Forbidden Planet

January 28, 2012 5 Min Read

Review by: Al Barnes

Plot: What’s it about?

Another campy 50’s style flying saucer passing through space in a jittery, wobbly motion with a barely noticeable string attached…not exactly. Forbidden Planet takes us, Commander Adams (Leslie Nielson) and his crew to the planet Altair-IV to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a mission to the planet 20 years ago. As they approach the planet, Adams is contacted by a survivor of the original expedition Dr. Morbius, (Walter Pidgeon) who tries unsuccessfully to keep Adams from landing on Altair. Astonished at the accomplishments of Morbius, Adams inquires as to the fate of the other explorers and by what means he created his surroundings including an amazing robot named Robby. Morbius describes a horrible planetary force that killed his fellow explorers in a most gruesome manner but seems to have left him unharmed and hasn’t been seen in 19 years…until now that is. Adams and his crew are unwelcome guests of Morbius and evidently the Altair monster as the violent attacks begin again. How do you fight a monster more powerful than the mind can imagine…oops a Freudian slip…press play and join the crew of the space cruiser C-57D in a fight against the unknown?

If any of you out there remember this movie you’re at least as old as me…that makes me feel better. If not don’t be afraid to go back to 1956 when this release came out. If you’re a fan of the genre then you’ll want to see this title, even if only because of it’s sets, models, animation and soundtrack…known as Tonalities…and trend setting color camera work. During a time when studios would crank out movies as fast as Model T’s, MGM spent two years in pre-production alone and two million dollars but ended up with a industry standard that set the pace for sci-fi of the future. Remember, when this extravaganza was released it would be six more years before we even put a man in space. That means that the look of the space ship…inside and out…weapons and other terrestrial bodies are someone’s vision of things yet to come.

A cast of familiar faces past and present starts with one of the lead characters, Leslie Nielson. This was his film debut and although he went on to act in many films…some very comical (unintended)…his success came late in the intentionally funny films like The Naked Gun and has continued in many more slapstick comedies. If you rent or buy this title because you liked it as a kid it’s a great trip back in time. If it’s your first time remember it is not as scary as Alien or Event Horizon but a cornerstone in the foundation of the creation of a genre that now eclipses itself trying to top the last offering because of computer generated effects. Add a thinking mans plot…Sigmund would be flattered…to the beautiful matte paintings, special effects (nominated for an Oscar in ’56) and just plain old Hollywood magic and you have a classic among classics.

Video: How does it look?

I’ve seen this movie 8 or 10 times but this is the first time in letterbox. You see so much not available in the pan and scan version. Some wear is evident in the transfer but I can only imagine the condition of the original print. The color is still spectacular even compared to more modern movies and the care in the special effects are obvious in a couple of scenes where the crew is looking at the planet in a monitor screen in the interior of the ship. Even a few years ago shots like these were very “cheesy” looking but you should be impressed…it was after all 43 years ago.

Audio: How does it sound?

Stereo Surround adds very little to the mono track but it isn’t an obvious detraction like some DVD’s. In my opinion careful evaluation should be done before modifying the soundtrack in older titles. I have heard some great exceptions though.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Not much more than an original trailer but you do get a great 8-page booklet with some very informative facts. A retrospect commentary made now with interviews with surviving cast and crew would have been an awesome addition but probably not cost efficient. Oh well!

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