Forbidden Planet

Tagged: Film

Film (1956). MGM. Directed by Fred McLeod Wilcox. Written by Cyril Hume, based on a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler. Cast includes Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon and Warren Stevens. 98 minutes. Colour.

Although Wilcox was new to sf Cinema (his best-known film was Lassie Come Home, [1943]), Forbidden Planet is one of the most attractive movies in the genre. Some of the more interesting resonances of Forbidden Planet stem from its being an updated version of William Shakespeare's The Tempest (performed circa 1611; 1623). Prospero is Morbius, an obsessive Scientist living alone with his daughter Altaira (the virginal Miranda figure) on the planet Altair IV. Ariel is a charming metal creature, Robby the Robot (who became so popular – the first Robot star since Metropolis – that another film, The Invisible Boy [1957], was made as a special vehicle for him). The film opens with a Spaceship landing to investigate the fate of a colony whose sole survivors are Morbius and Altaira. The crew is menaced by an invisible Caliban, which proves to be a "Monster from the Id", an energy being which eventually destroys its unwitting creator, Morbius; Holocaust follows. Altaira is saved.

The plot, mixing the tawdry and the potent, is very sophisticated for the time – astonishingly so for a film originally designed for a juvenile audience, especially in the intimations of incestuous feelings of the father for the daughter. The dialogue is slick and unmemorable. The best sequences involve a tour of the still-functioning Underground artefacts – spectacular and mysterious, dwarfing the humans passing among them – of an awesomely powerful vanished race of Forerunners, the Krell. The visual treatment of Forbidden Planet was unsurpassed until 2001: A Space Odyssey, made twelve years later. Despite its flaws, it remains one of the few masterpieces of sf cinema.

Forbidden Planet (1956), based on the film, was by W J Stuart (Philip MacDonald). [PN]

see also: Intelligence; Monster Movies; Paranoia; SF Music; Villains.

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