The movie’s poster was listed as the fifth best Movie Poster ever created by Premiere Magazine.

Forbidden Planet is one of my all time favourite films. It just works so well for so many reasons – great effects, brilliant story, Robby the Robot, Leslie Nielson with brown hair, Walter Pidgeon being all frosty and mad scientist as Dr Morbius, Anne Francis playing with tigers, Creatures from the ID, the vast underground city of the Krells, and the bit where you see the invisible beastie’s footsteps in the sand as it approaches the ship while the electro theromin music works its magic. It is just excellent. Go watch it. Go now. Do it.

When I watched it with my son (he was 8 at the time) he explained to me how, because the spacemen were travelling at the speed of light, time would move slower for them than it would for the people on Earth. Quite a big concept for an 8 year old and it made me proud. He also loved the film and thought Robby was cool.

However, I’m not sure if this film should be remade. There is just no need and I’m not sure if a remake could add anything new to the mix. Although if you look at it as a work based on Shakespeare then a remake is not that unusual as the Bard’s tales have been doing the rounds in all forms forever. What do you think of the news?


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