Several months ago, my friend Mark and I got in a discussion about classic sci-fi movies that were not just must see movies, but also movies that stand up to the test of time. I’m pretty sure that the conversation started as a result of some movies that were being shown on TCM. Anyways, we bounced around several movie titles and today’s movie is one that came up. This is one of those movies that I probably should have owned a long time ago but never got around to getting it for one reason or another. When I mentioned a few weeks ago about buying some classic sci-fi movies, Mark told me to hold off as I would be ruining possible gift ideas. So I waited and sure enough, I got a new movie which is how I came to be watching Forbidden Planet today.
The plot: By the 23rd century, mankind has already colonized the moon as well as the other planets in the solar system and started exploring other reaches of the galaxy. Spaceship C-57D, captained by Commander John J. Adams, is on a mission to Altair IV to find out what happened to an expedition that was sent there 20 years ago. As they get closer to the planet, they are contacted by Dr. Morbius, who tells them that he needs no assistance and says they should leave. When Adams refuses to leave, Morbius reluctantly gives them landing coordinates but says he cannot guarantee their safety. Landing on the planet, Adams and several member of his crew get out to look around when they see a dust cloud rapidly moving towards them. They are surprised to see a small land craft being driven by a robot, which introduces itself as Robby, and tells Adams to get in the vehicle and he will take him to Morbius. After telling his crew to track him, Adams, along with Lt. Jerry Farman and Lt. “Doc” Ostrow, gets in the vehicle and Robby drives off. They eventually reach a house, where Morbius greets them and invites them inside for lunch. After lunch, Adams and the others question Morbius about Robby and Morbius tells them that he built Robby, which Adams finds suspicious because Robby appears to be more advanced than anything on Earth and Morbius was not known to have the necessary skills. When Adams asks to speak with the rest of the crew of the Bellerophon, Morbius explains that they are all dead, killed off by some planetary force that vaporized the ship when the last survivors tried to escape, leaving only Morbius and his wife alive, though she died later from natural causes. The men are interrupted by the arrival of Morbius’ daughter Altaira, who has never seen another human besides her father and is curious about the men, just as the men are equally curious about her. Adams tells Morbius that with the Bellerophon destroyed and the crew dead, he must contact Earth to get new orders for their mission and Morbius offers to let Robby help them before sending them back to their ship. The next day, Altaira and Robby arrive and as Robby helps move some materials to where they are building a long range communicator, Farman takes the opportunity to walk off with Altaira, but Adams notices them leaving. Away from the others, Farman tries teaching Altaira how to kiss but they are seen by Adams, who chastises Farman for taking advantage of Altaira. After Farman leaves, Altaira questions Adams about why he was upset and he says she is too naive for her own good and tells her she shouldn’t be wearing the clothes she has on around a bunch of guys that have been cooped up in a ship for over a year. Altaira goes back to her house, where she complains to her father about Adams and as she is going to bed, she asks Robby to fashion a new dress for her. That night, something sneaks onto the ship and damages some of the equipment and the only thing noticed by the guards was some heavy breathing. Adams and Doc head to Morbius’ house to speak with him and Robby tells them that Morbius is in his study. As they wait for Morbius, Adams notices Altaira swimming in the back yard and goes to talk to her. Altaira gets out of her pool and changes into the new dress she made just for Adams, and the two of them end up admitting a mutual attraction and kiss. When a tiger, that Altaira is friends with, suddenly attacks them, Adams is forced to kill it and Altaira is shocked that it tried to kill her. Returning to the house, Adams and Doc head to the study to find it empty but as they are looking at some strange writings on Morbius’ desk, Morbius enter from a secret passage behind the wall. When Adams mentions what happened at the ship, Morbius decides to come clean and tells them that he is studying an ancient race called the Krell, which lived on Altair IV over 200,000 years ago but mysteriously died out. He then takes them to a Krell laboratory and shows them some of the devices there, including one which almost killed him the first time he used it but had permanently increased his intelligence, which allowed him to build Robby and some of the other devices at his house. Back at the ship, Farman has had the crew place an electronic fence around the ship to try and keep the mysterious attacker at bay. After briefly lowering the fence so that