Forbidden Planet (1956)
Forbidden Planet (1956)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.

Release Date: March 28th, 1956 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Fred McLeod Wilcox Actors: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly, Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman, George Wallace

 


 

B

y the year 2200, mankind has reached the outer planets of the solar system. The subsequent invention of the hyperdrive allows for the next major phase of exploration: the conquest and colonization of deep space. A state-of-the-art United Planets Cruiser (almost comically shaped like a typical flying saucer) is now on course to the star of Altair, orbited by an Earth-like planet (number four) with comparable gravity – miraculously obviating the need for atmospheric suits.

When Captain J.J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen) scans the surface, he’s shocked to discover that the previous mission’s commander is alive and well, despite many having thought he had long ago perished – along with his sizable crew. However, that unlikely survivor, Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), warns the captain that should they proceed with their order to relieve him of his duties, he cannot be held answerable for their wellbeing. “Absolutely no assistance of any sort is required.”

Once they touch down, ignoring the guidance, Adams and a couple of his men are escorted to the main residence by a towering, black automaton, claiming to speak dozens of languages. The host, Morbius, is an eccentric recluse, living in a lavish compound, guarded by his ominous robotic monstrosity, telling tales of a devilish force on the planet that mysteriously killed off his fellow scientists, leaving him alone with his wife, Julia Morrison, who then perished of natural causes shortly thereafter. Now, his only human companion is his daughter, Altaira (Anne Francis), who has had no contact with men – or any preparation for such a meeting – posing fatherly consternation when she appears before the three spacefaring officers.

“For your convenience, I am monitored to respond to the name Robby.” Although “Forbidden Planet” is an archetypal sci-fi adventure, lending ideas to such works as the “Star Trek” and “Lost in Space” series, it struggles to maintain the sincerity necessary to make it a genuine force. Fortunately, Robby is the highlight, as he remains largely ominous even when he’s utilized for levity (his practical design, man-in-a-suit as it may be, outlasts the flimsiness of primitive special effects and animation); thanks to light foreshadowing, Robby’s considerable power is destined to be used for evil. “Sorry, miss. I was giving myself an oil job.”

For much of the start, however, the interplanetary explorers engage in silly flirtations, competing for the attentions of the lone female presence. From skinny-dipping to the art of kissing to an assortment of revealing miniskirts, the unnecessary comic romance is continual; the “forbidden” component of this planet is mainly the young blonde, ignorant to the ways of soldiers isolated from women for months at a time. There’s certainly more gawking and chatting than investigating alien artifacts. “Why don’t you kiss me like everybody else does?” “Everybody!”

Even the eerie electronic tonalities in the soundtrack can’t sustain potential thrills. It doesn’t help that suspense here is incredibly rare. But a sense of wonder does arise from vast subterraneous sets housing ancient extraterrestrial architecture, as well as from the eventual mystery of an invisible, murderous entity. The final revelations are grand, yet they take far too long to arrive; still, many of the concepts are memorable – and Robby is an immortal sci-fi contraption.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10