FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) A Cinema Static Classic Reflection

This movie review originally posted to and now sits among our Classic Reflections reviews.

To me, Forbidden Planet is one of the greatest science fiction movies put together. I rank it such by a combination of when it was made, how it was made and the story it tells.  It tells a tale of scientific achievement and the flaws that can come from an overly enthusiastic use of science. It has a compelling story of what space exploration could do for humanity with a fantastic sense of the future and yet, reminds us that no matter the time, human flaws can still thwart technology and all good intentions.  It was based loosely on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Forbidden Planet takes place in the 22nd Century, and the cruiser C57D has been in flight from Earth for a year, on their way to the planet Altair.  Their purpose is to try and locate survivors from a an earlier trip into this sector of space some 20 years prior, known as the Bellerophon expedition.

Upon entering orbit, they are contacted by one of the original crew members from the expedition and the ship is told that the survivors on the planet do not need anything and are given a gentle warning that they cannot be guaranteed any safety if they land on the planet.

Walter Pidgeon and Robby the Robot

From there, the crew meets Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), his daughter and Robby the Robot.  They learn about  the Krell civilization and the incredible technology they’ve left behind.

Technology that has its own side effects when used.

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As a film goes, one of the amazing aspects of the movie is that the special effects from the 1956 movie can stand up pretty decently to any viewing today. Sometimes you can watch an old sci if movie and view it with the understanding of that effects are not what we’re used to and come to accept it for the hour or two while watching this older movie.  This movie does not need an excuses while watching it.  It is amazing what they did in that movie.  From some simple yet thematically delivered effects to a few pretty decent visuals, the movie really does demonstrate what “movie magic” is all about.  The blend of story, effect and the imagination being engaged.

FORBIDDEN PLANET with Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis

Forbidden Planet starred the young and serious Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Richard Anderson, James Drury & Earl Holliman amongst a classic cast. The screenplay was written by Cyril Hume and the movie was directed by Fred McLeod Wilcox. It was in this movie that the 6-foot, 11-inch mandroid robot called Robby (Robby the Robot) first appeared. Robby was inspired by the spirit of Ariel in The Tempest. Robby was voiced by Marvin Miller.

In 1956, Forbidden Planet was up against what would turn out to be some timeless classics. Just to mention a few:

-John Ford’s The Searchers, with John Wayne
-The Court Jester, with Danny Kaye
-The King and I starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr,
-Cecil B. de Mille’s The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston & Yul Brynner
-Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man with Henry Fonda,
-Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing,
-Giant, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson & James Dean
-High Society starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly 7 Frank Sinatra,
-Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers

And with that said, the movie itself became a timeless treasure to many a sci fi fan today. Many of the cast in the film went on to have fruitful careers.

Actors Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Richard Anderson, James Drury & Earl Holliman all went on to blossoming careers.

Leslie Nielsen in Scary Movie 3

Forbidden Planet was Leslie Nielsen‘s 2nd movie made. The early part of his career was filled with serious roles, like 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure, but then he did the 1980 hit, Airplane, then The Naked Gun franchise, and such.  His latest movies included Scary Movie 4, Superhero Movie, & Stan Helsing was his last credited acting role. He has 74 movie titles to his name (Some just add a thanks to him or in memory of).  He appeared or is mentioned in over 171 TV shows.  He guested or held regular roles in such shows as Wagon Train, Bonanza,  Gunsmoke, The Virginian, M*A*S*H, Hawaii Five-0, Murder She Wrote, The Golden Girls, with his last role being in the 2007 show called Robson Arms.  The New Breed (1961) was the longest stay Mr. Nielsen took in a TV series, appearing in 34 episodes. (Leslie Nielsen career on IMDb)

Walter Pidgeon went on to make over 100 movies dating back to 1926, including Advise and Consent & Funny Girl.

Anne Francis in 2004

Anne Francis appeared in 130 television shows and 37 movies.  On the silver screen, after Forbidden Planet, her next big hit was being in Funny Girl (1968).  Her last movie was the 1998 project titled Lover’s Knot with Tim Curry and Adam Baldwin in amongst the cast.  On television the majority of her appearances were a multitude of guest appearances in shows like Dr. Kildare, Twilight Zone, Charlie's Angel’s, The Golden Girls, and Home Improvement.  Her last TV gig was in a 2004 episode of Without a Trace.  Amongst all her guest appearances, she did land a role in the 1965 TV series Honey West.  (Anne Francis career on IMDb)

Yes, it is the Richard Anderson who went on to play Oscar Goldman in The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, The Return of The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, then Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman & Bionic Ever After? Wow. That is a lot of bionic payday!

The screenplay for Forbidden Planet was written by Cyril Hume. After Forbidden Planet, he only has 4 other screenplay creditss under his belt, the latest being the 1996 movie, Ransom, starring Mel Gibson but he had a multitude of TV series credits under his belt.

After directing the movie, Fred McLeod Wilcox only directed 2 movies after this one.

Robby the Robot on the other hand, went on to have a better acting career than many acctors. He has appeared in 17 TV shows and 6 movies. He was voiced by Marvin Miller in Forbidden Planet, and Mr. Miller has done a ton of voice work since… 93 films where he’s mostly voiced characters or was a narrator. Maybe you remember hearing him as the narrator in Sleeping Beauty (1959), or as the offstage dialog source in 1970’s MASH, or reprising his voice work for Robby the Robot in 1984’s Gremlins. He narrated several TV series.

Check out the three and a half minute trailer for Forbidden Planet!

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Forbidden Planet [Blu-ray]

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