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Forbidden Planet (1956)

Amazing!

Directed by:

Fred M. Wilcox

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

US Certificate: G UK Certificate: U

On DVD

Country: United States

Science-fiction movies are, by their very nature, a load of nonsense. The difference between a good one and a bad one, then, often comes down to how convincingly they manage to put their own particular brand of nonsense across. Take ‘Forbidden Planet’, for example. It’s set in the early stages of the 23rd Century, witters on about mankind conquering the galaxy in “rocket ships” (bless!), and features as one of its main characters a robotic part-bodyguard part-coffee machine named Robby (who might get his name in the credits, but is clearly just a bloke in an extremely uncomfortable costume).

Frankly, it’s a load of hokum – deep down, we all know that. Yet, almost half a century on from its original release, this fruity 50s space-romp continues to command immense popularity across the length and breadth of the movie-watching cosmos. “Why?” is the obvious question which springs to mind, and you may well ask, for this tale of cookie goings-on on the far-flung planet of Altair IV is hardly the most riveting of tales. It’s about a crew of intergalactic sticky-beaks (led by Leslie Nielsen as the perennially upright Commander John J. Adams) who are given a less than warm welcome when they arrive at the home of Dr Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his annoyingly nubile daughter Altaira (Anne Francis). All of the planet’s other inhabitants have long since snuffed it at the hands of a mysterious unseen foe, and it seems certain that Adams and his boys will be next – but not much happens, there’s lots of procrastinating, and the ending all turns out to be a bit of an anti-climax.

What ‘Forbidden Planet’ does have, however, is an intelligent screenplay by Cyril Hume which doesn’t always work, but at least takes some risks. Based vaguely on William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, it attempts to explore the power of the mind and conflicts between psychology and technology, culminating in the bizarre sight of Nielsen and co fleeing a completely invisible space monster. It has to be said though, that much like another iconic slice of 50s sci-fi – ‘The War of the Worlds’ – the special effects aren’t quite as bad as you might expect.

Of course, there’s little denying that this is a dated piece of work, and the performances are inconsistent to say the least (Nielsen, appearing long before he’d ever become associated with making that seemingly endless line of comedy spoofs, often looks as if he’s trying not to laugh). Despite its obvious influence on the likes of Star Trek and Lost in Space, it doesn’t really live up to its legendary reputation. In fact, it’s often like watching the pilot episode of a TV series which could have become something special, if only it had actually got beyond its first instalment.

It's Got: A front cover/poster depicting Robby carrying a mysterious blonde woman in his beefy metallic arms – despite the fact that she looks nothing like Anne Francis (the only female in the cast) and, even if she did, such a scene never occurs in the film.

It Needs: To have gotten rid of the extremely dodgy scene where we’re supposed to assume that Altaira is doing a spot of skinny-dipping, even though lazy direction and clumsy editing makes it blatantly obvious that she is, in fact, more than adequately covered up.

DVD Extras A trailer’s your lot. Version reviewed: Forbidden Planet DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Alternatives:

Any old Star Trek flick.

Summary

The best sci-fi movie of all time! And if you believe that, you’ll also believe that Robby’s a real robot.

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One Comment

  1. Nab
    Posted July 11, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    The robot is one of the best. He whips a bottle of whiskey out of a crew member’s hands to ‘analyze’ it and makes facetious suggestions regarding Altaira’s wardrobe. He should have had a lot more screen time. Much better than most of the robots we’ve seen since.

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