Forbidden Planet (1956) starring Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis
What can be said about Forbidden Planet that hasn’t been said already? It was a beloved part of my childhood and has become part of my children’s childhood as well. What makes is such an enduring story?
Quite a few things, actually. The acting is fine all around, the various sets and props look realistic, instead of cheap toys, and the characters are likable and well-rounded. Even the minor characters, such as the ship’s cook, are interesting. The main characters are:
- Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen, Airplane). Commander of the spaceship that has come to check on the fate of a space colony that has been wiped out
- Lt. Farman (Jack Kelly, To Hell and Back). Ship navigator, Commander Adams best friend, and his competitor for the affections of Altaira
- Doc Ostrow (Warren Stevens, The Barefoot Contessa). Ship’s physician and Adams’ right-hand man
- Chief Quinn (Richard Anderson, The Six Million Dollar Man). Chief engineer, who does the impossible with technology before breakfast; clearly the inspiration for Scotty on Star Trek
- Cook (Earl Holliman, Giant). Ship’s cook and comedy relief, who has Robby the Robot synthesize alcohol for him
- Robby the Robot – one of the most iconic creations in science fiction movies. Intelligent, powerful, likable — and unable to harm a sentient being
- Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon, Advise and Consent). The only living survivor of the expedition, an archeologist who somehow got the advanced scientific knowledge to build Robby
- Altaira Morbius (Anne Francis, Hook, Line and Sinker). The lovely daughter of Dr. Morbius, who was born after the rest of the colony was wiped out by and unknown force. And now that she sees adult men, and is being wooed by at least two of them, that same murderous force is back, and killing crew members.
The interactions between the various characters are enjoyable — the loving, overprotective father (Morbius), the ingenue daughter learning to flirt (Altaira), the straight-laced Commander Adams who’s torn between duty and his growing affection for Altaira — and the threat of the monster. Something that’s quite unusual for the time (and to this day) is the thought that went into the alien Krell. Who, judging by their doorways, are clearly not human. All that we can see of them is what they’ve left behind.
Are there any negatives? The only things that come to mind is the villain of the movie, that monster from the Id. It is clearly a Disney cartoon. It would frankly have been better to have never seen the monster at all, only it’s outline. But as I say, it’s a minor quibble.
Product description of Forbidden Planet
A dutiful robot named Robby speaks 188 languages. An underground lair provides astonishing evidence of a populace a million years more advanced than Earthlings. There are many wonders on Altair-4, but none is greater or more deadly than the human mind. Forbidden Planet is the granddaddy of tomorrow, a pioneering work whose ideas and style would be reverse-engineered into many cinematic space voyages to come. Leslie Nielsen portrays the commander who brings his spacecruiser crew to the green-skied Altair-4 world that’s home to Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), his daughter (Anne Francis), the remarkable Robby…and to a mysterious terror. Featuring sets of extraordinary scale and the first all-electronic musical soundscape in film history, Forbidden Planet is in a movie orbit all its own.
Editorial review of Forbidden Planet courtesy of Amazon.com
This 1956 pop adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest is one of the best, most influential science fiction movies ever made. Its space explorers are the models for the crew of Star Trek‘s Enterprise, and the film’s robot is clearly the prototype for Robby in Lost in Space. Walter Pidgeon is the Prospero figure, presiding over a paradisaical world with his lovely young daughter and their servile droid. When the crew of a spaceship lands on the planet, they become aware of a sinister invisible force that threatens to destroy them. Great special effects and a bizarre electronic score help make this movie as fresh, imaginative, and fun as it was when first released.