"Monsters of the ID..."
Set sometime after the year 2200, 1956's
Forbidden Planet begins with a mystery: why did the scientific colony on
Altaire IV abruptly go silent? To answer that question is the mission of United
Planets Cruiser C57D, under the
command of J.J. Adams, to ascertain the status of the colony.
They arrive and find only two survivors of the
colony, the eminent scientist Dr. Edward Morbius and his daughter, Altaira.
too young to remember the other scientists of the colony, lives in comfort and
security in the house where her father is studying a vast, underground alien computer
capable of inserting knowledge directly into the brain - and giving the "user"
pretty much whatever he wanted. While her father worked, Altaira (or "Alta") enjoyed the companionship of her animal friends that lived
in her large garden (which included at least one tiger), and a robot companion
The aliens, known as the Krell, vanished
thousands of years before, leaving this massive, still-functioning machine that
was the repository of incredible knowledge - and so much more, as the
investigating saucer from Earth would discover.
The men of ship C57D - "...18
competitively selected super-perfect physical specimens with an average age of
24.6 who have been locked up in hyperspace for 378 days..." to quote Commander
Adams during a tense moment when his men are clamoring for Altaira's attention -
are the first human men the girl has ever seen, other than her father, and she
is understandably intrigued.
Her father is less than amused. And when it becomes clear that
his daughter and Commander Adams have fallen in love, all Hell breaks loose -
thanks to that incredible alien machine and its link to Dr. Morbius' psyche.
Forbidden Planet was from MGM, directed
by Fred McLeod Wilcox, and starred the great actor
Walter Pidgeon as Dr. Edward Morbius, a brilliant yet deeply flawed man who was
unable to see his own shortcomings.
Anne Francis played Altaira - another
ingénue role for an actress more talented than she was credited with at the time,
who spent most of the movie barefoot.
Commander J.J. Adams was played by Leslie
Nielsen, well regarded at the time as a leading man (who in later life
re-invented himself as a brilliant comic actor).
Other cast members, the crew of the C57D,
included Warren Stevens (who would later guest-star as "Rojan" in the Star
Trek episode "By Any Other Name") playing "Doc" Ostrow, Richard
Anderson (later "Oscar Goldman" of Six Million Dollar Man) was Chief
Quinn, and Earl Holliman was the comic relief as the ship's cook.
was one other star of this movie - not that they necessarily intended him to be
a star - and that was the robot, Robby, who would become a sci-fi icon in his
Designed by Robert
Kinoshita (who went on to be the Art Director for the series Lost in Space)
and built by the MGM Prop Department for a reported cost of $125,000, Robby
became a phenomenon of his own, as recognizable to this day as the human stars
he played beside.
Robby was voiced by actor Frankie Darrow (uncredited),
and operated by MGM technician Glen Robinson. Robby stands about 7'6" and weighs
in at about 300 pounds.
Robby appeared the next year in the B-movie
The Invisible Boy.
The original Robby robot is in the
possession of collector and film director Bill Malone, but a replica was built
in the mid-1970's and continues to make appearances.
The budget for science fiction films to this point
were normally a fraction of that for other, more mainstream films. Science
fiction simply wasn't taken seriously by the major studios. However,
Forbidden Planet's budget expanded to almost 2 Million Dollars US - then a
significant sum for any movie - and its popularity proved the potential of a
properly-supported sci-fi film. Had MGM not taken the financial risk on this
film, we probably would never have seen the blockbuster sci-fi films that
That's not to say Forbidden Planet was Shakespeare,
even though it was very loosely based on "The Tempest." The characters are
archetypes, the dialogue occasionally stiff or forced, but the story moves at a
good pace and there is little room to be bored, even watching today. The
production took risks with the special effects, and most of the time the risks
paid off - but if your eyes are quick some of the mistakes are apparent.
As is the case with all classic films, though, the less-than-perfect
moments pale against the overall viewing experience. The story is carried along
at a brisk pace, the actors do terrific things with the material, and the
psychology that is the underpinnings of the story is surprisingly deep despite a
certain simplicity in the presentation. The sets, effects, matte paintings,
lighting, etc. also make it bright and colorful, an interesting visual experience as well.
Forbidden Planet paved the way for the big-budget
sci-fi extravaganzas that we all grew up with and loved. Forbidden Planet deserves its place as a true classic
- written by John Pickard