Cook can go for a walk, where he meets up with Robby who has produced 60 gallons of bourbon for him, the fence is turned back on. Something touches the fence, but the guards don’t see anything and believe it is a malfunction, not seeing the footprints that are walking towards the ship. Back at the house, Adams is arguing with Morbius that a scientific discovery like the one he made can’t be kept to just one man when he receives a call from the ship that a crew member was killed. Adams and Doc return to the ship and question Cook, who says he was outside the fence with Robby when the attack occurred. Doc makes a plaster cast of the footprint and says the creature is an unknown specimen that defies all known stereotypes. After a funeral service is held for the dead man, Adams sees Morbius and Altaira in their vehicle and Morbius says he warned Adams not to land and says more men will die unless they leave. Adams has sentry guns placed around the ship and everyone on high alert. When the creature attacks again, they are shocked to discover that it is invisible, only being seen when it interacts with the fence and their laser blasts. The creature manages to kill Farman and two other crew members before it suddenly disappears. Back at the house, Morbius is asleep in the Krell lab but suddenly wakes when he hears Altaira screaming and goes to find her rushing towards him, having woken from a nightmare where Adams and the others were being attacked. Back at the ship, Adams has his men bury Farman and the others while he and Doc head back to Morbius’ house. Arriving at the house, they are stopped by Robby, who says he has orders to not let anyone in but Altaira arrives and lets them in. As Adams and Altaira embrace, Doc sneaks down into the Krell laboratory to use the brain augmentor. Adams tries to convince Altaira to leave the planet with them and when she asks about her father, Adams says they will take him as well but Altaira refuses, saying she they won’t be able to take her father without force. Robby arrives carrying Doc and Altaira instructs him to place Doc on the sofa, where he tells Adams that the Krell forgot about the monsters from the Id before he dies. When Morbius sees Doc’s body, his cavalier attitude towards it causes Altaira to change her mind and agree to go with Adams, despite Morbius’ protests. Adams questions Morbius about the Id and when Morbius says it is the subconscious, Adams realized what has been going on. Adams tells Morbius that the creature is from his own subconscious and killed his crew when they all wanted to leave but Morbius refuses to believe it. Robby detects the creature approaching and Morbius tells Robby to kill it but Robby, knowing the creature is part of Morbius, shuts down due to his programming to never harm a human. Adams, Altaira, and Morbius escape down to the Krell lab, and as the creature starts to melt the Krell steel door, Morbius finally accepts that the creature is part of him and he goes to confront it and is mortally wounded as the creature disappears. With his final words, he has Adams start a chain reaction that will destroy the planet, then warns Adams and Altaira that they must be 100 million miles away to be safe from the blast. Adams and Altaira return to the ship with Robby and they leave the planet, watching Altair IV explode when they reach the safe distance.
Forbidden Planet met with high praise for the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that, “Shakespeare gets the deluxe space treatment in Forbidden Planet, an adaptation of The Tempest with impressive sets and seamless special effects.” The movie was noted for being a pioneer in several aspects of science fiction movies, such as humans travelling in faster-than-light ships as well as being set on a planet far outside of the solar system. Robby the Robot was the first movie robot to be more than just part of the background and the miniskirt that Anne Francis (Altaira) wore was the first to be shown in a Hollywood film, causing it to be initially banned in Spain. The movie was a modest success at the box office, earning over $2.7 million off of a $1.9 million budget and was deemed significant enough to be preserved in the National Film Registry in 2013.
This is a fantastic sci-fi movie that is as good today as it was the first time I saw it. The acting was really good, with Leslie Nielsen (Adams) doing a good job in the lead role and Anne Francis (Altaira) and Walter Pidgeon (Morbius) were equally good. Robby the Robot was a great character and made for some interesting interactions with the other characters. The story was good, and looking back now, I do see how it borrowed from The Tempest in the sense of Morbius and Altaria being the sole people on the planet for so long. The set designs for the Krell lab and building were pretty elaborate and the special effects were very good at the time, especially the scene where the invisible creature was visible as it interacted with the fence and laser blasts. Definitely one of those must see sci-fi movies that really made an impact on the genre.
Rating: 5 out of 5