MOVIE REVIEWS

Forbidden Planet (1956)

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8/10 G 01 hr 38 min

March 15, 1956

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By John Chard January 27, 2017

Your mind refuses to face the conclusion.

Forbidden Planet is directed by Fred M. Wilcox and stars Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, and Leslie Nielsen. Screenplay is written by Cyril Hume from an original story by Irving Block & Allen Adler (original title being Fatal Planet). It is a CinemaScope production out of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and is shot in Eastman Color (not Metrocolor as suggested on some sources) by cinematographer George J. Folsey. The piece features a novel musical score (credited as "electronic tonalities") by Louis & Bebe Barron.

Loosely based around William Shakespeare's play The Tempest, the story sees Nielsen and the crew of the C-57D spaceship sent to the remote planet of Altair IV. Where once was a colony of Earthlings, now the only inhabitants are Dr Morbius (Pidgeon), his daughter Altaira (Francis) and Robby, a highly sophisticated Robot that Morbius had built. It transpires from Morbius that all civilisations on Altair IV was wiped out by an unseen force, but not before he himself was able to use some of the knowledge gained from the Krell race to build Robby and the Plastic Educator. However, it's not before long something starts stalking and killing the men of the C- 57D. They must get to the bottom of the mystery or they too will be wiped out.

The 50s was of course the decade of the B movie. A decade where science fiction schlockers and creaky creature features ruled the drive in theatres. As paranoia of potential nuclear war and technology spiralling out of control gripped America, film studios grasped the opportunity to make a cash killing whilst providing an entertainment stress release courtesy of science fiction based movies. Be it giant insects, creatures or alien invaders, there were some fun - some bad - and some rather smart movies that hit the silver screen. Falling into the latter category is Forbidden Planet, an intelligent and excellently produced movie that is one of the few that genuinely holds up well over 50 years since its release. To delve further would be unfair to potential newcomers to the film, but in short the piece carries interesting motifs such as sexual awakening, the power of the sub-conscious, or more appropriately the perils of a repressed conscious. It's a Freudian twister, and then some.

Also lifting Forbidden Planet a long way above those men in rubber suit movies of the decade is the production value of the piece. True, the budget was considerably larger than what was normally afforded the genre (almost $5 million), but every penny is up there on the screen. The CinemaScope really brings to the front the sets and visual effects, while the Eastman Color fully enhances the animations and matte paintings on offer. The whole look and feel of the movie points to it being later than 1956, so it's no surprise to see musing on the DVD extras such luminaries like Spielberg, Lucas, Cameron & Scott, since Forbidden Planet has influenced as much as it has enthralled.

With one of the cleverest stories in the genre, one of its best ever robots (Robby would become a star all on his own) and certainly the best spaceship landing ever, Forbidden Planet is a genre high point and essential viewing for those interested in said genre pieces. 9/10

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