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 space cruiser 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.
Director: Fred M. Wilcox
Genre: Science Fiction
By Matt Paprocki
There's hardly a quiet moment in Forbidden Planet, the viewer assaulted by an eerie, otherworldly score for most of the film. This generates a sense of being out of place, certainly not of Earth, and the fear of the unknown.
Altair IV is a special place, investigated years ago by another scientific expedition, a second crew traveling there now to learn of their fate, Commander J.J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen) in the lead. What they find is not typical of the era, other films showcasing dinosaurs, aliens, or other ferocious beasts living on these off-beat worlds.
Forbidden Planet is more calculated than that despite the workmanlike direction from Fred M. Wilcox. It covers its scientific bases no matter how ridiculous, a previous civilization known as the Krell producing unheard of levels of technology. Robby the Robot is surely the highlight, a creation so advanced as to create any material just by studying it.
Robby's countless moving parts, from his typewriter-like mouth to various spinning gadgets are the epitome of '50s sci-fi, a wonderfully goofy and iconic design utilized well into the '80s (Joe Dante's Gremlins paying homage).
For a film that in reality, remains quite dark, distressing, and serious, it carries all of the hallmarks of lavish MGM productions. The Eastman color is a joy to behold, Altair IV given a bright green sky and deeply hued plants to deliver the depth of the landscape. Jaw-dropping matte paintings, the ventilation ducts in particular, give the film a scale that is nothing short of magnificent. The film's unheard of $2 million budget is on screen.
Most importantly, it's the barriers Forbidden Planet broke. It's obsessed with its fiction, not just in the dialogue but its creations. It's more than laser beams, and despite a pseudo-inclusion, goes beyond the '50s standard of a giant monster. There's nothing wrong with the giant bug genre or awakened dinosaur flick, but everyone needs a break. The revelation Forbidden Planet provides is staggering, completely unexpected and even out of place.
It opened doors to creations where anything was possible, not just physical or visual things. It was a kick to Hollywood that audiences are a bit smarter than they gave them credit for, and still remained engaged. Forbidden Planet makes you feel like you're learning about some historical culture; it's that well written. All the while, it's providing the romance and style of a forgotten era of Hollywood.